Students to see changes to MCAT exam
Because of a more comprehensive exam format, the preparation process for students taking the Medical College Admission Test in 2015 could change.
Dr. Jeff Koetje, director of Pre-Health Programs for Kaplan Test Prep, an agency that offers preparation courses for the exam, said the new MCAT might include an upper-level biology section covering biochemistry or genetics and a focus on medicine’s psychological and social aspects.
The exam would no longer have a writing session, but the proposed changes would lengthen the exam by 115 minutes, Koetje said.
“The proposed recommendations would change a five-and-a-half hour test into about a seven-and-a-half hour one,” he said.
Koetje said the writing section of the MCAT is not necessary because it does not adequately measure student performance.
“Admissions officers that I talked to said that the writing section just wasn’t very informative on how well an applicant would perform,” he said.
According to Kaplan Test Prep’s annual survey of medical admissions officers, more than 73 percent of those surveyed said the proposed changes are necessary and will provide them with more accurate, comprehensive data when considering applicants.
The survey also showed that nearly two-thirds of admissions officers believe pre-med curricula should be revamped to include psychology and sociology to better prepare students to take the exam.
This has pre-med departments nationwide scrambling to implement the changes, — which only 52 percent of admissions officers believe can be made in time, Koetje said.
“These changes present some difficulties to schools regarding resources and funding,” he said. “There’s a lot of difficulty surrounding how much time there is to implement these changes.”
Regardless of whether universities expand pre-med curricula to include psychology and sociology courses, pre-med students should have some knowledge of both fields and how they relate to a career in medicine, said Russell Schaffer, senior communications manager at Kaplan Test Prep.
Shaffer said this includes students at the University, which produced 305 medical school applicants last year and ranks among one of the highest producers in the country.
Cole Neal, a School of Environmental and Biological Sciences first-year student, said these proposed changes were unexpected.
“I wasn’t planning on taking any kind of psychology, so it’s starting to change what people were planning,” he said. “Who can take a test for seven-and-a-half hours? [It’s] crazy.”
But Neal said he is willing to take on the extra work because it provides him with a chance to be more accurately represented to medical schools.
Koetje said most pre-med students would take the proposed changes in stride.
“These students aren’t going to be discouraged by the expansion,” he said. “They’re not going to give up their lifelong goal of entering medicine because of a few changes to the MCAT.”
The MR-5 Committee, a sub-committee of the Association of American Medical Colleges, recommended specifics for the MCAT expansion, he said.
Since the exam has not been updated since 1991, a full generation of doctors took the current MCAT despite vast changes in medicine regarding technology and science, as well as psychological and sociological aspects of relationships between doctors and patients, he said.
The new MCAT aims to account for these developments that have come up within the past 20 years, Koetje said.
While the proposed expansion is not official until members of the AAMC review the changes in February, Koetje said the recommendations would most likely be approved when considered.