Revised MCAT will increase workload for pre-med students
In a press release, Kaplan Test Prep announced that the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has approved changes to the MCAT test that will make the road to medical school significantly harder for pre-med students.
Changes to the test include the addition of behavioral and social sciences, advanced science concepts in biochemistry and expanded critical thinking. While the writing portion of the test is being eliminated in 2013, the revised 2015 test will still take seven hours - an hour and a half longer than the current test.
Katie Whittemore, Pre-Professional Health Programs adviser at UNH, supports these changes.
"The 2015 MCAT is not designed to be harder," Whittemore said. "But rather to reflect changes in medical education, and to add emphasis to the importance of the socio-cultural determinants of health."
A Kaplan Test Prep survey reported that 40 percent of medical school admissions officers say that pre-med students' course loads will increase as a result of the new MCAT.
"Doubtless, the additional course requirements may upset or cause some stress for some pre-meds," Whittemore said. "But I believe that the majority of serious pre-meds are up to the challenge."
Gabriela Alvarez, a junior biology major, is trying to remain unfazed by the revamped MCAT.
"If this path is really truly your passion, there is always a way to make it work," she said. "Besides, one test is not a reflection of your ability as a student, nor does it determine your worth as a human being."
The AAMC has said that many pre-med programs will have to revise their curricula to accommodate the changes to the MCAT. In Kaplan's press release, Amjed Saffarini, vice president of graduate programs, said "the road to medical school will be more challenging, since pre-med students will need to learn significantly more material within the same amount of time."
The majority of admissions officers say this will better prepare pre-med students for medical school.
Whittemore said that this new, more intense course load will have its advantages.
"I think the benefits could be new classes of pre-med students with a stronger understanding of the human aspects of health and health care," she said. "And how those elements influence the patient-physician relationship, the course of treatment, and potential outcomes."
The AAMC has released a preview guide for the 2015 MCAT on its website. The guide explains the reason behind the changes, as well as what information will be covered on the exam. In this guide, students can find example problems for each new section of the test.
Alvarez suggested that the practice exams offered by the AAMC are a great way to prepare for the test.
"In my opinion, practice problems are the most useful thing available to you," Alvarez said. The AAMC has said that a practice test for the 2015 MCAT will be released in 2014.
Whittemore suggested taking advantage of this preparation method, saying that the best thing a student can do is take a full-length, timed practice exam.
"The preparation can be intense," she said. "And dedication and time management is a must." Whittemore also strongly advised that students create a strict study schedule for the exam.
The new MCAT will first be administered in the spring of 2015. While the MCAT score is only one part of a medical school applicant's profile, it does play an important role in admissions, according to Whittemore.
"The new test essentially forces pre-meds to think beyond the scientific material and explore other important aspects of health and health care," Whittemore said. "I think that time will show that this is a good thing."
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