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March 12, 2012 - AAMC Announces New Medical College Admission Test
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The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) recently announced that the new Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is scheduled to be introduced in Spring 2015. Dr. Ronald Franks, vice president for health sciences and interim chair of psychiatry at the University of South Alabama, served as vice chair of the MCAT revision committee that recommended the new update.

“The MCAT revision committee surveyed thousands of people to find out what and where the field of medicine is headed,” said Dr. Franks. “We realized the exam needed to include more material on cellular and molecular biology, genetics, biochemistry, and social sciences.”

The 2015 version of the MCAT exam will have four sections, and a separate score will be reported for each. The new test sections will be:

1. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems,
2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems,
3. Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and
4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

“The MCAT exam scores will still be graded on a 15-point scale,” said Dr. Franks.

This is only the fifth time that the MCAT exam will have been revised since the first exam was made in 1928. The exam changes are being made to mirror the modifications currently seen in the health care field.

“To be a good physician, doctors need to be trained to serve in an increasingly diverse community,” Dr. Franks said. “It is important for doctors to know how to adapt the health care they provide to individuals.”

The 2015 MCAT exam will see a change in its natural sciences section. This portion of the exam will add a social and behavioral sciences section and a critical analysis and reasoning skills section.

“I feel that the scientific inquiry and reasoning section will be a great tool to predict the future success of a medical school applicant,” said Cody Penrod, a fourth year USA medical student who serves on the USA College of Medicine admissions committee. “I feel this section will give some insight into the applicants’ intellect as opposed to their general knowledge. This quality allows physicians to think through complicated patient problems, make connections between multiple systems, and apply this knowledge to the future treatment plan of the patient.”

The written section of the exam will be discontinued as of January 2013.

“I am glad to hear they are taking away the essay,” said Dianna Thomas, a fourth year USA medical student who also serves on the medical school’s admissions committee. “Currently, I don't think it is looked at very much by admissions and no one really knows how to interpret it as a part of the score. Being able to write is important, but they need a new way of incorporating that into the test.”

“The written portion of the exam is rarely used by admissions committees across the country,” Dr. Franks added. “However, it was helpful to evaluate language skills in students that used English as a second language.”

The 2015 version of the MCAT exam will be seven hours long versus the current 5-1/2 hour long test.

“This test is generally much longer than any pre-medical student has encountered before, and making the exam even longer will almost certainly make it more challenging,” said Travis Harris, a fourth year USA medical student who also serves on the USA College of Medicine admissions committee. “It will now be even more important for students preparing for the MCAT to train under simulated testing conditions in order to build up stamina.”

“A longer exam makes for a better exam,” Dr. Franks said. “The advantage of the longer exam is that it will result in a more accurate representation of what students know in certain areas.”

Some questions have been made as to whether or not pre-med students will see a curriculum change.

“Eighty-five percent of students will have already taken the coursework to prepare them for the exam,” Dr. Franks said. “The new exam will be tested at an introductory level of psychology and sociology.”

Dr. Cindy Stanfield, the pre-med advisor at USA, is planning ahead to prepare students for the 2015 exam.

“So far, it looks like most medical schools are not adding to required courses, but in practicality, I would recommend students take genetics/genomics and biochemistry,” Dr. Stanfield said.” I will be working with several departments on campus to develop a list of courses that will meet the competences tested for in the new MCAT.”

Overall, the changes to the 2015 version of the MCAT exam have been seen as a positive representation of how health care and science is currently evolving.

“In general I think it’s great that the AAMC views the MCAT as a dynamic test that should change with the medical field,” Penrod said. “It shows their dedication to improvement, which should positively influence the face of physicians of the future.”

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