Admissions Board Supports New MCAT

Nearly nine out of ten medical school admissions officers support the MCAT 2015, the overhauled version of the medical school admissions exam, according to a Nov. 1 survey performed by the Kaplan Test Prep company.

The changes will significantly expand the material covered on the exam, “certainly increasing” the course load for premedical students, according to Owen Farcy, Kaplan Test Prep’s director of pre-health programs.

The new MCAT will require a broader knowledge of the advanced life sciences, including biochemistry, molecular biology, and cellular biology. It will also include a brand new section focused on the behavioral sciences, Farcy said.

These changes reflect what medical schools want to see in their applicants, he added. “Medicine has changed pretty dramatically since the last time the MCAT was revised in 1991.”

According to Farcy, The Association of American Medical Colleges, which administers the MCAT, has determined that the changes in the test’s content reflect the developments in the medical discipline.

“It is the right time, and it is a good step to take,” said Oona B. Ceder ’90, director of premedical and health career advising at the Office of Career Services.

“The MCAT is designed to help pre-meds prepare the kinds of skills and competencies that help them be more efficient and compassionate physicians,” she said.

Ceder agrees with admissions officers that the MCAT 2015 better prepares students for medical school.

According to the Kaplan survey, 51 percent of medical school admissions officers consider an applicant’s MCAT score the most important admissions factor.

Ceder said that Harvard pre-meds should take that statistic with a grain of salt.

“The AAMC and medical schools are intensely committed to the holistic admissions and holistic review,” she said, adding that for Harvard applicants, medical schools place more emphasis on grades than they do the MCAT score.

“Medical schools know our classes[...]They are capable of assessing performance at Harvard,” she said.

According to the Office of Career Services’ medical school admissions data, medical schools consistently accept Harvard students at a lower average GPA and MCAT score than applicants from other colleges.

Despite the increase in course work that the MCAT 2015 will require, neither Farcy nor Ceder believes that the revamped test will deter students from pursuing medicine.

“Pre-med students overwhelmingly are a very determined lot,” Farcy said.

“Harvard tends to attract students interested in service,” Ceder said, adding that “the motivation to pursue medicine is this devotion to caring for and helping others.” She said she did not expect this motivation to wane among Harvard students.

Brendan S. Eappen ’16 said the test changes have not discouraged him from pursuing the pre-med track, but have pushed him to reconsider his course selection plans for the next three years.

He hopes to complete the pre-med requirements in time to apply to medical school the summer before his senior year—but that means taking many more courses up front in order to be fully prepared for the subjects tested in the MCAT 2015. That, he said, has caused him to consider taking summer courses and spending a summer rather than a semester abroad.

In this vein, Farcy said underclassmen pre-med students across the country should take preparing for the MCAT 2015 seriously.

“The reality is that these changes are coming in 2015, and there’s no reason to think they will be delayed,” he said.