December 8, 2011

The MCAT Makeover

Looking back at an article in The Chronicle from 1991 when the MCAT was revised to what it is today, the ability to communicate was a significant concern for admissions officers.  According to The Chronicle, AAMC officials stated, “The essay section was added because medical schools wanted a way to assess the applicants’ communications skills.”  The officials went on to say that, “Patients frequently complain that their doctors have poor bedside manners and either fail to tell them about important matters or talk in terms they don’t understand.”

Yet again it was decided that poor bedside manners are still an issue that patients face.  After the AAMC’s Annual Meeting this November, the association’s board of directors decided that the MCAT will be revised by 2015 to test for these recurring issues, leading to a MCAT makeover.  It is essential that communication skills are able to be correctly tested in the updated MCAT.  This will be a monumental change for upcoming applicants, considering the MCAT has been in the same format since 1991.  Some colleges have already started to change their curriculums in an effort to help applicant’s prepare for the adjustments on the test.  According to a recent article from The Chronicle, “A 21-member advisory committee, working with the medical colleges’ association, made the final recommendations after three years of study that involved analyzing 2,700 surveys from college and medical-school faculty members, medical residents, students, and advisers.”

Potential changes include adding sections on humanities and social sciences to test the applicant’s knowledge on biological systems, ethics, and psychology.  Additionally, there are plans to add a section testing critical analysis and reasoning skills while removing the current writing section, which was added in 1991 in hopes to test for communication skills.  Many of these modifications are to ensure that applicants have a good bedside manner on top of being academically competent.

So, what exactly does having a good bedside manner mean?  It implies that applicants are able to care for their patients and co-workers needs in an appropriate and responsive manner.  This requires applicants to have basic communication and social skills, along with the ability to work well in a team.  Many Canadian schools and a few U.S. medical colleges are currently testing for these skills by interviewing applicants using a multiple mini interview (MMI) process, which was discussed in last month’s College Admissions Today article.  Based on the upcoming revisions to the MCAT and some individual schools’ changing interview processes, it looks like it will be essential for future applicants to have personal skills besides from what they learn in their science and medical classes.

View the entire 1991 article and 2011 article from The Chronicle.

Interested in learning more about the MCAT 2015? View helpful resources from the AAMC for students and admissions officers.

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