Future pre-med students preparing for the Medical College Admission Test will have to study a little extra due to proposed changes to the test.
Changes to the MCAT’s content and length will be implemented in 2015, according to the preliminary recommendations released by the Association of American Medical Colleges last month. Despite the upcoming variations, University officials say the alterations won’t have a significant impact on the University’s traditional pre-med or Medical School curriculum.
Jeff Koetje, director of academics for pre-health programs for Kaplan Test Prep, said this is the fifth time the MCAT has been reviewed by an advisory committee since its inception about 70 years ago.
“This current review of the MCAT is a very fundamental review of everything from science, to the structure, to the different sections of the test,” Koetje said.
The new test will include more advanced scientific questions and will evaluate knowledge of behavioral and social sciences. Officials have also eliminated the current writing sample section and will add 90 minutes to the length of time to take the exam, which is currently 5.5 hours.
The behavioral and social science section of the new MCAT will reflect the material taught in undergraduate psychology and sociology courses. Koetje said the additional high-level science that will be tested on the exam reflect material students will encounter during medical school.
“They’re going to be increasingly focusing on biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, as well as statistics because these are sciences that medical schools themselves are saying are increasingly important for pre-medical students to have exposure to before they come to medical school,” Koetje said.
However, Steven Gay, assistant dean for admissions at the Medical School and an assistant professor of internal medicine, wrote in an e-mail interview that the University’s curriculum isn’t undergoing substantial changes because of the proposed MCAT modifications.
“We believe that the improved MCAT process should help us continue to evaluate and admit the best applicants in the country to the University of Michigan,” Gay wrote. “Our curriculum is always under constant review, but one preliminary component of admission should not dramatically affect how we design our curriculum.”
Similarly, David Brawn, a pre-health adviser at the Newnan Academic Advising Center, wrote in an e-mail interview that the additional advanced science to be included in the MCAT shouldn’t make a considerable difference for pre-med undergraduates at the University.
“It is already commonplace for students here at U-M to fit in some upper level science coursework prior to the MCAT,” Brawn wrote. “Biochemistry, physiology and genetics are probably the most common, but that’s by no means an exhaustive list.”
However, Brawn said because of the changes to the MCAT, he thinks some students may take more time to prepare for their medical school applications.
“The typical three-year schedule may continue to work for some students, but it won’t work for all of them, and it does not have to,” Brawn said.
According to Koetje, the changes aren’t intended to make things more difficult for pre-med students, but are instead intended to reflect the science-focused reality of today’s medical field.
“The state of medicine is a far more sophisticated science now than it ever has been,” Koetje said. “There’s increasing expectations on the part of medical schools that their students are going to be able to perform with a certain level of skill or competency in these sciences even as they come into medical school.”
Because students who plan to attend medical school typically take the exam their junior year, several students, including LSA freshman Jiajia Huang and LSA sophomore Phil Berkaw, expressed concerns about being able to finish pre-med requirements on time.
Huang, a pre-med student who has not yet declared her major, said she feels the new version of the MCAT will deter students from declaring concentrations in subjects unrelated to the material on the exam.
“I can understand why they would do that because you should know more in-depth topics, but at the same time it’s hard for you to major in something other than the sciences,” Huang said.
Berkaw said he plans to apply to medical school and thinks the additions to the test are appropriate since the new topics tend to be neglected in the pre-medical curriculum. However, he expressed a similar concern as Huang about the additional requirements.
“It doesn’t leave any room for exploration, really,” Berkaw said. “For me, I was thinking about majoring in anthropology, and I was able to take anthropology classes early on, and I don’t know if you’d be able to fit that in under the new curriculum.”