The Medical College Admissions Test was updated last year to be longer and more comprehensive, but according to a survey by Kaplan Test Prep, most medical schools aren’t even sure the new test allows them to better evaluate applicants.
The MCAT is the standardized test all medical school applicants must take before applying to medical school. The new test is almost double the length of the old one and now includes sections on sociology, psychology and a larger emphasis on biochemistry, said Eric Chiu, director of pre-med programs for Kaplan.
Fifty-six percent of 68 medical schools surveyed are taking a “wait and see” approach to the new MCAT, due to the lack of data on how students who took the new exam will perform while in school, Chiu said.
“It will be a couple years yet before the first round of students, this year’s entering class, actually get their grades from their classes at their first year of med school and schools actually get to see what the longitudinal predictive correlation is between the new MCAT scores and performance in their programs,” Chiu said.
Forty-six percent of schools surveyed said the MCAT is still the most important factor when determining admission to their program, despite uncertainty around the
Chiu said medical schools had plenty of data about how students would perform in their school based on test scores because the old MCAT was in place for over 20 years.
“Schools had information about how students progressed in their programs, what their graduation rates were, what their scores were when they got their licenses, and now they have much less to go on for the new exam,” Chiu said. “It will be a couple years before they have real evidence that the scores on the new exam predict success in the way the old exam did.”
Steve Smith, associate dean for student affairs for Dell Medical School, said adding new sections to the test is the right move, but he still isn’t sure if the test accurately assesses student qualities.
“It remains to be seen whether the new test measures those factors well — as in, whether it gives an indication of an applicant’s ability to apply skills like psychology and sociology in ways that help physicians interact effectively with colleagues, members of the health care team and most importantly patients,” Smith said in an email. “But beginning to explore ways of testing these skills is a good start.”
Jaime Ramos, a public health and pre-med freshman, said he believes the new MCAT will be harder to do well on but more beneficial to medical schools.
“I’ve heard it’s one of the most difficult tests you can probably take, and since they added new sections it’s probably going to be tougher because you need to know more stuff,” Ramos said. “Since the test is harder, people being accepted to med school are probably better students, and they’ll probably make better doctors.”