Baltimore's Thomson Prometric to computerize medical school exam

Shorter entrance test to be given more often at more sites set by 2007

July 19, 2005|By Blanca Torres | Blanca Torres,SUN STAFF

Prospective medical students will forgo the current pencils-and-paper version of the standard entrance exam for a shorter, more widely available computerized test under a seven-year, $30 million deal between Thomson Prometric, the Baltimore-based testing company, and the Association of American Medical Colleges.

By 2007, the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT, will have to be taken by computer. The length of the test is expected to drop from eight to 10 hours to about five hours, mostly because there will be fewer questions.

About 60,000 students worldwide now take the exam each year during two weekends. The new version will be available for 20 days each year in more locations, and results will be provided in 30 days or less, down from the current 60 days, said Ellen Julian, associate vice president for the Washington-based association and director of the MCAT.

The AAMC leaders had considered shortening the test for about five years and decided to make the switch along with the new format, Julian said.

"We realized we were doing more testing than we needed to," she said.

Prometric, which was owned by Baltimore-based Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. from 1997 to 2000, began offering a pilot version of its test two years ago. It has been used by about 1,500 students.

The company will introduce the computerized test in different locations over time so that by early 2007 all MCATs will be taken on a computer. At that time, Prometric expects about 70,000 students to take the exam.

Prometric is now part of Thomson Corp., an information technology company based in Stamford, Conn. It works with the Education Testing Service, the Princeton, N.J.-based administrator of a number of standardized tests for higher education, and provides certification and training exams to more than 600 companies and associations.

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