Last week, the Association of American Medical Colleges announced dramatic changes to the Medical College Admissions Test. These changes, which will be implemented in 2015, plan to test aspects of psychology and sociology in addition to the exam’s traditional biological components, and will increase the length of the test from four to six hours. According to the association’s website, “the changes preserve what works about the current exam, eliminate what isn’t working, and further enrich the MCAT exam by giving attention to the concepts tomorrow’s doctors will need.”
The new MCAT exam will include new sections focusing on critical analysis, reasoning skills, and the psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior. To make room for these extra sections, the test makers also eliminated a writing section included in previous years. ”These changes should signal that someone who was a psychology major, or a cross-cultural studies major, or an English major has as much potential to enter medical school as someone who majored in chemistry,” Dr. Stephen Ray Mitchell, the Dean for Medical Education at Georgetown Medical School, said.
Mitchell said the whole medical school application process is a “system that, at a lot of different levels, is flawed.” Georgetown Medical School alone received about 11,700 applications last year for a total of 196 slots, making it the sixth most selective medical school in the United States.
However, in such a competitive environment, admissions counselors lack adequate time frames to holistically review each applicant. Admissions counselors must instead resort, largely, to numbers––grade point average and MCAT scores. The decision made by the Association of American Medical Colleges strives to replace this balance between scores and an overall behavioral understanding that they believe a doctor should possess.