February 23, 2015

The MCAT Gets a Makeover


In order to be accepted into medical school, students must take the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test).  The MCAT has traditionally been comprised of 144 questions which are to be completed in a three hour and twenty minute time frame. Prospective med students spend years preparing themselves for this exam; taking classes, joining study groups, purchasing MCAT study books – the list goes on and on.  But, starting April 2015 there will be a new and improved MCAT which promises to be more difficult and extensive.  The purpose is to better forecast how well the student will perform in medical school.

The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) has been conducting research for the past five years in order to constitute these changes.  By surveying faculty, admissions, and deans of medical schools, the AAMC was better able to understand what types of general knowledge and thinking skills are needed by students to succeed in their medical school programs.

Here are some changes that students can expect on the new MCAT:

  • Different scoring scale:  The old MCAT had a total possible score of 45.  On the new MCAT, sections will be scored 118-132, for a total possible score of 528.  The median score is estimated to be around 500.
  • New questions that test a variety of skills: Just like the old MCAT, the new one will test content knowledge and critical thinking, but with the added challenge of two additional skill areas.  The first is Research Design, which focuses on the fundamentals of creating research projects.  The second is Graphical Analysis & Data Interpretation, which focuses on deriving conclusions and drawing inferences from visual data (figures, graphs, tables…).
  • Double the length: Previously, the MCAT was to be completed within a three hour and twenty minute time frame.  The new MCAT now has a maximum time limit of six hours and fifteen minutes – upping the questions from 144 to 230.
  • More prerequisite classes: Three additional semesters’ worth of material will be covered in college-level biochemistry, introductory psychology, and introductory sociology.  This increases the prerequisite class number from eight to eleven.
  • A slight change to the Verbal Reasoning section: Instead of being called Verbal Reasoning, the section will now be titled Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills or CARS.  In addition, the CARS section will no longer include passages on the natural sciences but will instead focus entirely on passages from the humanities and social sciences.

Although the MCAT is never the ultimate decider to get into medical school, it does play a large part in the admission decision. Since the exam is designed to test how students will stand up to the academic rigors of medical school, it is important for all aspiring doctors  to note these monumental changes to the test.

As an added incentive for test takers to not shy away from the new MCAT, the AAMC is offering a $150 Amazon gift card to all students who register for the April 17th or April 18th test dates.

According to Eric Chiu, executive director of pre-medical programs, Kaplan Test Prep, “While the new MCAT is more challenging than the old one, our experience of preparing students for the medical school admissions process for over 40 years tells us that with the right preparation, they will rise to the occasion, and succeed.”

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