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
Tests & Scores
February 29, 2012

Keeping up with the MCAT Test Changes

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.
...read more

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