For students hoping to go to medical school after they graduate, an ongoing revamping process for required testing could mean a more difficult path to the profession for some.
The Medical College Admission Test, required for all students applying to medical school, is undergoing an updating process some experts are saying could result in a harder exam.
According to Owen Farcy, director of pre-health programs at Kaplan Test Prep, the MCAT tests aspiring medical students on their scientific knowledge and also their ability to think critically while under pressure.
While this goal has not changed, the methods for testing aspiring medical students are set to change by 2015. The Association of American Medical Colleges, the nonprofit organization that administers the MCAT, recently decided the emphasis on physical sciences on the test led to a neglect of social sciences.
The newly-formatted MCAT will incorporate more questions on more advanced scientific questions, such as biochemistry, as well as the social sciences and overt critical thinking problems, according to Farcy.
The University of Wisconsin is among the top 10 universities when it comes to students taking the MCAT. Farcy said in 2011, 455 UW students took the test.
UW pre-health adviser Julissa Ventura said the changes to the MCAT that will be in full effect by 2015 will directly affect this year’s freshman class. She said she would suggest students enroll in introductory sociology and psychology classes in preparation for the changes.
With the new necessity to enroll in such social science classes for the MCAT, more demanding coursework is an obvious result, she said.
With the MCAT changing, the general course progression also changes. For example, Ventura said students should take biochemistry before senior year.
Ventura said to help students transition and prepare for the new MCAT, the pre-health advising department is providing a new planning guide, which can be found on its website.
Farcy said when the MCAT was first introduced, medical schools found its results were used to predict students’ rate of success.
With the upcoming changes, pre-med students at UW have an advantage because of “the large pre-med population and necessary resources” available on campus to help them adjust to the new test, according to Farcy.
A statement from Kaplan Test Prep said with these changes, timing for the MCAT exam will increase from five hours to seven-and-a-half hours by 2015.
Farcy said he would reassure test takers that the time is added with reason.
“The increase in time allows for an increase in validity, as there is more data to analyze a student’s performance,” he said.
Farcy noted although that may seem like a daunting amount of time, 74 percent of medical school advisers believe it will better prepare students for medical school.
Kaplan, along with medical schools across the nation, believe the improved MCAT will produce medical students more able to take on the challenges facing the world in health care, according to a Kaplan statement.
Farcy said as far as changes that will roll out before 2015, the MCAT will lose its writing section and add an optional non-graded portion to the test beginning in January 2013. He said this will act as testing grounds for the 2015 test.