The Importance of Affirmative Action in Admissions to U.S. Medical Schools

The competition for places in U.S. medical schools is among the most intense in higher education. Great emphasis is placed on scores on the Medical College Admission Test and on an applicant’s grade point average in college, particularly in science courses.

In 2005 the mean combined score for black students who took the Medical College Admission Test was 21.2. (Each of the three sections of the MCAT test is scored on a scale of 1 to 15.) For whites, the mean score on the combined three portions of the MCAT test was 28.5. Therefore, the white score was about 18 percent higher than the mean score for blacks.

The mean total college grade point average for black applicants to medical school in 2005 was 3.18. For whites, the average GPA was 3.54.

If we examine grades in the all-important science courses, the mean black GPA was 2.99. For whites, the figure is 3.44.

It is clear that, in the intense competition for places at medical schools in the United States, were these institutions to choose their students solely on test scores and college grades, blacks would be at a severe disadvantage in competition with the highest-scoring whites. Almost no blacks would be admitted to the nation’s most selective schools.

The test results highlight the importance of continuing affirmative action admissions at U.S. medical schools. Without a continuing flow of blacks and other minorities into U.S. medical schools, inner-city areas and predominantly black rural areas would be faced with severe shortages of medical personnel. This would create a public health crisis in the United States.


Copyright © 2006. The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education. All rights reserved.