January 24, 2013

A Tale of Two MCATs: Which Should I Take?

With the major MCAT revision coming up in 2015, many students are starting to ask:  which MCAT should I take?  Is there an advantage to one test versus the other? The short answer is:  it's possible to do either and score extremely well, but you'll have to plan starting today. What's changing in the 2015 MCAT? If you haven't read our other articles about the MCAT 2015 exam, make sure to go back and check them out: What classes will I have to complete before studying for the MCAT? Both the current MCAT and 2015 MCAT will require one year (2-semester sequence) of physics, general chemistry, biology and organic chemistry (8 classes total).  The 2015 MCAT will also require one semester of introductory psychology, sociology, and biochemistry (11 classes total).  All prerequisites for the current MCAT could be completed in two years (taking biology simultaneously with general chemistry one year, and organic chemistry simultaneously with physics the second year).  Thus, even if you're currently a freshman, you could complete the requirements and take the current MCAT during the summer after your sophomore year (Summer/Fall 2014).  However, if you are not positive that you'll be able to complete these requirements in this time (that is, after all, a very rigorous courseload!), it behooves you to take behavioral sciences (psychology and sociology) during the first two years of undergrad as well. The two word clouds above are created from AAMC's own content lists for the current and 2015 MCAT.  Click on the image to see a larger version! Will there be any difference in applying with an "old" MCAT score or "new" one? We do not anticipate this being an issue for the student.  It is not 100% clear yet what schools are planning to do with current MCAT scores versus MCAT 2015 scores (this was a hot topic of debate in a few of the sessions at this year's AAMC meeting), but schools were keenly aware that they'll be looking at scores from both forms of the test -- sometimes even from the same student! According to their website, AAMC's score-reporting service will release pre-2015 MCAT scores until 2017 or 2018.  Further, "The AAMC is currently developing new materials, specific to the interests and needs of medical school admissions committees. These will provide detailed information about the scoring of the new exam, the confidence bands that are associated with them, and what test scores are and are not designed to tell them in a holistic admissions process" [1].  In other words, AAMC and admissions committees are already figuring out the fairest way to score and interpret the new MCAT next to the current one. What are the pros and cons of each? In making your scheduling decisions, consider each of the following: Current MCAT
  • Shorter in length (3 hours, 20 minutes required testing time + 45-minute trial section).
  • Fewer pre-requisite classes (8 total).  No psychology, sociology or biochemistry.
  • Compared to 2015 MCAT, has a higher proportion of:
    • Organic chemistry questions (about 20-25% of Biological Sciences section).
    • Physics questions (50% of Physical Sciences section).
    • General chemistry questions (50% of Physical Sciences section).
  • Each question individually may have a large impact on score.
2015 MCAT
  • Longer in length (6 hours, 15 minutes required testing time).
  • More pre-requisite classes (11 total).
  • Compared to current MCAT, has a lower proportion of:
    • Organic chemistry questions (about 15% of Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section).
    • Physics questions (about 25% of Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section).
    • General chemistry questions (about 33% of Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section).
  • Each question individually has a smaller effect on score; more questions can be answered incorrectly without hurting score.
Can I just check out what each test will look like? Absolutely!  In addition to checking out AAMC's website, come to a Kaplan Practice Test (available online, or at a school near you through the month of February) to see the style of the current exam, or check our 2015 MCAT-style Mini-Test online. Regardless of the version you choose to take, start planning out your academic schedule now.  You don't want any surprises down the line!  And rest assured, regardless of version you choose, Kaplan is here to help you get the top score you're looking for.  How are you choosing which test to take? ...read more
November 1, 2012

The 2015 MCAT — What’s the Big Buzz?

The 2012 AAMC Annual Meeting is this weekend in San Francisco.  This meeting-of-the-minds hosts some of the greatest physician-educators of our time, and stands as an important point each year that decides the future of how medical education – your medical education – will work.  One of the major topics on this year’s agenda is the new MCAT2015. The information released so far about this dramatic change in the exam is highlighted in the Preview Guide for the MCAT2015 Exam.  These changes are especially notable for those of you who are freshmen and will likely be taking this exam.  So, while this change is a little while off, it’s always important to know what’s coming.  This serves as an update from our earlier entry "Keeping Up with the MCAT Test Changes," and will likely be supplemented as we learn more about the 2015 MCAT. So what’s different in the new MCAT?

  • The sections have been scrambled.  While students taking the current MCAT start out with the “hard science” of light and optics, electrochemistry and kinematics, the new MCAT will start with a Biology- and Biochemistry-oriented section.  For many of you, this may be a welcome change – you’re often starting on content you feel a little more familiarity with; however, notice that the new Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (similar to the current Verbal Reasoning section) now falls at the tail end of the exam.
  • There’s new content – lots of it!  AAMC has officially dropped the Writing Sample from the MCAT already, and will be replacing it with a new section.  In Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, students will have to cover knowledge often taught in first-year psychology and sociology courses.  A heavy focus on research design, bias, and statistical analysis will pervade all science sections of the test.  And first-year biochemistry – which previously made minimal appearance on the MCAT – will make up 25% of the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems.
  • It’s getting longer, in both time and questions.  The three science sections will contain 67 questions each (up from 52 currently) and 95 minutes will be allotted to finish the sections.  The CARS section will be 60 questions (up from 40 currently) and 90 minutes.  This represents almost two additional hours of testing time.
  • It shows you why you’re learning this content!  Passages will now be written to test science concepts in the context of living systems.  In other words, fluid dynamics could be tested as an underlying theme in cardiovascular physiology; solution chemistry via its furthering our understanding of urolithiasis (formation of kidney and bladder stones); and enantiomerism by playing a role in medication design and effectiveness.
While these changes are significant, there’s no need to worry.  We’ll continue preparing students for success on the MCAT, and the new MCAT2015 course will be no exception.  With all the developments occurring on the new exam, we’d love to hear from you – what are you excited for or nervous about on this new exam? ...read more

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