Stanford Prepares for Changes to the MCAT

Stanford Prepares for Changes to the MCAT

The spring of 2015 will bring about changes for premedical students, who will be taking a new version of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).  

MCAT Revision Overview

The MCAT was last revised in 1991, and in fact, premedical course requirements have remained unchanged since 1910. To address concerns regarding the relevance of traditional premedical and medical education in this era of unprecedented scientific change, the American Association of Medical Colleges (AAMC) and the Howard Hughes Medical Institute (HHMI) created the Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians (SFFP) committee.The charge of this committee was to determine what knowledge and expertise future physicians need to obtain during their education and to suggest how they can achieve these “competencies” in a dynamic scientific environment. The SFFP committee recommended against increasing the number of courses needed and emphasized the importance of the undergraduate years as a time that should be devoted to a liberal education, which fosters intellectual growth rather than merely preparing for professional school.

The AAMC also began a comprehensive review of the MCAT, with input from the SFFP committee. The MCAT Review Committee recommendations, released in 2012, included the following:

  • Addition of biochemistry to the physics and chemistry component of the exam
  •  Addition of more cellular and molecular biology to the biology examination
  • Addition of a behavioral and social sciences component to the exam
  • Integration of a new Scientific Inquiry and Reasoning Skills (SIRS) framework into the two natural sciences components and the new behavioral and social sciences component

The MCAT review committee supported the SFFP prioritization of learning outcomes and competencies rather than on specific course content. However, the additional content in the MCATs combined with an emphasis on not increasing course loads mandates that most premedical institutions reflect on their curricula in order to assure students that the “competencies” can be obtained within their existing coursework.

Summary of changes to the MCAT exam:

MCAT 2015 Exam Duration: 6 hours and 15 minutes; Including breaks and lunch: 7.5 hours. The current MCAT exam is 4 hours and 20 minutes long.

The natural science sections of the MCAT2015 exam now emphasize recent changes in medical education and test the concepts rated by medical schools as most important to student success: biology, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physics. These concepts are typically covered in many undergraduate schools through introductory sequences in biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics and in first-semester biochemistry courses.

The MCAT 2015 exam includes a new section on the social and behavioral sciences, which includes the psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior. This section assesses knowledge of relevant introductory psychology and sociology concepts, as well as the biology concepts related to mental processes and behavior. The addition of this section to the exam recognizes the importance of socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health and health outcomes.

A new section about critical analysis and reasoning skills tests for the ability to analyze, evaluate, and apply information provided by passages from a wide range of social sciences and humanities disciplines. It does not require specific knowledge of these disciplines, but it tests for analysis and reasoning skills, ethics and philosophy, cultural studies, and population health. These concepts encourage broader reading among students preparing for the MCATs.

The full file is available for download as a PDF.