Recently proposed changes to the MCAT could result in a longer and more comprehensive version of the test, to be released in 2015.
Among the recommended changes are the redivision of the test into four new sections—molecular and cellular biology, biochemistry, behavioral and social sciences, and critical analysis and reasoning—and the addition of 90 minutes to the current exam, bringing the total test time to seven hours. The report, which was released by the MR5 Committee of the Association of American Medical Colleges, also suggested the removal of the Writing Sample section.
The revisions to the exam are designed to “[give] attention to concepts that future physicians are likely to need,” including a better understanding of cultural and social sensitivity and of modern research methods and statistics, according to the recommendations.
The preliminary proposal will likely affect the pre-medical curriculum for students in the Class of 2015 and beyond, said Amjed Saffarini, executive director of pre-health programs at Kaplan Test Prep.
“From a content perspective, it’s arguably the biggest change ever,” he said.
According to Saffarini, the amount of science material covered will be
“roughly double the current content,” though he predicted that organic chemistry and physics will be de-emphasized in the new exam.
The recommendations are part of a new movement towards a more “holistic” evaluation of medical school applicants, and will likely intensify the pre-med curriculum for students who intend to take the MCAT in their junior year, Saffarini said.
“Students are going to be taking their prereqs earlier, compressing them, and taking more at the same time,” he said.
Saffarini added that he thought the increased amount of material covered on the MCAT would make it more difficult for non-science concentrators to fulfill their pre-med requirements.
“Having that many more prereqs is not going to encourage students to go into medicine from the humanities,” he said.
However, Harvard students may not experience any extra course requirements, according to Director of Premedical and Health Career Advising Lee Ann Michelson ’77.
“I actually don’t see this as adding to the burden on our students,” she said. “The push is on having students seeing certain competencies rather than certain courses.”
Michelson said Harvard is “a little ahead of the game” in its current pre-med course offerings, citing the Life Sciences 1a/1b and Chemistry 17/27 series as interdisciplinary science courses that she thinks will help prepare pre-med students for the new MCAT.
Michelson added that Harvard’s curriculum may already address some of the new topics on the revised exam.