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Med Educ. 2012 Sep;46(9):878-86. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2923.2012.04315.x.

MCAT Verbal Reasoning score: less predictive of medical school performance for English language learners.

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Division of Medical Education and Department of Psychiatry, University of California San Diego, La Jolla, California 92093-0092, USA.



Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) scores are widely used as part of the decision-making process for selecting candidates for admission to medical school. Applicants who learned English as a second language may be at a disadvantage when taking tests in their non-native language. Preliminary research found significant differences between English language learners (ELLs), applicants who learned English after the age of 11 years, and non-ELL examinees on the Verbal Reasoning (VR) sub-test of the MCAT. The purpose of this study was to determine if relationships between VR sub-test scores and measures of medical school performance differed between ELL and non-ELL students.


Scores on the MCAT VR sub-test and student performance outcomes (grades, examination scores, and markers of distinction and difficulty) were extracted from University of California San Diego School of Medicine admissions files and the Association of American Medical Colleges database for 924 students who matriculated in 1998-2005 (graduation years 2002-2009). Regression models were fitted to determine whether MCAT VR sub-test scores predicted medical school performance similarly for ELLs and non-ELLs.


For several outcomes, including pre-clerkship grades, academic distinction, US Medical Licensing Examination Step 2 Clinical Knowledge scores and two clerkship shelf examinations, ELL status significantly affects the ability of the VR score to predict performance. Higher correlations between VR score and medical school performance emerged for non-ELL students than for ELL students for each of these outcomes.


The MCAT VR score should be used with discretion when assessing ELL applicants for admission to medical school.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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