Scoring of the Writing Sample


Each MCAT Writing Sample item consists of a statement that expresses an opinion, discusses a philosophy, or describes a policy. The statement is followed by three writing tasks.


The first is to explain or interpret the statement. Because the statement is not intended to be plainly factual or self evident, it usually cannot be explained in a single sentence. In addressing this task, examinees should explain the meaning of the statement as thoroughly as possible.


The second task requires consideration of a circumstance in which the statement might be contradicted or judged not applicable. Examinees must present a specific example that illustrates a viewpoint opposite to the one presented in the statement and should further explore the statement's meaning.


The third task requires a discussion of ways in which the conflict between the initial statement and its opposition (expressed in the second writing task) might be resolved. Here, examinees must reconcile the two viewpoints. In responding to this task, examinees should apply their understanding of the topic to more general problems of principle, choice, judgment, or evaluation raised by the conflict between the opposing viewpoints.


Each of your essays will be read and scored by two different readers on a six-point scale. The readers are looking for your ability to organize an answer, explain the statement, develop a central concept, synthesize conflicting concepts and ideas, and express yourself clearly and correctly. In short, your essays should be crystalline, even beautiful.


Essays receiving scores that differ by more than one point will be evaluated by a third reader who determines the total score for the paper. Scoring is done holistically; the essay is considered as a unit without separable aspects. A single score is assigned to an essay based on the quality of the writing as a whole.


Each essay is judged on its overall effectiveness after the readers determine whether all three writing tasks have been addressed. Mistakes are expected on essays because candidates are writing under timed conditions. Minor grammatical errors will not overly affect the paper's evaluation (see Common Grammatical Errors). The thoroughness, depth, and clarity of ideas presented in the essay will determine the score.


The essay topics will not be controversial subjects such as religion or politics, nor will they be medical topics or topics requiring prior knowledge. The essays are scored on a scale of 1 to 6 (see table below). This numerical score is then converted to a letter score. Failure to respond to any one of the three writing tasks will reduce your score by three points. Copies of your essays will be sent to those medical schools that request them.

Criteria for Scoring Writing Samples


Numerical score Letterscore All 3 tasks addressed Quality of essay
1 J - K No - may entirely fail to address the topic Marked problems with organization and mechanics that make the language very difficult to follow
2 L - M No - seriously neglects or distorts one or more of the writing tasks Problems with organization and analysis of the topic. They may contain recurrent mechanical errors resulting in language that is occasionally difficult to follow.
3 N - O No - neglects or distorts one or more of the writing tasks or presents only a minimal treatment of the topic Some clarity of thought shown, but may be simplistic. Problems in organization may be evident. The essays demonstrate a basic control of vocabulary and sentence structure, but the language may not effectively communicate the writer's ideas.
4 P - Q Yes - moderate treatment of each Shows clarity of thought, but they may lack complexity. Demonstration of coherent organization although some digressions may be evident. The writing shows an overall control of vocabulary and sentence structure.
5 R - S Yes - substantial treatment of each Shows some depth of thought, coherent organization, and control of vocabulary and sentence structure.
6 T Yes - thorough treatment of each Shows depth and complexity of thought, focused and coherent organization, and a superior control of vocabulary and sentence structure.



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