New MCAT Means Few Changes

Faculty say that changes to the MCAT will not affect pre-med courses

In response to proposed changes to the MCAT, faculty who teach popular pre-med courses say they are unlikely to dramatically change their course curricula.

Preliminary recommendations by the American Association of Medical Colleges would lengthen the test by 90 minutes, add a new social sciences section, and expand the breadth of natural sciences covered on the exam by 2015.

“We’d have to really study the matter, but my inclination would be certainly not to create new courses or otherwise generate curriculum based on this exam,” said Dean of Undergraudate Education Jay M. Harris.

Harris added that the College—which has no formal pre-med curriculum—creates courses “based on [its] faculty’s educational vision and not based on what the medical schools or creators of the MCAT or whoever else have to say,” he said.

However, Harris said he does expect pre-med students to voluntarily take additional courses such as psychology and sociology to prepare for the revised exam.

Director of Premedical and Health Career Advising Lee Ann Michelson ’77 said that the College cannot exclusively cater course curricula for pre-med students.

“Harvard science courses are designed for more than pre-meds,” she said.

However, Michelson added that the College may “fine tune” pre-med course logistics, such as rearranging the allocation of lab sections.

University Professor George M. Whitesides said he does not intend to change the way he teaches Chemistry 27: “Organic Chemistry of Life” regardless of whether the recommendations are approved.

“While the MCAT test is an issue that is undoubtedly important for students, we can’t teach according to the MCAT,” he said.

However, Chemistry lecturer Logan S. McCarty ’96—who co-teaches the popular pre-med physics courses Physical Sciences 2: “Mechanics, Elasticity, Fluids, and Diffusion” and Physical Sciences 3: “Electromagnetism, Curcuits, Waves, Optics, and Imaging”—said he may make small alterations in his curricula if the proposed recommendations go through.

“I think if anything I would push to make PS 2 and PS 3 even more biological,” said McCarty. “These changes [to the MCAT] provide even more incentives to think of biology as the thematic organization of the courses and physics as the courses’ content.”

McCarty said he is confident that PS 2 and PS 3 will prepare pre-med students for the MCAT without major alteration of the syllabi.

“We’re going to be very much aligned with what they’re doing with the MCATs,” McCarty said.

—Staff writer Rebecca D. Robbins can be reached at rrobbins@college.harvard.edu.

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