Changes are coming to the MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) that will play a pivotal role in the selection process of our nation’s future medical students.
Steven G. Gabbe, MD, chief executive officer of Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center, chaired the 22-member advisory committee charged in 2008 to review and recommend changes to the test to the Association of American Medical Colleges’ Board of Directors.
That study was prompted by the AAMC’s recognition of the changing and expanding responsibilities of physicians. According to the AAMC: “The changes to the MCAT exam, the first since 1991, are designed to help students prepare for a rapidly changing healthcare system and an evolving body of medical knowledge while addressing the needs of a growing, aging and increasingly diverse population.”
The final recommendations of the committee, led by Gabbe, were gathered from more than 90 outreach events, input from experts and advisory groups, and more than 2,700 surveys of undergraduate and medical school faculty, administrators, residents and medical students.
The new MCAT will be used for students applying to medical schools in 2015. The test will no longer require students provide a writing sample, but it will take more time – 6.5 hours instead of the 4.5 hours. The revised exam will evaluate students in three areas:
- Understanding of human behavior
- Critical analyses and reasoning skills
- Scientific knowledge.
The new MCAT reflects broader expectations of future physicians and will hopefully attract a wider range of medical school applicants. Gabbe said the committee worked to make the test a better tool for identifying applicants with an extensive understanding of behavioral and social factors that contribute to health problems.
“We want to broaden the knowledge base that students have about those factors that influence health,” Gabbe said.
Darrell G. Kirch, MD, AAMC president and chief executive agrees. “Being a good doctor is about more than scientific knowledge,” he said. “It also requires an understanding of people. By balancing the MCAT exam’s focus on the natural sciences with a new section on the psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior, the new exam will better prepare students to build strong knowledge of the socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health.”
The revised MCAT includes:
A new section called “Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior” based on concepts about how behavioral, socioeconomic and cultural factors affect health. This change recognizes that integrating cultural and behavioral sciences into medical education curriculum and clinical practice can improve the health of all patients.
In the new section of “Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills,” students will read passages that present scenarios about how different lifestyles, behaviors, cultures and ethics can affect patients’ health. For example, one passage could discuss the connection between poverty and poor health, while another could examine the ethical dilemma of a prison physician who finds drugs and paraphernalia on an inmate/patient. Students will be asked to analyze the information and apply it using a broad range of social sciences and humanities.
Two natural sciences sections will test concepts typically taught in introductory biology, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry and physics that faculty, residents and students considered important to succeeding in medical school. In these sections, students will combine their knowledge of natural science concepts with scientific inquiry and reasoning skills to solve problems.