A new Medical College Admission Test was introduced in April 2015, but a recent Kaplan survey shows the new test has received mixed reviews.
The survey found that the percentage of medical schools who believed the new MCAT will be better than the old MCAT dropped from 68 percent in 2014 to 42 percent in 2015.
Eric Chiu, Kaplan’s executive director of pre-health programs, said he did not find this statistic surprising.
“With the old MCAT, most schools have years and years of data on how students performed in their medical school programs as they correlated with their MCAT scores, and that’s one of the reasons why the MACT has always been such a great predictor of academic potential,” Chiu said. “Schools really know what it means when you score a certain score on the whole MCAT in terms of how likely you are to succeed, and on the new MCAT, schools just don’t have that data yet.”
The new MCAT tests students in three additional areas: biochemistry, psychology and sociology, and encourages students to take three additional semesters of classes in these areas.
The new test also has a different scoring scale, is almost double the length of the old one, and has a more medical approach according to the Kaplan test prep website.
David Kaiser, a health professions advisor for BYU, said while there are no undergraduate class requirements to take the MCAT, it will be helpful for students to take the recommended classes for the new MCAT material.
“The more science courses they have in preparation, the more they’re going to be better prepared for it,” Kaiser said.
Chiu said this new MCAT will be beneficial for pre-med students.
“I know the research that went into the plan for this new MCAT blueprint was based on surveying medical schools’ deans and medical school faculty and understanding what it takes to be successful, not just in medical school, but eventually as a doctor,” Chiu said.
He explained that this test should help students succeed as medical schools change with the new MCAT.
“I can’t stress this enough but really learning about the test itself and about the critical thinking skills that they’ll need, that’s not just going to help them get a great MCAT score so they can get into medical school. “It’s going to help them be more successful in medical school, especially as medical schools evolve their teaching philosophies and their approach to medical education,” Chiu said.
Amber Collins, BYU’s allied health professions advisor, also weighed in on the impact of the new MCAT.
“The new exam sounds more daunting to students, primarily because it is much longer, includes a few new subjects, but mostly just because it is still so new and unfamiliar,” Collins said in an email.
Chiu provided two main pieces of advice for students who want to take the new MCAT. The first piece of advice he gave was to start early, because students will have to adapt to this new test. He said the freshman or sophomore year is not too early to start meeting with an advisor to plan pre-med coursework including finding time to take MCAT prep.
The second piece of advice was that students should not settle for one-size-fits-all test prep. He said students excel in different areas of their undergraduate studies, and the new MCAT tests multiple areas. In preparation for the test, students should focus on their strengths and weaknesses. Chiu said Kaplan test prep helps students focus on what they need to by launching a MCAT channel where students can watch live lessons and also by giving students recommended homework for what they need to work on.
Collins said she does not have a preference between the new MCAT and the old MCAT, but she said she believes the new one will be successful.
“I am optimistic it will be a great test,” Collins said. “I’m just glad I don’t have to take either.”