April MCAT to reflect three major changesBy Alessandra Delrose | 02/10/2015 11:06pm
Wednesday is the first day MCAT registration will open for April exams, but this year students signing up will be taking a newly- modified MCAT.
Owen Farcy, a Kaplan Prep instructor, said there are three big changes to the MCAT. He said the first big change is the amount of coursework required for students prior to taking the test.
“Traditionally pre-medical students were responsible for two semesters of introductory biology, two semesters of introductory general chemistry, two semesters of organic chemistry and two semesters of physics,” he said. “Now in addition to those classes, students are expected to take a semester of biochemistry, a semester of psychology and a semester of sociology in order to take the exam.”
Farcy said the second big change for the test is length extension. Originally the test would take students three to four hours to complete, but beginning this spring, test takers could spend seven hours on the exam.
“The reason behind this length extension is that there is more subject data to test on and also all of this data being tested will show if these medical students are as prepared as possible for medical school,” he said.
Farcy said the final change to the test’s questions will now focus on research design and method as well as platform.
“These are areas that haven’t been explored in previously on the MCAT, but medical students have had some experience with these areas somewhere along the line in their pre-medical education,” he said.
The last major revision was in 1992, but Farcy said this is a normal practice when it comes to tests like this because they want to be able to keep up with the current education.
“The MCAT committee went around to different medical schools across the country with the question, what information and knowledge will students need to have when entering medical schools in order to become successful,” he said. “Their main goal throughout this process was to redirect the test to fit in with the future of the 21st century.”
Farcy said Kaplan has been working very close with the MCAT Committee since it was announced in 2011 that there would be changes.
“In the last four years we have paid very close attention to the information that has been released about the changes,” he said. “[The MCAT Committee] has been very forthcoming when it comes to the new exams and they have given us various blueprints of the exam and what to expect.”
Farcy said Kaplan has taken all the information and built new material, tests and programs to make sure students feel as comfortable as possible with this new test.
“I find that many students are nervous about this test because they believe it will be more difficult, but one of the things I tell my students when I am preparing them for this new MCAT is that difficult is only a relative thing,” he said. “So as long as they study, they’ve taken the classes, and they’ve taken preparatory courses they should be in good shape for the exam.”
Farcy said over 150 medical school applicants came from The University of Alabama last year.
“The one key thing I would say to University of Alabama students who want to go on to get their medical degree is to talk to your medical advisor as soon as possible,” he said. “Talk about what courses you should be taking in order to prepare for this MCAT.”
University Director of Health Professions Advising Marian Denham said the University has the health professions advising team for reasons a sudden MCAT test change.
“Our teams make sure our students are on the right track when it comes to their future medical schools and what is expected of them including what courses they should be taking,” she said. “We encourage our students to research the medical schools that they are interested in applying to to find out their exact course pre-requisites.”
Kimberly Triplett, a senior majoring in chemical engineering, is president of Alpha Epsilon Delta, the national pre-health honors society. The society helps its members apply to medical schools.
“We offer MCAT prep, which includes having representatives from various companies including Kaplan come in and talk to our members regarding their options, whether they decide to self-study, take online courses, or seek out instruction in a classroom setting,” she said.
Triplett said the greatest change they have had is adapting to the new test.
“Due to the added course work, our job is to encourage students as early as freshman year to pick a target date for their MCAT long in advance and plan their classes accordingly,” she said.
Garrett Conner Nix, a senior majoring in biology and Spanish, said he has already taken the MCAT, and he believes the test changes might cause more stress for the students, but for a good reason.
“I think these changes represent a change in priorities for equipping tomorrow’s physicians,” he said. “I think a physician who can relate to his patients will do much more good than one lacking that personal connection.”