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Aspiring Doctors Should Prepare For The New MCAT

MCATBy Alan Lyndon

The MCAT is changing and pre-med should be aware of the new topics if they want to get in to medical school.

Just about every medical school in the U.S. requires students to take the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), the one-day standardized test taken by 85,000 aspiring doctors each year. The April 2015 MCAT will feature the first major changes to the test in nearly 20 years.

The last significant revision to the MCAT added a writing skills section, which was removed from the test last year.

The new MCAT will include a section called “Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior,” which focuses on the humanities and social studies.

“That section tests concepts from psychology, sociology and biology that provide the foundation for learning in medical school about the behavioral and socio-cultural determinants of health,” Karen Mitchell, senior director for the MCAT at the Association of American Medical Colleges, told US News & World Report.

Current and future physicians must be able to handle issues that may not have been emphasized in past generations including an increasingly diverse population and the impact of behavior on health.

“I say to students, ‘The more experiences you have, the more opportunities you’ll have to make that one-to-one connection with the patient,'” says Carol Terregino, senior associate dean for education at Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, which was one of a small group of schools chosen by the AAMC to evaluate the changes made to the MCAT. “Students with this added breadth of knowledge will do extraordinarily well and be competitive for top tier residency programs.”

In addition to the new humanities section, the revised version of the MCAT will include a greater emphasis on critical analysis and reasoning skills and will extend to six hours and 15 minutes — a full two hours longer than the current version.

While the testing may be a bit more strenuous for applicants, there are more opportunities for admission to medical schools.  After years of concern that the U.S. would see a major shortage of physicians, particularly general practitioners, the AAMC reports that a turnaround has occurred.

“Combined first-year enrollment at existing M.D.- granting and D.O.-granting medical schools is projected to reach 28,307 by 2018–2019, an increase of 45 percent compared with 2002–2003,” according to the AAMC 2013 Medical School Enrollment Survey.

To prepare for the new MCAT, Karen Mitchell endorsed a new media form of learning in addition to the traditional prep courses.  “There are 425 free tutorials on the Khan Academy website,” she says.

Khan Academy, which has become a major player in online education, partnered with the AAMC and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation to provide education and study materials for the new MCAT.

“Free, open, online education materials have the disruptive, exciting potential to unleash knowledge and make it available to and affordable for anyone with an Internet connection in the U.S. or anywhere in the world,” said Michael Painter, senior program officer at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. “That seems pretty cool and pretty powerful.”

(Photo by Alberto G. via Flickr)

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