Associate News Editor
The American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) is in the process of changing the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) to include sociology and psychology, as well as the more advanced biological sciences of biochemistry, molecular biology, and cell biology. The writing portion of the test will also be taken away. The removal of the writing portion begins in the Spring of 2013 and the addition of the other subjects will begin in the Spring of 2015.
According to Glenn Cummings, director of health professions advising, these changes will directly impact the lives of many current and future undergraduate pre-med students. Currently most pre-med students do not take sociology or psychology, and these students and their colleges will need to adjust requirements in order to satisfy this new demand.
“As the chief pre-health adviser on campus, I am going to be working with faculty and administrators involved with the curriculum to make sure the College is prepared for potentially changing enrollments in a few key courses,” Cummings said. “Those courses would be introductory sociology, introductory psychology, and biochemistry.”
The new test will consist of four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems, Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems, Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior, and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. This version of the test will take about seven hours to compete, whereas the previous version’s time constraint was five and a half hours.
Owen Farcy, director of pre-health programs at Kaplan Test Prep, believes the changes in this test reflect the overall evolution of the doctor and patient relationship.
“It is a pretty big change,” Farcy said. “There has been a lot of discussion about it for several years. Really, the impetus behind the change was the realization that medicine has changed, not just in the sciences themselves, but also in the way that doctors interact with patients. So if you look at things that have happened in the past twenty years that really act as huge milestones, we are looking at events like the first cloning of a higher organism, Dolly the sheep, the completion of the Human Genome Project, and the passage of the Affordable Care Act.
“As students continue to move forward, and the dynamic of medicine continues to change, the students are going to need to be prepared to accept that change and be prepared for this new form of medicine that’s emerging in the U.S.,” Farcy added. “That’s really what spawned these changes.”
Cummings met with Karen Mitchell, senior director of admissions testing services at the AAMC, earlier this Fall.
“She was encouraging about the resources that the AAMC will be making available to prepare for the new test,” Cummings said.
In addition, Kaplan has updated the course it offers students and has added new resources. Kaplan will be releasing a new course in the Fall of 2014 to help prepare students for the 2015 test.
In addition, the toll on the lives of pre-med students must be taken into account. According to Cummings, the typical pre-med student’s schedule does not have much room for additions, and colleges and universities will need to adjust.
“While I am very supportive of the overall mission to create more well-rounded pre-meds, and ultimately doctors, my only concern at this point in time is the likely addition of courses that pre-medical students will need to take when their schedules are already pretty tightly packed,” Cummings said.
However, Cummings believes the challenge can be overcome, but students will have to work harder and plan ahead earlier.
“It means that I’d really like to be seeing students from the very beginning of their college careers so that we may come up with the best strategy for them,” Cummings said. “I want to make sure the student who is interested in studying abroad can still do that, or the student who has multiple disciplines they’re intrigued by can still major and minor, or even double major.”
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