For 80 years, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) has served as perhaps the most daunting challenge for pre-meds throughout their undergraduate careers, with 43 percent of medical school admissions officers considering the test the most important admissions factor.
Starting in 2015, this exam will be receiving a significant overhaul, with the addition of biochemistry and behavioral and social sciences, the removal of the writing sample, and an overall increase in length by 90 minutes.
An exam administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the MCAT has been periodically reviewed and revised since its creation in 1928; the upcoming revision will be its fifth, the last since 1991.
“[This particular update was made] in the context of the role of the MCAT and changes to the medical field,” said Kaplan Test Prep’s pre-health director Dr. Jeff Koetje.
While the addition of biochemistry is generally because the AAMC considers it important for medical students, the addition of behavioral and social sciences is meant to reflect a more holistic view of patient care, according to Koetje. The removal of the writing sample, which currently consists of two essays, stems from a general consensus from universities that its purpose is better served by the applicant’s personal statement or interview.
The length of the exam will be increasing from five and a half hours to seven, partially because of the increased content but also because on the current test, students’ scores on individual sections are not considered statistically significant. When the exam was still on pen and paper, the test was roughly the length it will be again in 2015; when it was changed to electronic form in 2006, the number of questions was reduced by almost a third.
While Kaplan’s press release described the new MCAT as “more challenging”, UC Davis pre-health advisor Linda Scott disagreed.
“Some people will be glad that the writing section is being taken away,” she said. “… students don’t need to worry about it being harder.”
She also said that the new scoring will help students’ achievements in a particular section stand out more.
Though the actual changes have been approved by the AAMC, medical schools have yet to decide whether they will accept old MCAT scores for Fall 2015 admissions. As a result, it is currently unclear whether current first-year students will need to take the new MCAT.
ROHIT RAVIKUMAR can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.