Not long ago a friend confessed that her son, who spends much of his free time volunteering at a children’s hospital and who is applying to medical school, has been particularly anxious about his future. “His test scores are just O.K.,” my friend said, the despair in her voice nearly palpable. “I know he’d be a great doctor, but who he is doesn’t seem to matter to medical schools as much as how he does on tests.”
Her comment brought me back to the many anxious conversations I had had with friends when we were applying to medical school. Over and over again, we asked ourselves: Do we really need to be good at multiple-choice exams in order to be a good doctor?
We were referring of course to not just any exam,
but to the Big One -- the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, the
standardized cognitive assessment exam that measures mastery of the premedical
curriculum. Back then, as now, American medical school admissions committees
required every applicant to sit for the MCAT. And with the competition fiercer than ever for slots in medical school, it seems inevitable that the MCAT would play a crucial role in admissions decisions.
But does that guarantee that the
applicants admitted are also destined to become the best doctors?
But does that guarantee that the applicants admitted are also destined to become the best doctors?
Now a new study by three industrial and organizational psychologists finds that another type of exam may be more helpful in determining which students are likely to succeed in, and after, medical school: personality testing.
In this week's "Doctor and Patient" column, I write about the fascinating results of this study and speak with one of the study authors. Is the current admissions process doing the best job in choosing who will be part of the next generation of doctors? And can personality tests improve that process? Please read the full article and leave your thoughts below or on Tara Parker-Pope's "Well" blog.