Saturday, February 18, 2012

MCAT 2015

The standardized test that you take in order to get into medical school is called the Medical College Admissions Test or the MCAT. The format of the test has been relatively unchanged since 1991. It includes a physical science component, a biological science component, a reading comprehension part, and a writing section. Altogether, this test takes about four and a half hours to take and months to prepare. Ultimately, the score you get weighs heavily on your medical school chances.

Starting in 2015, the MCAT is going to be changed dramatically. After meeting for three years, the 21 person advisory panel has approved a new MCAT, calling it, "A better test for tomorrow's doctors." The new test will keep most of the content of the old test with the exception of the writing section. Apparently, the committee finally realized that being able to write a persuasive essay on the merits of studying abroad did not necessarily correlate with your ability to practice medicine.

However, the writing section is not being eliminated without a replacement. A new testing section called "Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior" will replace the writing section. This component is set to include topics of psychology, sociology, and the biological implications associated with each topic. The goal of this new section is to create doctors that are knowledgeable of the socio-economic and mental status of their patients. 

Much to the dismay of most pre-meds i know, the reading comprehension section is not going anywhere anytime soon. It is, however, getting a makeover. The section is going to drift away from random passages that require you dissect them and find the inner meanings and focus more on topics such as ethics, philosophy, the humanities, and cross-culture. 

Overall, the new 2015 MCAT is bittersweet. The loss of the writing section will not be met with tears, unless they be tears of joy. However, the MCAT advisory panel has replaced a mosquito with a leech. In my mind, the new sections create a big problem for pre-meds. Traditionally, pre-med students must take a wide variety of science and core courses to satisfy the MCAT content including, but not limited to:

Two semesters of Biology with lab
Two semesters of Inorganic Chemistry with lab
Two semesters of Organic Chemistry with lab
Two semesters of Physics with lab
Two semesters of Math (Calculus Preferred)
Two semesters of English
While a good pre-med candidate will take ethics, humanities, and maybe a philosophy course, these were never courses you needed to know like the back of your hand. According to the new MCAT, now you do. So adding to our list of MCAT required courses, you now need to take Ethics, Philosophy, Psychology, a course in cultural diversity, and Sociology on top of the courses mentioned above. Oh by the way, you need to take all of this before your junior year so you have enough time to take the MCAT. 

The real kicker is that with the changes to the MCAT, the four and a half hour exam is now estimated to take 6 and a half hours to complete. That's about a quarter of your day without eating,  without water, and without using the restroom. Taking a break from the exam to indulge in these luxuries will only make you run out of time. 

Reportedly, there is a shortage of doctors in this country, I can't foresee this new exam helping much.


I was thinking about how people seem to read the Bible a whole lot more as they get older; then it dawned on me - they're cramming for their final exam.
-George Carlin