“I’ve applied to medical school three times. I have volunteered, I have published two research articles, I work as a scribe, I have a 3.5 GPA, and my personal statement has been reviewed by countless individuals. The only thing that I can find wrong with my application is my MCAT score; I can’t seem to score higher than 500. I just want to get into medical school. ” – Kate, an undergraduate.

This story is not unfamiliar. Medical school has become more competitive. Even with holistic review, most schools still place a heavy focus on test scores. According to the AAMC’s 2017-2018 data, the average MCAT score for an applicant applying to medical school is a 504. However, the average MCAT score for an applicant that is accepted to medical school is 510. Yet, when analyzed by race, underrepresented students applying to medical school have an average score of 497, while applicants that identify as white have an average score of 506. Just nine points separate these two groups.

Since the creation of No Child Left Behind in 2001, the National Assessment of Educational Progress, NAEP, has presented data with supporting evidence for the achievement gap. In as early as fourth grade, NAEP has shown that students who identify as African-American and Hispanic are separated from their white classmates by two reading levels, and the gap continues to widen from there, eventually leading to stark differences in school admission test scores, such as with the MCAT.

When discussing the need for test prep in underrepresented populations, one must acknowledge the socioeconomic and systemic implications that affect students. Without access to the same resources as their classmates, underrepresented students are placed at an inherent disadvantage from the start of their education. In order to allow America’s physician population to look more like the population it serves, test preparation is needed to allow every student a chance to enter medical school. With adequate test preparation, underrepresented students would have one less hurdle to overcome in the race to becoming a physician.