The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) joined the SAT as one of the standardized admissions exams that recently received a makeover.
The do-over was the first in more than 20 years, and pre-health students will get their first look at the exam in April.
The change left this year’s crop of medical school applicants with a quandary: they could take the old test in the fall even though they might not have taken all of the necessary classes, or wait until the spring and take the longer, more comprehensive test.
The new version has 230 questions, and students have up to six hours and 15 minutes to complete it. The previous version had 144 questions and students had three hours and 20 minutes to complete it. The new test includes questions about biochemistry, sociology and psychology, which weren’t part of the older versions.
“The new MCAT exam includes the concepts and skills that medical educators, medical students and residents rated as the most important for pre-meds to know so that they are prepared on day one of medical school,” said Karen Mitchell Ph.D., senior director of admissions testing service at the Association of American Medical Colleges.
Bailey Shepherd, a senior biology major, was one of the students who decided to take the exam early to avoid the changes.
“It was hard teaching myself material I hadn’t learned in school yet,” Shepherd said. “If I had waited, I would have had a few more classes under my belt.”
Caroline Gold, a junior biology and anthropology double major, plans to take the MCAT this summer.
“I’ll have taken a lot more classes by then,” Gold said.
Shepherd and Gold said TCU has prepared them well and that the university’s biology curriculum is pre-med heavy. They said the struggle was that the new MCAT questions are situation-based.
“The way we’ve been taught in class isn’t situation-based,” Shepherd said.
Dr. Shauna McGillivray, associate director of the Pre-Health Institute at TCU, said there is no plan to change the biology curriculum, but they are advising pre-health students to take additional courses to help them prepare.
“Students who really want to be physicians won’t be deterred by the new test,” McGillivray said.
The new MCAT will be scored much differently than the previous version. Medical school admissions departments are still deciding how to interpret the new scores.
“It’s awkward for our grade. Some of us will have taken the old one and some of us will take the new one,” Shepherd said.
Shepherd got her score back this week and is debating taking the exam again. She said she wouldn’t have hesitated to take it again if it was the old test.
“Old version or new version, it’s the hardest test I’ve ever taken,” Shepherd said