Correction: This story was updated 11:21 a.m. Tuesday. The reporter incorrectly attributed the Association of American Medical Colleges in regards to prerequisite courses that are helpful to prepare for the MCAT. The information comes from UM’s pre-health advising office.
The first batch of the new MCAT exam launched Friday, and pre-medical students are prepping for four sections rather than three and a longer exam, clocking in three hours longer than the test’s predecessor.
The updated exam includes four sections that are more interdisciplinary. These include knowledge of the biological sciences, the physical sciences (such as chemistry and physics), a verbal section and the behavioral sciences, the newest section assessing knowledge in psychology and sociology.
This new section is officially titled the Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior. Biochemistry will also become more emphasized in the biological sciences and physical chemistry sections of the exam.
Michael Gaines, director of the pre-health advising office, says that the university recommends students take social sciences classes in addition to the traditional science classes such as introductory biology and chemistry.
“Here [at UM] we are beefing up the social sciences and cognates that pull these health sciences together, such as anthropology, psychology and sociology,” said Gaines, who is also assistant provost of the Undergraduate Research and Community Outreach.
In the past, UM students took eight prerequisite classes to help prepare them for the MCAT. These included introductory courses in biology, chemistry and physics.
With the additional social sciences section on the MCAT, UM’s pre-health advising office suggests students take three more classes for a total of 11.
Each section will include more questions over a longer period of time. The score range, which was measured between three and 45 (the highest score), is now 472 to 528.
Senior Michelle Novoa, a psychology major, embraces the new exam’s content. She plans to take the MCAT in May.
“I definitely think it was a good idea to add those topics because the health care system is changing and they are incorporating psychology and other measures to treat patients,” she said. “The new topics also make pre-med students a little bit more well-rounded, since the new subjects are mostly humanities.”
However, Novoa’s major concern is the length of the exam. It increased from four hours and 10 minutes, including breaks, to seven hours and 33 minutes.
“I think they should’ve incorporated the topics within the previous time frame or extended it a little bit more only,” Novoa said. “I am nervous about the time we will be testing for because I get tired and annoyed after being on a computer for too long and my performance decreases as time goes by.”
Junior Sabrina Carro is more hesitant about the changes. She is taking the MCAT for the second time in June.
“They have to change it to better reflect critical thinking, and the committee put a lot of time and effort into restructuring the exam, but it has made it difficult to re-study and prepare, even with the courses,” the neuroscience major said about preparation companies such as Kaplan and The Princeton Review.
Featured photo courtesy Flickr user Maya83.