Starting this month, aspiring doctors are seeing changes in the test most commonly required to get into medical school.
On April 17, the “new and improved” MCAT will be administered for the first time. Three new subject areas — biochemistry, psychology and sociology — will be added to the original five.
The old MCAT had 144 questions to be answered over three hours and 20 minutes, according to Kaplan Test Prep. There will now be 230 questions, and students will have six hours and 15 minutes.
The final section, previously called verbal reasoning, has been renamed CARS for Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. This section will focus more on behavioral health such as psychology and sociology, rather than emphasizing natural science. The the Association of American Medical Colleges, the non-profit organization that administers the test, also decided to eliminate the writing portion based on feedback from medical admission committees.
The price of the test has increased, too, from $275 to $300.
Why so many changes? AAMC officials say they’re responding to the new environment of health care. The new MCAT will gauge how well-rounded and prepared for medical school students are.
“They have conceptualized that, in the same way that we need organic chemistry to understand the body, we also need to be educated in subjects like psychology and sociology to understand people,” said Greg Okwengu, MD Health Manager. “We forget how important behavioral health is to healing.”
Ricardo Declet, a senior and biology major, believes it’s important for students to know how to interact with patients.
“Looking at the current changes can become somewhat overwhelming for those students preparing to take the examination,” Declet said. “However, I do believe it’s for the best, as it would give a rise to a more complete candidate — not just one that dominates the sciences, but one who understands the importance of proper social interaction.”
In 2012 on the organization’s website, the AAMC’s Darrell Kirch announced to medical students that changes were upcoming.
The changes worry some students. Samantha Mercado, a freshman biology major, said: “I’ve never taken a test like this before, but I’m assuming it’s going to be the hardest one I’ll ever take.”
What des it mean for students who plan to take the new exam? Due to the additional subjects, students will most likely have to take additional courses in the social sciences and in biochemistry.
These changes will also affect class scheduling and required undergraduate coursework. Siara Isabella, a freshman biology major, said: “Now, I’m going to have to take extra classes like psychology, when I could be taking a biology elective.”
Information on testing locations, dates and more can be found at aamc.org.
Tonie Schankweiler can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org