2015 MCAT exam will include more questions, new sections

The new test will contain 54 more questions and take more than seven hours to complete.
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The Medical College Admission Test will undergo major changes from its previous exams, posing a new challenge for prospective test takers.

The new exam, which will be administered for the first time on April 17, 2015, will contain 230 questions, up from 176, and new sections on behavioral sciences and critical analysis and reasoning.

Students taking the new exam will pay $300, an increase of $25, and spend about seven and a half hours of seated time compared to five hours and 10 minutes for the current test.

“The changes to the MCAT exam in 2015 will 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,” according to the website of the Association of American Medical Colleges, which administers the exam.

Interim School of Medicine Dean Les Hall declined to comment on the changes to the exam.

The challenge now faced by prospective test takers is deciding whether to take the exam before or after the changes take effect.

Russell Schaffer, a spokesman for Kaplan, a for-profit company that prepares students for placement exams, said the company’s 2014 survey of medical school admissions officers show that there is no strong preference or consensus among medical schools for one test or the other.

Schaffer said 44 percent of respondents said the different tests would make no difference when considering a student’s admission, while 28 percent recommended the current version of the MCAT and 27 percent recommended the new test.

Junior Ami Bhatt, a biological sciences major who intends to apply for medical school, said she has decided to take the last exam of 2014 before the new changes take effect.

“Taking the old exam gives me more people to help and tell me what to expect,” she said. “I (would) rather refer to old practice exams than being iffy on what’s coming.”

Bhatt said many medical school hopefuls take the MCAT twice, and that her retake would be the new version.

“Personally, I just want to take it once,” she said. “But if I have to take it twice, then I have to do what I have to do. It would be unfortunate, though.”

Assistant professor of endocrinology Camila Manrique said she believes the changes to the MCAT are positive.

She said the critical analysis and reasoning section is especially important in testing a hopeful physician’s ability to critically use information to help patients.

“Students planning to take the MCAT need now more than ever to be knowledgeable in areas considered ‘humanities’ that in the past were reserved for non-science majors,” Manrique said.

She said that in her interactions with MU pre-medicine students, she noted that they are aware of the changes and are implementing steps to fill in the necessary gaps.

However, Manrique said there’s more to medical school than just the placement exam.

“Being a competent physician goes above being a good test taker, and that is something that admission committees need to take into account,” she said.

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