New MCATs To Emphasize Doctors' Skills
Starting this April, all premed students will take a new version of the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) which will de-emphasize the memorization of specific facts and attempt to test better the skills needed to be a good doctor.
All students entering medical school in the fall of 1978 will have to take the revised MCATs whether or not they have taken the old test, F. Sargent Cheever '32, director of admissions at Harvard Medical School, said yesterday.
About one-fifth of Harvard undergraduates eventually apply to medical school, Francis D. Fisher '47, director of the Office of Career Services and Off-Campus Learning (OCS-OCL), said yesterday.
The new test will last about twice as long and will measure problem-solving skills that a doctor needs in ordinary office practice, according to Dr. James B. Erdmann, director of Educational Measurement and Research for the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) and a principal designer of the test.
"One of the major factors in the change was the need to be able to recognize the variety of undergraduate preparation and the diversity of talents in potential medical school students," Erdmann said yesterday.
Samuel L. Clark, chairman of the Department of Anatomy at the University of Massachusetts Medical School and one of 20 members of the AAMC advisory committee approving the test, said yesterday that portions of the test would attempt to measure such personality traits as "empathy with people, the ability to make decisions, uncertainty, and the capacity to cope with crisis."
Clark said that the new attempt to measure personality traits on the medical test is analogous to the U.S. Air Force's effort to select bomber pilots through psychological examinations during World War II.
The two revised sections of the test include a mathematical section stressing the ability to work with numbers rather than knowledge of complicated formulae, and a verbal section posing clinical type situations rather than word analogies and synonym-antonym problems, according to Erdmann.
The test will retain an overall achievement section in biology, chemistry and physics as the third section but will discard the general information section, he added.
Erdmann said that the first step in developing the new test was to poll practicing physicians, internists, medical students and medical school professors to determine which traits were desirable in a doctor.
The second step involved close work with psychologists to evolve a method of testing these personality traits on a written examination. A committee has been formed by the AAMC to monitor and evaluate the results of the new test.
House premed advisors yesterday said that most students take the MCATs in the spring of their junior year or the fall of their senior year, and therefore will not have to repeat the test