Medical school hopefuls and students eager to start other professional healthcare studies endured grueling wait times online recently to sign up for their licensing and medical school entrance exams.
And then they were denied entry to the testing center’s national website.
Applicants and students wanting to take the med school entrance test — MCAT — as well as the physical therapy, occupational therapy, and nursing licensing exams, were stymied when the online test scheduling system failed, according to the medical news website MedPageToday.
“I would estimate about 33,000 students were impacted,” said Matthew Durst, president of the University Medical Student Council (UMSC) at the University of Illinois College of Medicine (UICOM), told the Student Doctor Network.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, testing centers are closed for the MCAT — administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMXC) — and all appointments were cancelled in March, April and the large part of May.
The AAMC condensed the MCAT from 7 hours and 30 minutes to 5 hours and 45 minutes to handle the high volume of students who will take the test once shelter in place orders are relaxed. That allows test centers to schedule three tests a day.
But when about 62,000 students logged on May 7 to schedule their exams, the system crashed and did not come back online for hours, Gabrielle Campbell, AAMC’s chief service officer on May 8, told MedpageToday.
“The system became overwhelmed with the number of accommodations requests due to the condensed processing period,” said Karen Mitchell, Ph.D., senior director of the MCAT program for AAMC.
“We are sorry that the MCAT scheduling process has been frustrating for examinees testing with accommodations and are actively working to address the issues,” the official MCAT account tweeted on May 21.
Fortunately, by the end of the day, 78,000 test takers were registered for exams from May through September, with thousands of seats and multiple dates remaining.
“We have made extensive changes to the exam to ensure that students can safely take the test during the COVID-19 pandemic, including shortening the test and administering the exam three times a day for all remaining dates this year. Additionally, we have increased testing capacity by 50% for each exam date,” Mitchell stated on the AAMC website.
The spread of COVID-19 remaining uncertain and test dates tentative, some students expressed worry about the expense of driving long distances or overnight stays to take the exam.
“I have to drive an hour and a half for my exam. One way. Since I take it on two days, I have to get a hotel room,” tweeted Emma Eaton.
“My other option was a month and half later in my requested city. Does this sound equitable?”
Cristina Goerdt contributed to this report.