Good news for pre-med students concerned about a lack of MCAT seats before the test changes in 2015: the maker of the exam (the Association of American Medical Colleges) has added October and November test dates in 2014. These additional testing dates are the first time in recent MCAT history that the exam will be offered later than September, which may help alleviate the rush to take the MCAT before changes hit. Historically, test changes have caused a surge of pre-change exam takers anxious to take a familiar test rather than an unknown, new exam -- a trend seen with GRE and GMAT test takers preceding recent changes to those tests. In fact, a January 2014 Kaplan Test Prep survey of MCAT takers shows that most pre-med students believe the 2015 test will be more challenging than the current version. Among the results:
- A More Challenging Exam: 66% of pre-med students surveyed think the MCAT changes will make the new exam more difficult than the current one; just 8% say the changes will make the exam easier; 16% say the level of difficulty will stay about the same; 11% are unsure.
- New MCAT, New Material To Be Taught: A majority (56%) of pre-meds surveyed say that if the current exam included the new topics coming in 2015 (such as psychology, sociology, and more in-depth biochemistry), they wouldn't have been prepared for it. Note: Pre-med programs around the country are changing their curricula to ensure that all students who will take the new MCAT (current freshmen and sophomores) are prepared for the new exam’s content.
- A Deterrent to a Career in Medicine?: While a majority (55%) of pre-meds surveyed say the new MCAT will neither encourage nor discourage students from seeking a career in medicine, 39% think it will discourage future doctors; just 5% say the new exam will actually encourage students to pursue a career in medicine.
Among the approved changes coming to the MCAT in 2015:
- More Topics Tested: The 2015 MCAT will include three additional semesters of material in college-level biochemistry, psychology, and sociology, increasing the number of prerequisite classes from eight to eleven.
- Almost Double the Length: Takers of the revised MCAT will face 261 questions over six hours and 15 minutes. The current MCAT has 144 questions that are taken in three hours and 20 minutes. In addition to more stamina and focus required, the new MCAT will be so long that there is even time built in for a lunch break!
- New Question Types and Skills: The current MCAT focuses on content knowledge and critical thinking, but the 2015 MCAT tests two additional skills: Research Design, which focuses on the fundamentals of creating research projects, bias, faulty results, and variable relationships; and Graphical Analysis and Data Interpretation, which focuses on deriving conclusions and drawing inferences from visual data like figures, graphs, and data tables.