Freshmen aspiring to be doctors may now have to plan their class schedules a little differently.
The Medical College Admission Test will undergo its fifth revision since it was first administered in 1928 — then called the Scholastic Aptitude Test for Medical Students.
In spring 2015, when the new changes will take effect, medical school hopefuls will sit for six and a half hours to take MCAT2015 — almost two hours longer than the current version. Each year, more than 85,000 students take the exam.
The test will still consist of four sections, but they have been redivided. It will now consist of “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.”
The Writing Section will also be discontinued.
The current version of the test has been in use since 1991, and the new version is likely to be in place until 2030, according to the Association of American Medical Colleges.
“The AAMC took into account all medical schools’ individual comments about the new MCAT,” Perelman School of Medicine Senior Vice Dean for Education and professor Gail Morrison said.
The new test will assume matriculating students have prior knowledge of biochemistry and statistics.
Familiarity with some concepts from social sciences will also be expected, Senior Associate Director of Career Services Peter Stokes said.
“Clearly there is more to being a physician than being a good scientist,” Stokes said. “The AAMC has been looking at a variety of ways of finding applicants who are likely to bring other valuable skills, knowledge and experience to the profession.”
“Students who have taken psychology, cognitive neuroscience, statistics and epidemiology courses will now have use of this knowledge in medical school,” Morrison said. “The AAMC recognizes that these liberal arts courses … will be helpful for students.”
While some freshmen are unaware of these changes to the MCAT, others already know what’s in store for them.
“It’s exciting that the MCATs are now more well-rounded,” College freshman Devanshi Mehta said. “But it’s intimidating because now we have to take more classes in order to prepare.”
Stokes said there are many course offerings at Penn that can help students prepare for the new MCAT. “My job is to try to understand how best to advise the students who will take it,” he said, adding that relevant courses are listed on the Career Services website.
“It is [the Medical School’s] position that liberal arts majors are great candidates for medical school, and in fact, 40 percent of our matriculants are non-science majors,” Morrison said. “We all want the applicant pool to expand.”
The MCAT has gone through several revisions since its inception. It was first created as way to address the significant medical school dropout rates in the 1920s. Prior to a medical school entrance exam, applicants were accepted based on biographical information, letters of endorsement and possession of a high school diploma.
But medical schools have been adjusting their curricula to fit the rapidly changing medical student for years.
The curriculum at the Medical School was implemented in 1997 as part of its curriculum reform. It includes lectures on communication skills, cultural competency, inter-professional team skills and interactive problem solving sessions, Morrison said.
After the AAMC’s annual meeting in November, more information about MCAT2015 should become available, Morrison added.