Standardized testing seems to be under constant scrutiny over its ability to predict the competency of students. The shortcomings of standardized tests like the Medical College Admission Test — which has been used to gauge student proficiency for 83 years — are being addressed with the introduction of several changes.
The solutions offered by this latest round of reforms are relatively new and unprecedented, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges website, the company that administers the test.
The AAMC panel that reviewed the current MCAT for the first time in 25 years suggested dividing the test into four new sections, eliminating the writing sample and including passages to evaluate skills in ethics, cross-cultural studies and philosophy.
Concepts from sociology and psychology will now comprise the new behavioral and social sciences section, which will focus more prominently on “the human and social issues of medicine,” according to the website.
The changes, developed by a 22-member committee which began its review of the MCAT in 2008, are both systematic and linked to current developments in medicine that “will emphasize concepts that future physicians will need to master to serve a more diverse population,” according to the AAMC’s website.
The AAMC says they will likely launch the new exam in 2015, if its Board of Directors approves it. That uncertainty, however, has not quelled speculation among admissions officials.
Robert Ruiz, director of admissions for the University Medical School, said he thinks the new test will be interesting and include a wider range of topics.
“We’re thrilled that the test, we think, will be an improvement,” Ruiz said. “Anything that can be done with the test to be more inclusive, to capture more information … is going to be good.”
Ruiz said he believes the changes to the MCAT will help medical schools gain a more detailed analysis of the students applying to their schools.
“I think what you’re seeing is the implementation of tools — whether it’s the MCAT or some other tools — so that medical schools have as much data as possible to make sure they’re identifying the kind of individuals (they want to admit),” Ruiz said.
While Ruiz said that he hopes the new exam format will allow them to “be more inclusive” in the review process, he added that he could not predict the impacts of the new exam on the Medical School’s admissions procedures.
This summer, the AAMC said it will deliberate on its recommendations while continuing to seek input before presenting its final recommendations to the AAMC’s Board of Directors in November. The review committee will make its decision in February 2012.