I have done a lot of research on getting accommodations for the MCAT and I have seen threads on Student Doctor Network and other sites which state that accommodations are nearly impossible to get. Also, many people seem to have the opinion that if an individual needs accommodations, they will not be a good doctor, because doctors don’t get accommodations in the real world. The argument against accommodations for those that need it is limited and obtuse. I would like to put in my two cents on this topic:
First, let me just say that I was approved for accommodations on the MCAT by the AAMC. It is a long process to apply, which includes supporting documentation and it is not easy. The AAMC makes people jump through hoops to get approved (and in many ways, rightfully so because they want to make sure the individual actually needs the accommodation) and you must be organized and timely to make sure you have everything you need.
AAMC Website Accommodations: https://www.aamc.org/students/applying/mcat/accommodations/application/
I believe that if one truly needs accommodations for one reason or another, they can receive them. The AAMC requires that any circumstance leading to accommodations such as extra time, a separate room, magnification, etc, is well documented in the individual’s educational history. I was diagnosed with a processing disability that slows my reading speed and mental math immensely.
It is expensive to get professional documentation on learning disabilities. Though I had some signs of a learning disability in elementary school that were documented, I did really well in school in middle and high school, which allowed my family and me to overlook my processing speed. The only times that my processing speed proved an issue was under strict time constraints and specifically for state standardized tests throughout middle and high school, which showed scores way below what my GPA would have suggested. When I was a junior in high school, my writing teacher, Mr. Wilson, asked me to take the AP Writing test even though I was not in the AP class. He knew that I was able to produce an essay within time constraints (writing, dishing out content, but not reading based), but he asked how I did on tests otherwise. I told him multiple choice tests and passage-based tests were particularly hard for me because I don’t have enough time to read everything. He suggested I get tested by an educational psychologist for any learning disabilities I might have. I am fortunate enough to have a mom that was able to pay for such testing, which can be a couple thousand dollars. With the proper documentation, I was approved for time and a half on the SAT, but not for the ACT.
Let me say that with the extra time my score increased by 400 points on the SAT with no additional studying; this was a major indicator that I really did need extra time to get through the test to be on an equal playing field. For all those that are thinking, ‘well I would have done better with extra time too,’ think again. Because most people are able to get through exams and if they had extra time would be able to labor over difficult questions and get a few extra points, but generally the score would not have such a significant increase as mine, and others who truly need the accommodations, had.
Now, let’s think about the socio-economic issues related to this topic. Due to the high price tag on getting professional documentation along with all the expenses of taking the MCAT and applying to medical school, getting into medical school is made particularly difficult. For many individuals, it is intangible even if they have the mental and emotional capacity to become a physician. It is amazing how many hoops pre-meds need to jump through to get into medical school, and it is not all indicative of how intelligent someone is or how good of a doctor that person will be. I wish it was easier to filter out the people that would be good doctors from the people that simply have the money and want the title. There are many individuals that go to medical school for all the wrong reasons, and I only hope that the individuals that don’t have the luxury to not worry about expenses (my apologies for the double negative) and working while making their way towards their goals will have a chance. This is related to accommodations because I know there are many people out there that don’t have the means to get accommodations or that have a learning disability that has been overlooked.
The purpose of writing this post is to answer any questions someone might have on applying for accommodations as well as tell people that though I received accommodations on the MCAT, in no way do I believe that it will hinder my ability to be a good physician.