“When shouId I take the MCAT?” and “What is on the MCAT?” are two common questions heard in the admissions departments of American and Caribbean medical schools.
The UMHS Endeavour takes a brief look at frequently asked questions about the MCAT and what changes made earlier this year mean for prospective med students taking the test in 2016. We will include information from the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) website, look at the new “Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior” section, plus share advice and notes from a post on NPR.org.
Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior Section
The new MCAT section focuses on social sciences, specifically psychology and sociology. Why? Doctors need to be more well-rounded and aware of social behavior that affects human health in the 21st century.
“In today’s world, physicians need to know how to communicate with and serve an increasingly diverse population,” says a post on Accepted.com.” They need a clear understanding of how behavior impacts health. When you prepare for this new MCAT section, you’ll also be preparing yourself for work as a modern doctor.”
The NPR.org (National Public Radio) website had an in-depth article this summer, “Medical School Hopefuls Grapple with Overhauled Entrance Exam”. The article gave insightful details about exactly why social sciences are important in medicine.
NPR’s April Dembosky writes that social sciences were added because the AAMC “wants to make sure the doctors of tomorrow are better prepared to care for an increasingly diverse patient population in a rapidly changing health care system. Administrators say the exam changes are necessary to bring it up to date with how medicine is practiced, and with all the scientific discoveries that have been made since the test was last revised, more than 20 years ago.”
Ms. Dembosky adds that “research on genetics and the social factors that affect health, in particular, have advanced significantly.”
"Whether or not someone becomes ill has a lot to do with the society in which they live," Catherine Lucey, vice dean of education at University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine and a member of the committee that is assessing the new MCAT, told NPR.
She gives the example of children exposed to violence before age five, and new statistical information about children growing up in violent environments.
Other reasons for the new questions include the need to better understand patients when managing chronic diseases. In addition, because medical schools are now recruiting more students who majored in nontraditional studies outside of what is normally called “premed” (from English lit to psychology),the MCAT includes questions on such areas as medical ethics.
As NPR points out, prospective medical students need to know definitions about numerous social issues.
“Test takers will now have to define terms like ‘institutional racism’ and ‘social constructionism’ and answer applied questions about how race and class affect health,” Ms. Dembosky writes.
For more information, read the full post on Accepted.com.
The AAMC website has an excellent “Frequently Asked Questions” section website that tells you everything you should know about preparing for and scheduling your MCAT exam in 2016. In case you have not heard, the MCAT was revamped in early 2015 to include questions about the various social sciences.
Note that older MCAT preparation materials may be outdated and contain information that is no longer on the exam. The AAMC site says: “To ensure that you are preparing with content that could be tested on the new exam, the AAMC has developed new MCAT test prep products that include a full-length Sample Test and six Question Packs by discipline area that map back to the new exam. A second full-length practice test and Section Bank will be available in November 2015.”
Here are answers to common questions.
“When should I take the MCAT?”
The AAMC says it is best to take the exam in the calendar year prior to the one in which you plan to attend medical school. “For example, if you are applying in 2016 for entrance to medical school in 2017, you should take the exam in 2016,” the site says.
“How many times can I take the MCAT?”
AAMC says one can take the MCAT a maximum of seven times, but please note the following:
Single testing year:
- “The MCAT exam can be taken up to three times.”
Two consecutive-year period
- “The MCAT exam can be taken up to four times.’
Go to the AAMC website for more FAQs.
What is Covered on the MCAT: Infographic
MCAT 2015 Infographic. Infographic: Piktochart
(Top photo). Image: Deposit Photos
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Scott is Director of Digital Content at UMHS and editor of the UMHS Endeavour blog. When he's not writing about UMHS students, faculty, events, public health, alumni and UMHS research, he writes and edits Broadway theater reviews for a website he publishes in New York City, StageZine.com.