Changes in MCAT pose challenges for students

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Changes to the MCAT are under way.

According to Russell Schaffer, senior communications manager at Kaplan Test Prep, 356 BYU students applied to medical school last year, and each of those students had to take the MCAT. In an annual survey of medical school admissions officers, Kaplan found that 43 percent of medical schools placed the most weight on the MCAT, with students’ GPA coming in at 25 percent.

Although the new version of the MCAT has not been finalized, the writing sample will be taken out, said David Kaiser, director of the BYU Pre-Professional Advisement Center. Sections on biochemistry and behavioral sciences will also be added. Kaiser said changes were necessary.

“There needs to be some updating,” Kaiser said. “Personally, I don’t think the changes to the test go far enough. It is definitely a move in the right direction but I would like some more far-reaching changes in the prerequisite courses.”

Kaiser said the test is challenging and will continue to be so, but the changes shouldn’t change alter how students have to study. He said it is not a test of memorization but of critical thinking skills.

“It might take some additional course work but other than a few other additional courses, I don’t see a significant change inĀ preparationĀ for the test itself,” he said.

The changes in the test will not take effect until 2015.

Kaiser said not to fear the changes.

“It’s just another step,” he said. “It’s not a hoop to jump through. It will change slightly but I don’t think it will change dramatically. It is still a daunting exam. If the student is really committed to attending medical school, no matter how intimidating it is, they will take it. Students can retake it and that is not uncommon. That is an indication that they are serious in their goals.”

Students who are interested in pursuing medical school upon graduation are encouraged to join the BYU pre-med club. Peter Nielson, president of the club, said there are many resources the club offers to help students better prepare for the test and rigors of medical school.

“I would say some of the highlights are the pre-med peer mentoring program, medical school tours, website resources and especially the club meetings on Thursday nights at 7 p.m.,” Nielson said. “We host a wide variety of physicians, deans of admission, military and other scholarships and MCAT prep course agencies.”

He encouraged students to find a prep course that best fits their needs. Members of the pre-med club have access to various information about the different tests offered by Kaplan, BYU, Altius and ACE, including a brief comparison.

The Pre-Professional Advisement Center is located in 3328 of the Wilkinson Center and offers support for students wanting to meet their professional goals. More information on the upcoming changes in the MCAT can be found at aamc.org/students/mcat.

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