Medical school entrance exam broadens scope

Prospective medical students will face an entrance examination that expands its focus beyond natural sciences starting in 2015.

The Medical College Admission Test will add a section covering the psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior, the American Association of Medical Colleges finalized Feb. 16 after three years of review.

Richard Riegelman, a professor of epidemiology and biostatistics in the School of Public Health and Health Services, served on the association’s 21-person committee that conducted the review of the test and said the change will ensure students have a thorough medical background.

“The changes in the MCAT aim to prepare students for the changing world of medicine and clinical practice,” he said.

Riegelman added that aspiring doctors face an increased demand to be prepared for the job’s social and behavioral aspects.

Students will also be tested in social sciences and humanities in a new critical analysis and reasoning section, bringing the total number of sections to four.

The changes, which are the first alterations to the test since 1991, came in light of mounting evidence that shows how patient health can improve by weaving an understanding of people into scientific knowledge.

The revised MCAT, likely to be in place until 2030, will increase in length by about 1.5 hours, for a total testing time of about 6.5 hours. There will also no longer be a writing section, after admissions officers said it did not give them sufficient or accurate information about a student’s qualifications for medical school.

Senior Melissa Delgado, a pre-med student, said she supports the newly implemented changes to the MCAT, noting that the current test format “fails to capture the humanistic aspect of medicine.”

Medical school applications have been rising for a decade, reaching a record 43,919 applicants in 2011, according to the AAMC.

Diane McQuail, assistant dean for admissions at the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, said it is too soon to predict if the broader MCAT will encourage or discourage students from pursuing medical careers.

“These changes are being made to prepare medical students to become doctors that can address issues in health care in the years ahead,” she said, adding that medical schools nationwide have also adjusted their curricula in order to better train students.

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