March 27, 2009

Medical School Test Scores, GPAs, and Acceptance Rates by Race

Also of potential interest: Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) scores by race

Nicholas Kristof recently wrote a NYT column about how pundits should be graded by how accurate their predictions are. But most of my predictions are really boring and depressing. So, none of the other pundits would touch making predictions about topics I'm interested in.

Everybody else likes to make predictions about tournament-like phenomenon that are inherently interesting because they are hard to predict: e.g., Who's going to win the NCAA basketball championship? Who's going to win the next election? Will the stock market go up or down? So, most pundits aren't much more accurate than random, but they are popular.

In contrast, I hate being wrong, so I like to make predictions about things that have a track record. I've been following social science stats for 37 years now the way Bill James follows baseball stats. (National Review published a letter from me commenting on Ernst Van Den Haag's review of Christopher Jencks' Inequality: A Reassement of the Effect of Family and Schooling in America when I was a freshman in high school.) Over that time, not all that much has changed.

For example, after I posted LSAT scores of law school applicants by race, a reader asked about MCAT scores of medical school applicants by race.

So, I said, to myself: I bet the MCAT scores will be a lot like the LSATs, except for the Asian non-verbal boost that will show up more in the MCATs than the LSATs.

From the American Association of Medical Colleges, here are the 2007 MCAT scores and GPAs for both applicants and matriculants (i.e., people who were accepted and enrolled). I spent some time converting them from raw mean scores (which you can find at the link above) to where each group would fall on the white percentile ranking. In other words, the mean score for whites is set to always be the 50th percentile. So, the mean score of the Mexican-American applicants on the MCAT's Verbal Reasoning subtest would fall at the 21st percentile of white applicants, the African-American mean would fall at the 10th percentile, and the Asian-American at the 36th percentile. (This is based on the means and the standard deviations, so it assumes normality. Your mileage may vary, but this should be close enough.)

2007 Med School Mex-Am Af-Am Asian-Am White
Total Applicants 1,034 3,133 8,390 24,136
% of total applicants 2.4% 7.4% 19.8% 57.0%

Percentile if White
MCAT Verbal Reason 21% 10% 36% 50%
MCAT Physical Sci 25% 14% 61% 50%
MCAT Biological Sci 25% 10% 54% 50%
GPA science 26% 15% 45% 50%
GPA non-science 32% 24% 45% 50%
GPA total 26% 16% 45% 50%





Acceptance rate 43% 36% 42% 44%





Total Matriculants 441 1,139 3,535 10,632
% of total matriculants 2.5% 6.4% 19.9% 59.9%

Percentile if White
MCAT VR 23% 12% 43% 50%
MCAT PS 25% 15% 67% 50%
MCAT BS 27% 14% 61% 50%
GPA science 19% 12% 49% 50%
GPA non-science 29% 24% 48% 50%
GPA total 24% 15% 48% 50%

Obviously, there's a lot of affirmative action in the med school racket: the acceptance rate (43%) for Mexican-Americans is virtually the same as for non-Hispanic Whites (44%) even though Mexican Americans average around the 26th percentile of the white distribution in MCATs and college GPA. And 36% of blacks get accepted compared to 44% of whites even though blacks scores and grades are down around the 17th percentile of the white distribution.

In fact, the AAMC posts offical grids showing how much easier it is to get into medical school for Non-Asian Minorities (NAMs) than for overall applicants. For example, 32.4% of "self-identified" NAMs get accepted to medical school with 3.00 to 3.19 GPAs and MCATs of 21-23, while only 13.4% of overall applicants get in with the same credentials. For applicants with 3.40 to 3.59 GPAs and 24-26 on the MCAT, 67.1 of NAMs get in versus 27.5% of the overall applicants (and somewhat less for Whites/Asians, of course).

In summary, it's probably a good idea to get a second opinion.

There just aren't many high-scoring NAMS. Only 45 of the 1,682 applicants who scored 39-45 on the MCAT (the highest bracket) were NAMs. In contrast, NAMs made up 1,731 of the 2,705 in the lowest scoring bracket of 5-14.

Asians are accepted at a 42% rate versus 44% for whites, which sounds about right because their test scores are almost exactly the same and their grades are slightly worse.

One interesting note is that white applicants to med school have slightly better grades in college than Asians, both in science and non-science courses. I suspect that whites who apply to med school tend to be individuals who want to be doctors, while Asian-Americans who apply to med school tend more than whites to be individuals whose parents want them to be doctors. Hence, the much higher percentage of Asians who apply to medical school, and their slightly less impressive college grades.

Also of potential interest: Law School Admissions Test (LSAT) scores by race

My published articles are archived at iSteve.com -- Steve Sailer

31 comments:

BGC said...

Well this analysis is indeed depressing, but not boring. It looks like a bit of prime evidence for advanced civilizational decadence.

To see that medicine has now become so infiltrated with politics that the medical schools are now deliberately selected worse candidates isn't boring.

The situation is degenerate in the sense that this data reveals a serious neglect of the universally-agreed primary function of medical schools (something about training the best possible doctors) in pursuit of contentious and incoherent secondary fuctions (to do with allocating professional jobs as a mechanism of social engineering).

As a society, the US has made the implicit decision to sacrifice patients' health to political correctness.

Very depressing indeed.

Kirt33 said...

Hi, I'm the medical student who asked for the MCAT data. Thanks for obliging, Steve!

On the other thread, Andrew Ryan said:

I'd be shocked if applicants getting 21's on MCATs would be able to complete medical school and pass the boards.

Well, so would I. Steve, you say that 32.4% of "self-identified" NAMs get accepted to medical school with 3.00 to 3.19 GPAs and MCATs of 21-23. That stuns me. While I've been passing everything in medical school so far, I do find it quite difficult. I can't imagine trying to do this if I were any less intelligent than I am. In particular, as I think you have mentioned in other posts, I can't imagine getting accepted to medical or law school, burning several tens of thousands of dollars, and finding out I just couldn't make it past this or that exam. I can't imagine putting someone in that position - I don't think it's nice or fair (to the individual!) at all.

(So much so, in fact, that having been through a couple of years of medical school, I agree with stringent entrance standards more now than I ever did before. Friends and I used to gripe: why is it so hard to get accepted? Now I know, and agree. I'm happy to say, at least, that here in Canada we don't have affirmative action for medical schools as far as I know.)

FWIW, my MCAT was 33 in 2003 (V=12 PS = 11 BS = 10 Writing = R). I don't remember for sure, but it seems to me that that put me in about the 85th-90th percentile overall.

I suspect that whites who apply to med school tend to be individuals who want to be doctors, while Asian-Americans who apply to med school tend more than whites to be individuals whose parents want them to be doctors.

Heh! Probably true.

Frank said...

"One interesting note is that white applicants to med school have slightly better grades in college than Asians, both in science and non-science courses."

I advise premed chemistry majors at my university. I think that some of the GPA difference is that white kids are better at gaming the system, taking courses that offer the path of least resistance to an A. At the typical American university there are two levels of organic and physical chemistries, light-weight (for premeds and life science majors) and the real stuff for chemistry and chemical engineering majors. The premed Asian kids tend to be in the latter. And this is just chemistry, there are two-levels of physics and calculus too.

A_C said...

More likely Steve, many whites who apply to medical school are humanities and social science majors (an increasing fraction of med school applicants), where grading tends to be easier. Asians, who are more likely to do math and science for both reasons of culture and aptitude, suffer from those departments' harsher - and more objective - grading.

As a premed, I don't think you can make an argument that whites outperform Asians if you control for departments.

Anonymous said...

And that's why I won't see a black/hispanic doctor. They might be the best in their field, but I'm not going to find out. Nice work again by liberals tainting the achievements of those who actually got there by merit instead of AA, but that never seems to concern liberals much.

Drew said...

Thanks for the analysis, Mr. Sailer. I recently went through the med school admissions process so these statistics were quite interesting to learn.

Sean said...

I am an Indian American parent whose daughter made it to one of the UC campus in California. Indian Americans are about 10% of the matriculant pool in US, and a fairly large number, who do not earn admission to US schools, go to medical schools abroad.

My daughter during her interview was asked why so many Indians apply to medical schools. I think it has a lot to do with Indian kids growing up with the obvious financial success(McMansions, BMW etc.) and status of Indian Doctors.

Average Joe said...

One interesting note is that white applicants to med school have slightly better grades in college than Asians, both in science and non-science courses.

Would this have anything to do with a lot of these applicants being Jewish?

beowulf said...

That's amazing, so I guess the median scores of rejected white applicants are higher than the median scores of accepted NAM applicants. Are there dropout/fail rates statistics available for medical school, the three USMLE Steps and residency programs?

Nurse practitioner and physician assistant groups want the right to "test out" of medical school if they can pass the USMLE. Since competency testing is always better than credentialism, its a not a bad idea. Especially since the the Army is now placing physician assistants in the job of Battalion Surgeon. Until the end of the draft, that was
a typical way stop for male doctors before they could hang out their own shingle.

I was doing discovery work on a lawsuit some years ago, a portion of which involved collecting physician CVs. I was amused to discover the only doctor old enough to be drafted but hadn't served in the US military had instead begun his career working in Russia-- as a Wehrmacht battalion surgeon.

Argent Paladin said...

What's astounding to me (well, not really since I have a Korean mom) is that the Asian rate for taking the MCAT is an order of magnitude higher than their share of the population.
Whereas perhaps only the top 5% of white students will take the MCAT, the top 20% of Asians will take it.
It's also interesting to see the relationship between scores and GPA.
NAMs get a slight boost in class, it seems, while Asians drop a lot. Note especially the difference between the non-science GPA versus the Biology GPA. Which do you think is more important for medicine?
Finally, I think an argument can be made that Asians suffer more from med school AA than whites. If you look at the differences between applicants and matriculants you can see that the GPAs of NAMS drops but the GPAs of asians increases. Note also the significant increase in test scores of matriculants. I agree with you that the applicant pool of asians and whites are pretty much a wash (gpa vs test scores) but I think an + 11-17 pt difference in biology and physics test scores trumps the 1-2 point difference in GPA and the point difference in verbal.
Just eyeballing it, I would guess that Mex-Ams and Af-Ams should each be about 1% of matriculants and Asians at 23-4% and whites at 63-4%
Now what would be really interesting is to see what the drop out rate is. Would that be another of your easy money predictions?
For me the wildcard would be Asians. If many are only going to please their moms, might they drop out more than whites? Or would their superior science abilities compensate? Of course the easy part of the prediction is that NAMS would have a drop out rate far exceeding the average.

Sean said...

Frank said:
"t the typical American university there are two levels of organic and physical chemistries, light-weight (for premeds and life science majors) and the real stuff for chemistry and chemical engineering majors."
My daughter chose to do the more challenging pre-med courses in chemistry and physics, and perhaps paid a price with lower GPA. Had she gamed the system by taking non-major courses in physical sciences, she would have graduated with higher GPA and perhaps made it to UCSF or Stanford medical school.

One of her friend chose to major in history earning a high GPA and graduating in three years. She got into more medical schools than my daughter, and was considered "exotic" for being a non-science major.

You can further game the system by earning a higher pre-med GPA from a lesser known school. As an example, it is better to do your pre-med at UC Irvine than at UCLA.

Matt G. said...

I see from the data that there is a significant disparity in percentile scores between the Sci-GPA and Non-Sci-GPA for NAM's, in that they score at a higher percentile for the Non-Sci-GPA category(15% vs. 24% for blacks). No disparity is present for asians and whites. The logical conclusion is that the low NAM GPA is actually artifically high, probably due to taking less academically rigorous classes than whites and asians.

Shawn said...

When are White going to start realizing that we need to start "self-identifying" as Hispanics to get affirmative action?

Matt G. said...

"You can further game the system by earning a higher pre-med GPA from a lesser known school. As an example, it is better to do your pre-med at UC Irvine than at UCLA."

Sean, I disagree with this. You are assuming that the higher profile school is going to be academically more difficult which is a big assumption. The Ivy league schools in particular have large amounts of grade inflation. A former professor of mine (organic chem) told me that he thought there was very little difference between most schools in the way organic chem was taught at the undergrad level. He further pointed out that most academic institutions make their reputations at the graduate level which I think is correct.

Matt G. said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kijkfaas Mcgee said...

Lesson: You may want an Obama as your useless president, but you sure don't want him as your doctor.

Eric Rasmusen said...

Could you explain the figures a bit more? I get the sense from your numbers that there is a large number of whites admitted with records just as bad as the average black admitted. Is that correct?

If it is correct, then there are a lot of scary, underqualified white doctors out there too.

Also, if it is correct, that raises the question of why the med schools admit the unqualified whites. They're not football players. Are they kids of rich donors?

Eric Rasmusen said...

Please email follow up comments to me (I have to leave this, useless, comment for that to happen, I guess.)

Frank said...

Sean you wrote:

"My daughter chose to do the more challenging pre-med courses in chemistry and physics, and perhaps paid a price with lower GPA. Had she gamed the system by taking non-major courses in physical sciences, she would have graduated with higher GPA and perhaps made it to UCSF or Stanford medical school. "

I have talked to med school admissions officers about this to no avail. The GPA rules. Furthermore the MCAT questions in the physical sciences tend to ask ones that are elementary in my opinion. No high powered problems in electricity/magnetism, thermodynamics, chemical kinetics or quantum mechanics.

If she isn't in a lesser program, my suggestion to your daughter is to go grad school in one of the sciences on a TA or RA, so all costs are covered (no debt accumulation) and earn that M.S. or Ph.D. The success rate of these students are high. If she still doesn't get into med school, she still has a good career waiting for her, at least in most of the physical sciences.

coldequation said...

There are some interesting threads about this at a website for medical students: like this one:

I am thinking of one particular URM student who was admitted to my medical school with just that--a 21 MCAT. Yet, this student attended med school with the benefit of URM-based scholarships and special tutors. Blessedly, this student was finally booted after the second unsuccessful attempt at passing our preclinical years. We have numerous similar students who are not booted, but barely pass. I think such students cause the bimodal distribution of USMLE scores at this school.

Another one:

I, for one, have personally sat on an admissions committee for a very reputable medical school... I also had a vote... The scenario everyday would be the following "this is so and so... blah blah... MCAT x... undergrad GPA y... oh this is also one of our few under-represented minorities (URM)"... being a URM had equal weight to MCAT and undergrad GPA... I have seen URMs with 21 MCATs admitted over others with 41 MCATs b/c they were URM... our admissions director would just keep saying "URM, URM" and slowly the applicants votes would rise... our committee could only admit x number of people per meeting...

this was discrimination in its purest form...

anyway, the URMs most definitely get in... now they usually get killed during the first two years of medical school... almost flunking out... our school doesn't help them at all... a 21 MCAT shouldn't be forced to compete with a class that has an average of a 35 MCAT... it's just not fair... to them or the school... then these people do poorly and are left with only considering internal med/peds/etc.


I would like to note that student loans for med school are probably typically about $50,000 per year. A URM** who drops out after 2 years will have nothing to show for it besides $100,000 in nondischargable loans. This alone probably outweighs the benefits of AA to URMs - never mind that everybody thinks that even the qualified ones were only admitted to med school because they were darker than a paper bag. Or the effects on the marginal whiteys who lost their spots to AA. Or the patients.

** under-represented minority. Admission committee speak for NAM.

Ivy said...

"A former professor of mine (organic chem) told me that he thought there was very little difference between most schools in the way organic chem was taught at the undergrad level."

I attended an Ivy for three years and a decent state school for freshmen year before transferring. So I have some first-hand experience with this. The material is generally the same, but there are distinguishing features of the respective educations you receive. First, at an Ivy, courses go much faster and some of them are combined into one course (i.e. at state schools, there are 3 levels of Calc, at Ivies, you do the same material in only 2 courses). Second, while the material taught is generally the same, the homework and tests (especially the latter) require a much higher level of understanding. Test questions are almost always novel and require a number of steps to attain the correct solution. At my state school (EXCLUDES HONORS COURSES!), the tests were often directly from homework problems and many of the problems were quite simple. Third, the curve is much different b/c the relative academic ability is much higher at an Ivy. An exam at an Ivy will have a much higher average than the same exam given at a state school. Thus, an A student must score higher at an Ivy to succeed.

Though, you are correct. There is some grade inflation, however, at my particular Ivy this was almost nonexistent (especially b/c I was in engineering).

Anonymous said...

It's been decades since I took the MCAT's, so I want to thank ISteve for a fascinating update.

A few comments:

The acceptance rates were around 40% in the early 1980's, rose to 60% in the 1990's, and it looks like they are back down to the 40's. I wonder how the number of applicants correlate with the state of the economy.

Once you get into medical school, it is very, very difficult to flunk out. It is rare to even have a student repeat a year. A bit more common is for someone to repeat a course or clinical rotation. Basically, once you get in, you become a member of the brother/sisterhood.

There were no blacks or Hispanics in my class, but I have worked with many NAM doctors since my graduation. Overall, I don't find them performing any differently from other colleagues in clinical situations.

When I was applying to med school, I read that the most popular back-up career choice of the unsuccessful applicants was --- law! This would indicate that the driving force of med school applicants wasn't science or desire to heal, but money and status. Not sure if things have changed in the past 25 years.

careful patient said...

I've known--and gone to--some good black doctors/dentists, but statistically the lower initial (much lower really) entrance requirements do show up. Perhaps you work in a setting that deals with predominiantly non-black patients? The MLK hospital in L.A., entirely black/hispanic administered was known as "Killer King" hospital and was notorious for it terribleness. Most black hospitals are.
That case where the white candidate sued because a lower scoring black candidate was admitted to medical school, might illustrate this. The black student did end up with very serious malpractice and ethical violations. I think he committed suicide, but not sure about that. If this were just a one-off anecdote it would not be significant, but it is a fact that many more black doctors--I am not sure about "hispanics"--are called up for ethics and malpractice violations. Indeed, the differences in entrance requirements are so striking that it would be a wonder if there were no correlation to later performance.

Truth said...

"If she isn't in a lesser program, my suggestion to your daughter is to go grad school in one of the sciences on a TA or RA, so all costs are covered (no debt accumulation) and earn that M.S. or Ph.D. The success rate of these students are high."

That's solid advice, she could also go to a Caribbean medical school, they don't have the greatest reputation, but the entrance is easier, and the bar is the bar, once you pass it you prove you are qualified no matter where you went to school.

Anonymous said...

I am white (German and British ancestry) but my surname is common in Spain/Latin America in addition to Germany, Britain, and France so what would stop me from saying I was Hispanic and getting the affirmative action benefits? I know lily white Cuban-Americans whose fathers are millionaires who qualify for affirmative action.

Anonymous said...

Many Indian Health Service facilities have foreign doctors (East/South Asian). The impression most reservation residents have is they are not just substandard, but so bad they have no where else to go (and still be in North America). We want the good Asian doctors, doggonit!

Conclusion: Asian doctors are only interested in big bucks/big cities, and only see us when they've lost their licenses everywhere else. The black / hispanic doctors seem to be altruistic, and we'll forgive them for not being friggin' brilliant.

Neshobanakni

Anonymous said...

Re: GPA and rigor

If you go to the college discussion forums, you will see that premeds are actively discouraged from going to Caltech and MIT because tough grading seriously damages their chances of going to med school. Way to go doctors! Why take a B student in physics from Caltech/MIT when you can accept a low scoring A student in sociology from Unknown U!?

rec1man said...

I would like to see the Indian scores separately for this test
I believe, they will show a much higher verbal score than other Asians

Anonymous said...

Regarding the MCAT and GPAs, I have read studies that show that a 24-25 MCAT and a 3.0 are required for success in med school. If we just had a national policy of requiring minimum scores for all applicants, we could ensure that all med students had the same chance of passing all their classes, graduating, and passing all their board exams to become doctors. It's not that complicated.

Anonymous said...

To all of the white people here who have posted about the URM who have gotten into medical school with lesser MCAT scores than others I want to say that having a 35 or 21 does not make one a better doctor or smarter. Different people have different opportunities on how they prepare for the test. Everyone does not have the resources to take a summer off or to pay for a preparatory MCAT course like many whites do.

I cannot believed that some people think that they are smarter just because they get a higher MCAT scores the URM. The difference is that many URM'S like have to work and sometimes help our own families financially while attending shool while many whites only have to worry about their personal expanses and their school work.

I am a immigrant who have been in this country for seven years. When I first arrived to this country I did not speak English and now I'am almost done with my Bachelors Degree. I' am also applying to medical school. I feel that no matter how difficult medical school is if someone has the position to become a physician is possible regardless of MCAT score.

I have worked hard through college and my undergraduate GPA is higher than the average American who has had support from their family trough college. SO my point is that white stupid medical students should not be talking about URMS and their average lower mcar score.

Sure will like to see how many 'white" medical students are bilingual manage to work a full time job and have a GPA OF 3.8 with English a second Language. My answer is probably only few...

Where there is Hope there is motivation and determination.People here who posted that they have a higher MCAT score thin they are smarter well I think that a higher MCAT for those who posted here only made then less intelligent.

Anonymous said...

To all of the white people here who have posted about the URM who have gotten into medical school with lesser MCAT scores than others I want to say that having a 35 or 21 does not make one a better doctor or smarter. Different people have different opportunities on how they prepare for the test. Everyone does not have the resources to take a summer off or to pay for a preparatory MCAT course like many whites do.

I cannot believed that some people think that they are smarter just because they get a higher MCAT scores the URM. The difference is that many URM'S like have to work and sometimes help our own families financially while attending shool while many whites only have to worry about their personal expanses and their school work.

I am a immigrant who have been in this country for seven years. When I first arrived to this country I did not speak English and now I'am almost done with my Bachelors Degree. I' am also applying to medical school. I feel that no matter how difficult medical school is if someone has the position to become a physician is possible regardless of MCAT score.

I have worked hard through college and my undergraduate GPA is higher than the average American who has had support from their family trough college. SO my point is that white stupid medical students should not be talking about URMS and their average lower mcar score.

Sure will like to see how many 'white" medical students are bilingual manage to work a full time job and have a GPA OF 3.8 with English a second Language. My answer is probably only few...

Where there is Hope there is motivation and determination.People here who posted that they have a higher MCAT score thin they are smarter well I think that a higher MCAT for those who posted here only made then less intelligent.