Medical school admissions test undergoes changes

The American Association of Medical Colleges will introduce changes to the content and format of the MCAT, or the Medical College Admission Test, in the spring of 2015.

The new version of the MCAT will involve “more critical thinking instead of memorization,” said Chandresh Nandani, sophomore in LAS, who will be taking the modified test.

“Being a good doctor is about more than scientific knowledge. It also requires an understanding of people,” said Darrell Kirch, Association of American Medical Colleges president and CEO in a press release. “By balancing the MCAT exam’s focus on the natural sciences with a new section on the psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior, the new exam will better prepare students to build strong knowledge of the socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health.”

Nandani said the changes on the MCAT were prompted because “a lot of applicants did well on the test, but were not able apply those critical skills once in medical school.”

“The revisions to the MCAT exam are part of a broader effort by the AAMC and the nation’s medical schools to improve the medical school admissions process,” the MCAT 2015 press release states. “Medical schools are working on new and better ways to assess prospective medical students on criteria beyond traditional academic predictors of success.”

The Career Center shares information on courses that will cover material on the updated exams through their website, newsletter and advising services, said Bernadette So, senior assistant director at the Career Center, in an email.

“The health professions advisors at The Career Center have been gathering information about MCAT 2015 as it becomes available,” she said. “(It) will help students think through their individual preparation strategies for the MCAT, and will do what we can to make sure that pre-medical students at Illinois are prepared for their future goals.”

Three major changes will be implemented: The writing section will be removed, and two new sections are being introduced, comprising critical analysis and reasoning skills in addition to psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior.

The first new section “will test students’ reasoning ability by having them analyze, evaluate, and apply information provided in passages from a wide range of social sciences and humanities disciplines, including ethics and philosophy, cross-cultural studies, and population health,” according to the press release.

Sample questions are already available on the AAMC website with more to come as the MCAT 2015 becomes finalized. Nandani said the intention of the new exam isn’t to make it more difficult, it’s intended to make “better medical school applicants.”

“Just like us, medical schools are preparing for the changes in the MCAT, so their prerequisite requirements may change as all of us learn more,” So said. “I don’t anticipate too many changes to the courses that we recommend for pre-med students to take in their preparation.”

With the new social and behavioral sciences sections, So said pre-med students will want to gain basic knowledge of psychology and sociology.

“At the moment, the content for MCAT 2015 is still preliminary; once it is finalized we will be looking to see if any changes need to be made in our recommendations,” she said.

Bryan can be reached at [email protected]