Beginning in 2015, aspiring doctors may not only face a longer MCAT, the admissions exam required by all U.S. medical schools and many Canadian medical schools, but they’ll have to learn more curriculum for it, and earlier than their predecessors – a potentially tricky predicament for underclassmen already juggling busy class schedules. A few of the key must-knows for test takers about the draft MCAT changes just recommended today by the AAMC, the exam’s administrator:
  • Addition of Behavioral and Social Sciences Principles Section: In an effort to assess student knowledge of the concept and identity of self, relationship to others, and sensitivity to socio-cultural differences as they relate to health and well-being, the new section will likely test concepts mostly taught in undergraduate psychology and/or sociology courses. This will be a challenge for students who typically take the exam junior year, effectively demanding they add psychology, sociology, or both to their course schedules prior to taking the MCAT. Presently, few do.
  • Addition of Advanced Sciences: The current MCAT tests topics in biology, chemistry and physics. The recommendations will add knowledge of cellular/molecular biology, biochemistry, research methods and statistics. This change, in concert with the other section requirements, effectively doubles the prerequisite course work for pre-med students.
  • Expanded Critical Thinking: The MCAT will expand beyond the current content base of the Verbal Reasoning section to incorporate ethics, philosophy, cross-cultural studies and population health.
  • More of an Endurance Test: Under the current recommendations, the new MCAT will likely add 90 minutes to an exam that is already 5 ½ hours long, bringing the total seat time to over 7 hours.
  • Writing Sample eliminated: Studies show few U.S. medical school use this to evaluate applicants.
  • Big Changes, Small Window: 2015 may seem far away, but the short-term implications for both pre-med students and medical education as a whole are immediate and large. Colleges face a tough task ahead in implementing a new pre-med curriculum that satisfies these new requirements that entering freshmen will have to meet to take the new MCAT.

“These are the biggest proposed changes to the MCAT in 25 years and reflect the significant changes in the practice of medicine during this time, as physicians today need to know far more than they did a generation ago,” said Amjed Saffarini, executive director, pre-health programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “The recommended changes are designed to make the test more relevant for the next generation of doctors, and rightly so. However, the increased amount of coursework that future pre-med students will have to learn in order to sit for the new MCAT would be akin to high school students having to take calculus before taking the SAT ® or ACT ® – certainly not impossible for these strivers, just more challenging given all their other prerequisites.”

Kaplan Test Prep stresses that while these are just preliminary recommendations by the AAMC’s MCAT review committee, it’s important to remember that past is usually prologue when it comes to their MCAT recommendations – most of what they propose at this stage comes to pass, including their plan to make the MCAT go to a computer-based format, which launched in 2007.

In 2010, 42,742 aspiring physicians applied to medical school, a slight increase over 2009.

For more information on the looming changes to the MCAT, please contact Russell Schaffer at russell.schaffer@kaplan.com or 212.453.7538. Also be sure to visit Kaplan Test Prep’s virtual pressroom at http://press.kaptest.com and follow news on the changes on Twitter: @KaplanMCATPrep

About Kaplan Test Prep

Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions ( www.kaptest.com), a division of Kaplan, Inc., is a premier provider of educational and career services for individuals, schools and businesses. Established in 1938, Kaplan is the world leader in the test prep industry. With a comprehensive menu of online offerings and a complete array of books, Kaplan offers preparation for more than 90 standardized tests, including entrance exams for secondary school, college and graduate school, as well as professional licensing exams. Kaplan also provides private tutoring and graduate admissions consulting services.

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