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How Discrimination and Inadequate Accommodations Affect Medical Students’ Success in Testing

On Behalf of | Apr 12, 2024 | Firm News |

Discriminatory Barriers in College

As an aspiring medical student, your educational journey is littered with obstacles beyond that of coursework and clinical rotations. Discriminatory barriers in college and the lack of necessary accommodations may impact your success with tests in medical schools, not to mention admission exams like the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT), Dental Admission Test (DAT), Optometry Admissions Test (OAT), or Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)

Below we uncover the challenges and disparities that hinder testing success, and we also highlight ways to effect change.

Understanding Discriminatory Barriers in College

A simple definition of discrimination is treating a person or group of people differently, often withholding resources and opportunities. In a school environment, discrimination may look like unequal access to resources like buildings or student clubs, differential treatment based on race or gender, or microaggressions towards students from school leaders, educators, and even other students based on a bias.

Even in recent years, it’s come to light that some schools have practiced discrimination in their grading and in their admissions process, selecting or not selecting students based on their race, religion, or gender.

Importance of Accommodations in Medical Education

Accommodations play a crucial role in ensuring that you and all students, regardless of disability, have an equal opportunity to succeed academically. In medical school, learning accommodations are particularly important because of the demanding nature of the curriculum and the high stakes involved with testing.

Examples of learning accommodations include extended time on exams, accessible learning materials, assistive technology, and modifications to testing environments. It’s important to note that accommodations do not change a curriculum but give students with disabilities more ways to access the information. The goal with accommodations is to level the playing field so students with disabilities can reach their full potential.

More information about accommodations and your rights as a student can be found here and here.

How Discrimination and Lack of Accommodations Affect Testing for Medical Students

Medical school is high stakes, so it makes sense that the exams are too. Discrimination and the absence of needed accommodations can play a key role in poor testing.

For example, timed tests for students who need additional time (but aren’t granted it because of discrimination or denied this learning accommodation) cause issues for several reasons. The most obvious one is a poor grade, and the significance of the test affects if and how a student progresses though the medical program with that poor grade. Test anxiety, or a persisting stress concerning test taking, is a less talked about issue. Yet, students from all levels of schooling and those with or without disabilities report test anxiety. Tests with time constraints often increase this anxiety. A third, less common effect is depression. Poor grades, anxiety around tests, and the normal stresses of medical school can compound to cause depression.

To further illustrate, a lack of access to adaptive technology or specialized testing materials may keep students who rely on these accommodations from fully demonstrating their knowledge and skills on an exam. As with the timed test, this leads to low grades and much more.

These examples show how discrimination and lack of accommodations can impede academic success and contribute to increased stress and anxiety, possibly impacting your overall well-being and even keep you from taking your post-graduate licensing exam.

Addressing Discrimination and Accommodation Barriers – Education Litigation Group Can Help

As a medical student, you’re at the forefront of the movement toward fairness and opportunity. After all, medicine is about healing. Changes start with reshaping college admissions to reflect our diverse society and with training educators on anti-discrimination policies and the full rights of college students with disabilities.

On the student level, you must advocate for yourself. We know; it’s easier said than done. Yet, if you’re a student with a disability, you must take the first step. Be sure to disclose your disability to the Office of Disability Services at your school to ensure proper documentation of your needed accommodation(s). Then, discuss your learning needs with your teachers. If you’re experiencing discrimination, you can file a complaint with your school’s Office of Student Rights and Responsibilities. Also, read your school’s handbook to learn more steps you can take to get the most from your school experience.

Lastly, we at the Education Litigation Group specialize in education law. We work with students, parents, and teachers to ensure their rights in a school environment are protected. If you’re being discriminated against or denied learning accommodations, call our toll free number at 1 (800) 580-9167 to talk with one of our experts.