For the tens of thousands of pre-med students and the colleges and universities that teach them, the next few years will be transformational. Last week, the Association of American Medical Colleges – the governing body of all 137 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian allopathic medical schools – formally approved major content changes to the MCAT, the medical school admissions exam, which will include the addition of behavioral and social sciences, advanced science concepts in biochemistry, and expanded critical thinking. While the writing section will be eliminated, the additional content will make the 2015 MCAT over an hour longer than the current one – going from 5 ½ hours to about 7 hours. According to the AAMC, these changes will better prepare students for the medical school experience and ultimately help them become better doctors.
“These are beneficial and needed changes, as today’s medicine includes scientific advances that didn’t exist a generation ago, and today’s doctors serve an increasingly diverse population,” said Amjed Saffarini, executive director of pre-health programs, Kaplan Test Prep. “However, there’s no question the new MCAT will be more difficult than the current one. The additional content will also be challenging for undergraduate pre-med programs that will need to quickly ensure their curricula cover the expanded topics. The MCAT changes will also challenge pre-med students to learn significantly more material within the same amount of time – a potentially daunting, but achievable challenge for a student population that tends to be highly motivated.”
A Kaplan Test Prep survey conducted of 559 MCAT-takers in January sheds some light into the pre-med experience and mindset:
- A Determined Lot: 92% of pre-med students said that even if they had to face the additional content slated for the MCAT in 2015, that it would not have deterred them from pursuing a career in medicine.
- A Rigorous Academic Track: 95% said that their existing pre-med education was intense, including 61% who described it as “very intense.”
- No Time for French 101: 29% reported that the intensity of their courseload prevented them from exploring areas of study outside of pre-med.
In 2011, 43,919 aspiring doctors applied to medical school, a 2.8% increase over 2010. The number of first-time applicants reached an all-time high in 2011. Of those who applied, about 43% were accepted.