You thought pre-med students had it hard, but the Association of American Medical Colleges just made things harder.
The organization, which develops the MCAT, has redeveloped the test to better predict student success in medical school.
"Beginning in April, a longer, more difficult MCAT is set to challenge pre-medical students as they strive toward their goal of becoming doctors," Russell Schaffer, senior communications manager at Kaplan Test Prep, said in an email.
The good news is that the AAMC is offering a $150 Amazon gift card to students who sign up for the April 17 or April 18 test dates. The bad news, however, is that the new MCAT features 230 questions to be answered over six hours and 15 minutes, which is a significant jump from the 144 questions to be answered in three hours and 20 minutes on the previous MCAT.
The AAMC has been doing research for over five years in order to inform these changes. It surveyed faculty, admissions deans and deans of medical schools to better understand what types of content, background and critical thinking skills will help students be more successful in their medical-school programs.
"One thing to remember is that the customer of the MCAT is not the student who has to take it. The customer … is the medical schools themselves that use the MCAT as part of their admissions process," said Eric Chiu, Kaplan Test Prep's executive director of pre-med programs.
The AAMC's goal is to improve the test to help medical schools make even better decisions about which students applying to its programs will not only make good candidates for medical school, but who will make successful medical students and even successful doctors in the future.
"The old MCAT required eight semesters of intro science — general chemistry, general biology, organic chemistry and physics. The new MCAT will require all of those science areas, but in addition to that [it] will also require a first semester of college-level biochemistry as well as an introductory semester of psychology and an introductory semester of sociology," Chiu said.
This is part of the AAMC's effort to integrate more science content into applied critical-thinking skills, and into the application of living and biological systems, which is more similar to what students will face in their medical school education and eventually when they take the United States Medical Licensing Examination.
"The reality of this test is not only getting longer and adding content areas, but it's going to require students to develop an additional set of critical thinking skills," Chiu said.
Erin Myszkowski, associate director of the office of pre-health and pre-law advising, said her office has been actively working to help pre-med students prepare for the new MCAT.
"Our office and the UCF MCAT Student Task Force have been working together for the last seven months to create an MCAT Content Outline that lists free and low-cost resources to help students learn and prepare for each potential topic on the new test," Myszkowski said in an email. "We will make this MCAT Content Outline available to UCF students in Webcourses at the end of February."
William Butler, a senior psychology major, is currently studying for the MCAT and has been working with the pre-professional advising office to develop a tool for free resources for students.
"I'm helping them with the psychology section because the AAMC … set a long list of concepts that they'd like the MCAT to address, and so we're developing something that takes each item from that list and then pairs it with a resource online to help students study for it," Butler said.
The new MCAT features a new scoring system, but the test will certainly challenge students. Butler isn't too worried about the new sections though.
"I'm majoring in psychology and so I think that'll give me a really good advantage for that section, so it definitely confirms my choice to major in something that wasn't biology or chemistry or physics," Butler said.
Alex Wexelman is a Senior Staff Writer for the Central Florida Future. Email him at email@example.com.