New 2015 MCAT will better prepare future doctors

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The 2015 MCAT rasies the bar for premed students by including sections on psychology, sociology and biochemestry. Photo by Russell Schaffer
The 2015 MCAT rasies the bar for premed students by including sections on psychology, sociology and biochemestry. Photo by Russell Schaffer

The launch of a new MCAT in spring of 2015 is fast approaching with changes designed to better prepare future doctors for a changing medical field.

There is no doubt these changes will make the already challenging test even more challenging. Sections of psychology, sociology and biochemistry will be added to the test, which increases the number of prerequisites from eight to 11 and adds to an already full, stressful course load for students preparing for the test.

Owen Farcy, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of pre-health institutional partnerships, believes the new MCAT will better prepare students “for medical school and careers in medicine, but because of the additional content and the marathon eight-hour length of the new exam, there’s no doubt that the path to medical school will be more challenging.”

The conversation to change the MCAT started three to four years ago, as the Association of American Medical Colleges considered what it means to be a doctor in the 21st Century.

“Interactions with patients and treatment are more focused on behavior,” Farcy said.

He then gave the example of a patient who goes in for a quadruple bypass and then right after his surgery goes out and eats a double bacon cheese burger. Doctors are not just going to have to fix the physical problems of the patients but also the behavioral ones so the patients do not go back to square one.

In a survey Kaplan conducted in March and April of this year, students voiced their opinions of what they should know in their future professions. The responses reflected that a knowledge of psychology, data analysis, Spanish, sociology, anthropology/cultural studies and philosophy are all important to understanding the medical field better.

David A. Kaiser, clinical professor and co-director of the Preprofessional Advisement Center, is responsible for advising, counseling and calming fears of students related to any of the health professions here at BYU. They had known of the upcoming changes to the MCAT, and advising to add the additional courses has been part of counselors’ suggestions for students for the past few of years.

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The advisement center is there to help students prepare for the MCAT and all other parts of their applications.

“We don’t necessarily arrange the opportunities but helping them understand that they need to have research and shadowing and clinical exposure, volunteer and community service, leadership experience, etc,” Kaiser said.

Kaiser emphasized the importance of preparedness. For students who have been planning on taking the MCAT and have come in early to meet and work with the advisement center, there shouldn’t be an issue.

Not all students know, coming in as freshmen, that they want to go to medical school; this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t prepare and eventually apply, but with the sequencing of the courses it can possibly extend their time before graduation.

“The biggest issue, frankly, in that was biochemistry, and it’s not because biochem is harder; it’s the sequencing of it because you have to have a year of inorganic chemistry, a year of organic chemistry and then the biochemistry semesters,” Kaiser said.

Students who do not have room in their schedules to fit the additional prerequisites do not have to extend graduation or stress themselves out even more to cram in extra classes to an already hectic schedule. Kaplan has designed a one-semester course called MCAT Foundations of Biochemistry and Behavioral Science for Medical School to provide students an efficient way to prepare for the new required content on the 2015 MCAT.

Kaiser said the whole process of applying to medical school is stressful and that the changes do add a little to that stress, but in the big picture it’s not huge.

Michael Gebhard, a neuroscience major from Grand Junction, Colorado, said the additional courses that are now required limit the free space he has in his schedule to take other electives he wanted to take.

“I had wanted to receive a business major, in addition to going to med school, but two months ago I realized that it would require five years of college to do that,” Gebhard said. “I even came to BYU with 30 credits from AP, and I still couldn’t do med school and a business major in 4 years, so I’ve decided to finish with a minor in business and major in neuroscience.”

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, in the most recently recorded year, 405 BYU students applied to medical school. That makes BYU one of the largest sources of medical school applicants in the entire country.

Kaiser confirmed that there is no shortage of pre-med students at BYU.

“The national average of acceptance of medical school is about 44 percent. For BYU students it’s around 70 percent. So that is a significant difference, and it’s not because of us, it’s because of them. They’re awesome,” Kaiser said.

To get accepted into BYU, students have to be bright and motivated. At BYU students are able to receive a great science education, interact in an environment saturated with service opportunities and have as many research opportunities as an undergraduate as they would at any institution in the United states, Kaiser said.

“Although my goal to become a doctor probably just got significantly harder, that doesn’t change that it is my goal. Us humans find ways to reach our goals. We are great at that. I’m confident that I’ll dig deep, give my all and it will be alright … I hope,” Gebhard said

Top undergraduate institutions that applied to U.S. medical school in 2012

RankingInstitutionNumber of Applicants
1University of California — Los Angeles823
2University of Michigan — Ann Harbor812
3University of California — Berkeley768
4University of Texas at Austin740
5University of Florida713
6University of California — San Diego547
7Cornell University478
8University of Wisconsin — Madison455
9University of Illinois at Urbana — Champaign419
10Brigham Young University — Provo405
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