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Reflections on the Role of a Writing Test for Medical School Admissions

McCurry, Doug PhD; Chiavaroli, Neville MEd, MPhil

doi: 10.1097/ACM.0b013e31828b3dbb
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The modifications to the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to be introduced in 2015 represent a significant change to a test which has hitherto seemed to successfully help medical school admissions committees identify students with the requisite ability to succeed in medical school. This commentary takes the decision to remove the MCAT Writing Sample as a stimulus to reconsider the value which a writing test can bring to admissions testing, and to examine some of the validity evidence and key considerations for using a writing task for such purposes. The authors argue that a writing task provides important information about applicants’ cognitive abilities that cannot be obtained using traditional selected-response items, and that this outweighs the conventional concern of testing to strive for maximum reliability at all costs.

Dr. McCurry is senior research fellow, Australian Council for Educational Research, Camberwell, Victoria, Australia.

Mr. Chiavaroli is senior lecturer, University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia.

Correspondence should be addressed to Dr. McCurry, ACER, 19 Prospect Hill Rd., Camberwell, VIC 3124, Australia; e-mail:

© 2013 Association of American Medical Colleges