A teacher’s own performance on a test isn’t the only thing a prospective student should consider; I think teaching ability, professionalism, and compatibility are each at least as important. But anyone who claims expertise on a test should be able to demonstrate that expertise in some way; further, I think one can’t really understand how to teach anything without having done it well. And every student needs to feel confident in his or her teacher or tutor, and test results help with that. With that in mind, here are my own results on each of the exams I teach. Each of these is an official score; many tutors and most test-prep company teachers have taken only unofficial tests, which aren’t the same thing no matter how much they’ll tell you they are.
LSAT — I’ve taken three official LSATs, in December 1992, October 2015, and December 2016. My official score1 was 177, pretty far into the 99th percentile. (The range is 120–180.) I’ve scored 180 on many unofficial tests.
MCAT — I’ve taken the official MCAT four times, most recently on April 17, 2015. My most recent score was 521 (99th percentile; the range is 472–528); my best score was a 41T under the old 3–45, J–T system.2 The breakdown of my most recent score was 132 physical, 130 critical reasoning, 129 biological/biochemical foundations, 130 psych/soc.3 Note that I’m one of very few MCAT tutors who has taken all three of the modern MCAT formats: the written test, the computer-based version which was introduced in January 2007, and the new, greatly expanded computerized version that was first implemented in April 2015; students should insist on a teacher or tutor who has taken the most recent version of the test because it is dramatically different from previous versions.4
GMAT — I’ve taken it twice, in 1990 and 2002. My scores were 790 the first time, 800 the second. (The range is 200–800.)
GRE — I took the GRE in February 2015. My score: a perfect 170 verbal, 170 quantitative. (The range on each is 130–170.)
SAT — Scoring of the SAT has changed several times over the years and scores from when I took it in 1983 aren’t comparable to scores today, as the testmakers have made the test much easier over the years.5 My score of 1580 (the range was 400–1600) was 99.99th percentile and would correspond with the high end of a perfect 1600 today. (Note that for a while the range was 600–2400, but the SAT later dropped the writing sample from scoring and reverted to the old range, albeit with very different scaling.)
ACT — I scored a perfect 36 (the range was 1–36) on the ACT in 1982.
Advanced Placement tests — I sometimes tutor for the AP tests in physics, biology, and chemistry; I scored 5 (the range is 1–5) on each of these as well as on several other subjects that I don’t often teach (calculus BC; American and European history; English literature and composition). I have never scored less than 5 on any AP exam.
- when I was trying, as opposed to just checking out how the test has changed so I can better help my students
- Until April 2015 MCAT scores were a composite of numerical scores, from 1 to 15, one each of three sections (physical sciences, verbal reasoning, and biological sciences; there was no psychology/sociology section), plus a letter score that ranged from J to T (“junk” to “terrific”, we used to say) for the writing sample, which thankfully has now been eliminated. The breakdown of my top score was 15/14/12, plus a top score of T on the writing.
- Each of the four sections on today’s MCAT is scored from 118–132; it’s interesting to note that this range is identical to the old 1–15 range, plus 117 points to make the midpoint come in at exactly 500 (125 x 4) total. My 41 under the old system therefore corresponds to about 524 on the current test.
- This is a big deal. At many MCAT prep companies you’re likely to have a CARS (roughly, reading comprehension) teacher who has never taken the MCAT at all because (s)he is a converted LSAT or GMAT teacher; when asked whether (s)he took the MCAT the teacher will either duck the question or say yes but actually mean not an official MCAT but an unofficial practice test. As far as I’m concerned this is a lie, and a big one, because the experience of taking an official, check-in-with-fingerprint-and-metal-detector MCAT is entirely different from sitting in one’s own home at one’s own computer and I believe that anyone who hasn’t done the former isn’t qualified to tell someone else how to do it. Your physics teacher will often be a physics grad student who again hasn’t taken the MCAT. Your biology and chemistry teachers are more likely to have taken the test, but usually only once and occasionally not the version that’s now offered, which is about twice as long as its predecessor and has very different material. My advice is that you ask, before you commit to a class or tutor, not just whether your teachers have taken the real MCAT but what date they took it; any date prior to April 2015 is the wrong test and refusal to give a date almost always means they haven’t actually taken it at all.
- For good reason: the ’80s-era test was so difficult that the top of the range was just about wasted. Unfortunately they carried things somewhat too far and perfect scores are now too common even to be useful discriminators, but their hearts were in the right place. For once.