Recent changes to the MCAT exam will cause students who are considering medical school to alter their preparation for the test.
Starting in 2015, the content of MCAT will substantially change. The Association of American Medical Colleges approved an exam overhaul on Feb. 16, broadening the topics covered.
Dr. Darrell Kirch, president and CEO of the AAMC, said in an interview on the AAMC website that for 80 years the test has played a key role in judging medical school applicants. Since the MCAT has not changed since 1991, Kirtch said the modern medical world merits updates to the exam.
“We felt that it was time to take a deep look at the MCAT and what it assessed so we could be confident that it was helping us pick the best doctors for the future of health care,” Kirch said.
The MCAT’s content is currently centered around the natural sciences as students are tested on chemistry, physics and math.
Dr. Karen Mitchell said in an AAMC news conference the test has changed over the years.
“The current exam … has two natural science sections, a verbal reasoning section and a writing sample,” Mitchell said.
The AAMC broadened the test to include physiology and sociology. The writing portion will be removed from the test because the organization found admissions committees did not need or use the information from this portion.
“We understand that there are psychological, social and behavioral factors that really are central to determining the health of an individual,” Kirch said.
Critical thinking skills are an essential aspect of the MCAT. This includes ways of thinking about problems, such as social and ethical issues, according to Kirch. The test length will increase and take at least six hours.
“The goal of the AAMC in all of this is to help medical schools and their admissions committees to find the best possible people to be the doctors of the future,” Kirch said.
According to an AAMC news release, a 21-member advisory panel developed the changes to the test starting in 2008. The final changes were screened by surveys, stakeholders, other advisory groups and administrators.
Dr. Ronald D. Franks, vice chair of the committee assigned to revise the MCAT, said the group did a thorough evaluation of multiple sources of information in changing the exam.
[pullquote]”A typical student will not need additional courses,”[/pullquote]
“We wanted to preserve what was working and enhance existing components,” Franks said. “The test now more accurately reflects the science of medicine.”
The AAMC suggests students enroll in a broader range of courses that include introductions to psychology and sociology. Colleges may even provide new courses for premedical students that combine these subjects.
Franks said introductory courses, already required by universities, will provide ample information for premedical students to be prepared for the updated exam.
“A typical student will not need additional courses,” Franks said.
As students prepare for the new MCAT several resources are available on the AAMC website. Students and professors can find a preview guide and informational video that explains the changes. For more information visit aamc.org.