New MCAT to include sections on psychology and sociology

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.

Approximately 25 percent of Georgetown Medical School’s incoming class this year was comprised of social science and humanities majors. According to Mitchell, this diverse applicant pool is the basis for excellent doctors.

One critique of the MCAT extension is that the increased rigor of the exam may discourage college graduates from applying to medical schools. The additional course load of introductory sociology and psychology courses required for MCAT 2015 preparation may prove too much for students who already are enrolled in organic chemistry, human biology, and other heavy sciences. Mitchell said the additional two hours of testing likely will not dishearten students who have already been through a rigorous undergraduate education.

Mitchell believes the MCAT 2015 will not be too dramatic a shift, and cautions students not to be alarmed. “Initially these questions will be considered experimental,” he said. Little by little, as the actual implementation date in 2015 approaches, the MCAT will likely include new questions that, while not counting yet toward the test-taker’s final score, will be analyzed to ensure that such questions are correctly implemented later on.

In evaluating the proposed MCAT, Mitchell remarked, “we didn’t get there the whole way this time, but it’s a little better.” He insists that this is just one step toward ensuring a holistic evaluation of med-school applicants, and creating “a better test for tomorrow’s doctors.”

10 Comments on “New MCAT to include sections on psychology and sociology

  1. DEAR GOD. If you need future doctors to have better people skills, then perhaps they should get out of the classroom more… instead of teaching it. – An overworked, under-appreciated, tired, and annoyed pre-med student, currently residing/crying in Blommer Science LIbrary.

  2. Now I have to take sociology and psych? OMG have you heard about this class I have to take called ORGO??!!1 It’s so hard!!!! I get to bitch to everyone constantly because I chose a hard major!

  3. You have a hate-hate relationship with your doctor/pre-med frenemies, don’t you?

  4. Just wait until you get to med school if you are crying now.

  5. And this is every non premed. Let me guess accounting is sooooo hardddddddd

  6. My boyfriend is re-taking the MCAT in 2015 after he finishes the peace core. I am a doctoral student in sociology, and teach an undergraduate intro class. When he found out they were including sociology in the exam he came over and showed me the sample questions. I was surprised by how specific some of the questions were (for example, dramaturgy! I laughed so maniacally when I saw that), and took great pleasure asking my students who wanted to go to medical school (it is a required course for undergrads at my institution) and several raised their hands. I told them they might want to hold off on selling back their textbooks. Honestly, everything I saw on the MCAT preview guide was more or less in the intro book and I was able to answer those questions with no problem. My boyfriend was a little worried about it, which he should be if he has never studied the discipline – but that’s just the point, he’s never studied it! As an instructor I get tons of textbook copies sent to me by publishers, so I have a sickening number of them on my book shelf. I glanced through them and found two or three that I thought were comprehensive and easy to understand and gave them to him, and told him to just read and study them in the months leading up to the exam. His BS is in Bio Chem and his MS is in Molecular Bio, and he’s been teaching Biology, Chemistry, Anatomy, etc. at the college level for some time now so he is perfectly ready for those areas. He’s just going to look for some intro psychology books (although a lot of the psychology stuff I saw on the test preview was heavily social psych and is usually covered in intro to soci textbooks) and read them. If you are a bright, motivated student who really wants to go to med school, you really don’t need to take a bunch of social science classes if you feel it will put an undue burden on you. Heck, if you want to be a doctor I would sure hope that you were bright enough to teach yourself most things in the social sciences. Get yourself some intro text books and start studying them. Read and take notes, look up concepts you have trouble understanding – most universities have tutoring centers, so if you’re really stuck you can go find a tutor in that discipline to help you or just Google it! If an increasing percentage of incoming medical students had social science degrees, that means they still had to study the heck out of hard science, I saw those questions and it was Greek to me and the soci stuff was Greek to my boyfriend. Doctor’s obviously need to know anatomy, but they also really need to understand things like social epidemiology and racial/gender/SES disparities in health outcomes. It will only make a new generation of better doctors, and honestly, if you’re pre-med and you’re whining about having to take an extra one or two intro classes…I hope you’re never my doctor.

  7. More liberal dumbing down of a test. The fact is you can BS your way through psych, try bs’ing through fluid mechanics, or basic EE. As tech is more and more omnipresent in medicine, and we as physicians are more and more dependent on it, there should be a greater emphasis placed on hard science, not less of one.

  8. @ ortho resident, i completely agree. as a pre-med student who majored in biology, chemistry and mathematics, i find it disheartening to find the breaks they continue to give to social science majors trying to get into medical school. already the typical Bachelor of Science undergraduate student has twice the workload as a Bachelor of Arts student, and now they are proposing to introduce this new measure to give MORE breaks to an undergrad with an already leinent courseload?

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