For the first time in recent history, the MCAT is being overhauled. The most recent change was in 2013 when the writing section was removed and according to the AAMC, there will be many more changes in 2015. The new MCAT will be implemented for the first time this year. In this post, I will breakdown the changes that are coming and what it means for you and the medical school admissions process. You can also access the AAMC webpage for a more indepth explanation of changes.
Here are some of the things you need to know about the new MCAT
Length of Test:
The time allotted for the new MCAT is approximately double that of the old MCAT, and will be 6 hours and 15 minutes.
The Verbal Reasoning, Physical Sciences, and Biological Sciences sections will be replaced with 4 new sections:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (CARS)
Eacch section will have 59 questions with the exception of CARS which will have 53
According to the information released by AAMC, the new questions will integrate two new skills: (1) Research Design and (2) Graphical Analysis & Data Interpretation. This signifies a shift in the type of intelligence the MCAT is seeking, as these skills are critical for potential students to be effective researchers and users of the research literature.
Additionally, the titles of the new categories implies that the focus of the scientific questions is to relate it back to medically related systems. Being able to apply textbook knowledge to living systems and human interaction is essential for the practice of medicine, and the new MCAT is striving to evaluate this skill.
A New Scoring Scale
The 1-15 scale in each category and a final score of 45 or less has been left out of the new MCAT. According information provided by the AAMC, the new scoring system will be as followed: “Total scores for the new exam will be centered at 500. Total scores will range from 472 to 528. Individual section scores will be centered at 125. Section scores will range from 118 to 132.”
Changes in the content tested
All of the traditional sciences such as biology, chemistry, and physics will continue to be examined. However, the new MCAT will have proportionally less physics, organic chemistry, and general chemistry as they will now comprise 25%, 15%, and 33% of the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section respectively.
The Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior section introduces Psychology and Sociology into the MCAT topics. These two subject areas play a major role in many aspects of health care (E.g. physician-patient relationship) so it is no surprise that the MCAT would take this opportunity to add these subject areas. Additionally, the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems section adds biochemistry to the MCAT. That section is approximately 25% biochemistry questions.
The CARS section will be similar to the previous Verbal Reasoning category. However, there will be no passages on natural sciences and will only have passages about humanities and social sciences.
How will they phase out old MCAT scores & introduce the new scores in the admissions process?
I (Spencer) wrote my MCAT during the summer of 2013. As an applicant this year, I am in the final cohort of applicants with the preexisting MCAT. Starting next year, there will be overlap between applicants who have written the old MCAT and those who have completed the new one.
Everybody who plans to apply for medical school over the next few years has been anxiously awaiting for each individual school to release their statement about how admissions committees will handle the transition into the 2015 MCAT.
This document has been released by AAMC which contains information about how medical schools across North America will handle this situation. Unfortunately, most Canadian schools did not enter their policy when this data was compiled.
The University of Calgary and University of Alberta announced they would only accept the 2015 MCAT starting with the next cycle. Most other schools that have now released their policy on the matter will be accepting both of the old and the new MCAT during the next application cycle. These schools include University of Toronto, Memorial, and Dalhousie. UBC has also stated that they will accept old MCAT scores until the 2016/2017 cycle. Other schools have still not released an official policy on the matter.
Should I write the new MCAT even though my old scores are still valid?
This really depends on your situation and which medical schools you want to apply to.
The change of focus of the MCAT might make it favorable for you to rewrite with the new MCAT. If you are strong in psychology and sociology, the new section which incorporates those two fields might end up being beneficial to your score and your overall application. The same thing applies to the reduction of focus towards sciences such as physics which poses a problem for many applicants.
Obviously, if the University of Calgary is your top choice then you should write the new MCAT to become eligible. For the most part, it appears that the majority of schools will accept both scores for the next cycle. However, it isn’t clear what the medical schools will accept in the application cycle for the 2016/2017 year and beyond. The fact of the matter is that the 2015 MCAT is here to stay and will be the only accepted score in the near future.
This post was written by Spencer, a guest poster, who has written about his experience applying to medical school in 2013-2014. Only minimal editorial changes have been made by medaholic.