GMAT, MCAT to Computerize

K-12 Testing

The admissions exams for both medical and business schools will soon be administered only by computer. Sponsors of both the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) and Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) have announced that pencil-and-paper formats are being phased out.

Beginning next January, the GMAT will no longer offer non-computer administrations. The shift comes as ACT and Pearson VUE take over design and delivery of the test from the Educational Testing Service, which lost the contract with the Graduate Management Admissions Council after a series of scoring and administration errors (see Examiner, Winter 2004-2005). The fully computerized GMAT will be delivered following an “adaptive” design, which selects items to be administered based on the test-taker’s prior answers. Thus, students’ scores are based on different questions, a process that has raised concerns about comparability (see Examiner, Spring 1999).

The Association of American Medical Colleges announced that Thomson Prometric, a multinational firm with a global network of test centers, will administer the computerized MCAT. The new format is being phased in with full implementation slated for early in 2007. About 60,000 MCAT exams are given annually.

The Graduate Record Exam (GRE) is already computerized, leaving the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) as the only major post-secondary admissions exam administered on paper. Computerizing exams has both advantages and drawbacks for test-takers. The new GMAT and MCAT will be offered more frequently than the pencil-and-paper versions, and scores will be available immediately without an agonizing, multi-week wait. But there is neither a mechanism to check scores for accuracy nor any way to determine if results from different tests are consistent. A FairTest fact sheet, “Computerized Testing: More Questions than Answers,” analyzing these issues is online.

No matter what the format, major questions about the exams' fairness, predictive value and susceptibility to coaching remain. Fact sheets on the GMAT, MCAT and GRE may all be found here.