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MCAT changes will make test longer, harder

Changes will take effect spring 2015; the test hasn’t seen updates since 1991.


After three years of review, the Association of American Medical Colleges approved changes last week to the Medical College Admittance Test, the standardized exam for prospective medical students.

Starting in spring 2015, students taking the MCAT will see more material on upper level biological sciences, such as biochemistry. A new section will test the behavioral and social sciences to encourage students to provide holistic care.

Each section of the test will also be lengthened, adding 90 minutes to the current 5 1/2 hour test.

Starting in January 2013, the writing sample will be removed from the test because it was not a major deciding factor in the admittance process.

The changes were made to ensure that those admitted into medical schools will be well-rounded students and move in the direction of the changing medical field.

More than 40 percent of medical school admission officers said the MCAT is the most important admissions factor, according to a 2011 Kaplan Test Prep survey.

“They’re trying to plan 10-15 years out because the health care system has to change,” said Kathleen Watson, senior associate dean for students and student learning at the University of Minnesota’s Medical School.

The medical system is moving toward a holistic care system, and more pre-med students need to be exposed to the psychology of themselves and others to be more equipped to treat patients, said Jeff Koetje, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of pre-health programs.

Biochemistry and psychology senior Holly Bui is currently studying for the MCAT. She said the changes will be beneficial because they will make it more balanced.

“I think it’s a good thing to test if people have the social skills to understand people’s behaviors,” Bui said.

She also said that pre-med students generally don’t have a strong background in the humanities — knowing social sciences would make them better physicians.

The MCAT has only been changed five times since its creation in 1928. It was last altered in 1991.

Overall, medical school admissions officers have been receptive to the changes. According to Kaplan Test Prep’s 2011 survey of medical school admissions officers, 73 percent of those surveyed believe the 2015 changes to the MCAT will better prepare students for medical school.

Koetje said it’s the right time to bring about changes to the test because of the current state of the medical field.

“The changes make the test relevant to today and tomorrow’s doctors,” he said.

The changes could cause problems in scheduling courses for undergraduate students. They will need to take additional classes that they may not have taken until their senior year in order to prepare for the exam and increase the number of credits they’ll need to take each semester.

“It may be more challenging, but it will be manageable,” Koetje said. 

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