Next year, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), an exam that is administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) to assess medical school applicants, will undergo changes to make it a longer exam that tests more material.
The three major additions to the content of the MCAT exam are questions on psychology, sociology and introductory biochemistry. The recommended pre-requisites for the current MCAT are college courses in biology, chemistry, organic chemistry and physics, according the AAMC.
Another content change is the topic of the verbal section, which is now called Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. Students will answer multiple choice questions based on passages about the social sciences and humanities rather than passages about the natural sciences.
According to the AAMC website, “the new test communicates the need for future physicians to be prepared to deal with the behavioral and social issues of medicine.” AAMC.org also states that “biochemistry fundamentals are increasingly important to the academic success of students entering medical school.”
Parth Pancholi, a recent Stony Brook graduate who is completing his medical school applications and working as a clinical information manager at Northern Westchester Hospital, said that he thinks the American Medical College Application Service (AMCAS) is training intelligent, confident doctors, but that they are now realizing the importance of social skills. He said that adding the social science components to the exam was “a good move.”
“They want you to understand what is going on in a patient’s mind, besides what is going on in their body,” he said. “They want to know how you react to certain situations. Do you have what it takes to understand a patient’s social background, where they are coming from?”
The addition of biochemistry, psychology and sociology reflect this importance, while creating more topics for pre-med students to master.
The MCAT 2015 has more questions and is significantly longer than the current MCAT. The new exam consists of 230 questions in six hours and 15 minutes, while the current exam is 144 questions in three hours 20 minutes.
Although this means more time per question, Pancholi said, it is still a long time for anyone to stay at the top of his or her game.
“Anytime you make a test longer, you make it harder,” Pancholi said. “People have a mental stamina.”
With the changes in exam composition comes a new grading scale. Instead of the exam being scaled out of 45 points, 15 points per section, the sections of the new exam will be worth different amounts of points, and the total score will be out of 528.
Medical schools will create their own individual policies regarding which MCAT scores they will accept. The AAMC says that it is likely they will continue to take the current MCAT through the 2016 application cycle.
Nathan Ishay, a junior health science major and biology minor, represents the tight situation that pre-med juniors are in. He said he is not ready to take the current exam before this January, and he would have to study and hopefully master three new topics in order to take the new exam.
Ishay said he has decided to take the new MCAT 2015 exam after this spring semester because he wants to complete organic chemistry.
“I felt that taking organic chemistry prior to the exam would be an invaluable asset to me,” Ishay said. “I want more time to study.”
He also enrolled in Kaplan’s very first MCAT 2015 class and plans to start a dedicated study regiment until his exam date. The first new MCAT exam will take place on April 17, 2015.
“The Stony Brook Pre-Med Society is a club that helps students prepare for medical school,” said Daod Abdulmaseeh, the Stony Brook Pre-Med Society’s public relations officer. “We talked about the exam change a lot last year, and even the year before that.”
The Stony Brook Pre-Med Society regularly has guest speakers and advisers at meetings to provide insight on practicing medicine and to help prepare students for medical school.
Abdulmaseeh, a junior biochemistry major, said he has decided to take the new exam next year even though he took AP Psychology in high school.
“As a junior it’s a little tricky because we’re in the middle,” Abdulmaseeh said. He said he is going to take a preparation course for the MCAT 2015 exam and might take an introductory sociology class in the spring.
His advice to pre-med students is to know what is on the MCAT they are taking and to pay attention while they are in those classes. He invites pre-med students to attend a Stony Brook Pre-Med Society meeting and make an appointment with pre-professional advising to learn more about the medical school application process.
“People use different study strategies, even nine months to a year in advance to prepare for this exam,” he said. “Personally I don’t want to rush and I’m not going to recommend rushing.”