Students considering taking their required physics elsewhere should bear in mind that Haverford's 101-102 and 105-106 sequences are excellent preparation and will contribute significantly to the scientific understanding that will be helpful to you in a career in the area of medicine or any health profession. Although, the course is not designed with any particular standardized exam in mind, it also does serve as excellent preparation for the MCAT.
The Physics department has done a study of the performance of Haverford graduates on the physical science portion of the MCATs, which tests students understanding of physics and physical chemistry. The study included all Haverford graduates who took two semesters of physics anywhere between 1998 and 2005, and who took the MCAT and applied to medical schools. This amounted to a total of 150 students taking physics at Haverford, and 69 students who took it elsewhere. (For students who took the test more than once, we used only the highest score in our analysis.)
The scores obtained ranged from a low of 4 to a high of 14. The average score achieved by students who took physics at Haverford was 10.0, while for those who took the test elsewhere it was 9.2. In addition, 63% of the students taking physics at Haverford scored 10 or higher, compared to 45% of those taking it elsewhere.
Was this effect merely due to higher grades on the part of the group taking physics at Haverford? There is only a weak dependence of MCAT physical science score on course grade, so this does not explain the effect. (See plot at bottom of webpage. Since we do not have grading data for students who took it elsewhere, this only represents Haverford physics data.)
This data suggests that a typical student taking the course at Haverford is likely to do better on the MCAT than a typical Haverford student taking physics elsewhere. This does not prove that any particular student will do better after taking the course at Haverford than elsewhere. On the other hand, we do feel confident in concluding that students taking the course at Haverford are well prepared for the MCAT exam. They also benefit from a very able and congenial group of peers and a course designed with Haverford students in mind.
Some details: The uncertainty in both MCAT score averages was +/-0.2. The difference between the two averages is statistically significant at greater than the 95% confidence level. The full histograms are shown below. The standard deviations were the same for both groups of students.
Physics taken at Haverford College:
Physics taken elsewhere:
Dependence of MCAT Physics Score on Intro Physics grade: