Keeping up with the MCAT Test Changes

February 29, 2012
Owen Farcy

Earlier this month the Association of American Medical Colleges formally approved the first major content changes to the MCAT since the test was last revised in 1991. Since the AAMC’s announcement there has been a flurry of discussion about the new exam as students, pre-medical advisors, and medical schools all attempt to understand how they will be affected, and what they can do now to start preparing.

The first step in preparing is naturally to understand exactly what the changes will entail. While the AAMC has published a 150-page MCAT2015 Preview Guide that details exactly what the new test will look like, the changes can be boiled down to 3 major points:

  • Beginning in the spring of 2015, the MCAT will be restructured into 4 new sections: the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section, the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section, the Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior section, and the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section.
  • The new exam will include the addition of topics in behavioral and social sciences and advanced science concepts in biochemistry, in addition to the currently tested topics in physics, general and organic chemistry, and biology. The Writing Sample section will be eliminated from the exam starting in 2013.
  • Despite the removal of the Writing Sample, the additional content will make the 2015 MCAT about 90 minutes longer than the current one – going from 5 ½ hours to about 7 hours.

While the extent of the changes is certainly surprising to some, there is general agreement that the expanded content and restructuring of the test will create an exam that will better allow medical schools to evaluate applicants. It’s important to remember that these are beneficial and needed changes, as today’s medicine includes scientific advances that didn’t exist a generation ago, and today’s doctors serve an increasingly diverse population. In fact, in a recent Kaplan survey 73% of medical school admissions officers stated that they believe the changes will better prepare pre-meds for medical school.

However, there’s little question that the new MCAT will be more difficult than the current one. The MCAT changes will challenge pre-med students to learn significantly more material within the same amount of time, a potentially daunting, but achievable challenge. The additional content will also affect undergraduate pre-med programs that will need to move quickly to ensure their curricula cover the expanded topics. If you’re among  the students who will potentially be taking the new exam it’s vitally important to speak to your pre-medical advisor sooner rather than later to fully understand how you’ll be affected.

Students and faculty who are interested in learning more about the coming MCAT changes can visit the website that the AAMC has set up to discuss the changes at www.AAMC.org/MCAT2015, as well as follow the AAMC on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll also be following the changes closely and posting regular updates as they become available. In the meantime, the results of a recent survey of January MCAT- takers sheds some light on the current premed experience:

  • A Determined Lot: 92% of pre-med students said that even if they had to face the additional content slated for the MCAT in 2015, that it would not have deterred them from pursuing a career in medicine.
  •  A Rigorous Academic Track: 95% said that their existing pre-med education was intense, including 61% who described it as “very intense.”
  •  No Time for French 101: 29% reported that the intensity of their course load prevented them from exploring areas of study outside of pre-med.

Owen Farcy

Owen Farcy A long-time instructor for Kaplan, I've worked in a variety of roles and have been an important factor in the success of pre-med students throughout the world. Now, as assistant director of pre-health programs I'm responsible for managing our social media outreach (including this blog) as well as for overseeing many of our partnerships throughout the country. I earned my BS in Biology from Emory University, and when not working with premeds I love to spend time traveling and doing anything in or around the ocean.



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