A Peak Inside the New MCAT: What You Need to Know

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The importance of scoring well on the MCAT cannot be stressed enough.  It’s bigger than the SAT and the ACT.  It’s the key to admission into your dream medical school. Bomb it, and your chances of admission decrease dramatically. Score well, and you set yourself up to receive that prized acceptance letter.  The MCAT has evolved over the years, and in the near future, it will change once again to reflect developing trends in the medical profession. The new MCAT recognizes that future doctors must be well-rounded with a foundation of knowledge in multiple fields—sciences, psychology, and the humanities.  Here is what you need to know if you plan to start medical school in Fall 2016:

Taking a patients blood pressure at Morogoro Hospital in TanzaniaThe new MCAT will contain a section called Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior.  Future doctors must have knowledge on the socio-cultural and mental processes of patients, and this new section of the MCAT forces aspiring doctors to begin thinking of patients through a lens of behavior, culture, and attitude.  Though sociology and psychology are often taken as prerequisites for freshman students to move forward in their majors, the MCAT now compels students to take these classes with commitment and deeper interest, as the stakes for doing well in this coursework are higher.  This added content is in addition to the already standard coursework that pre-medical students should take before they attempt the MCAT (biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry, and physics).

The Critical Analysis section will focus less on the natural sciences and more on the social sciences and humanities.  Expect to read passages about art, ethics, literature, philosophy, and pop culture, as well as cultural studies, history, education, and population health. The new MCAT requires aspiring medical school students to be more well-rounded and cultured than ever, a change that addresses the changing landscape of medical care and the patient population that aspiring doctors must be prepared to meet.

If you have problems writing on demand, you will be pleased to know that the MCAT no longer requires a writing component.  In its place you will find many more multiple-choice questions across four major areas of study.  These are:

  1. Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems  (67 questions)
  2. Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems (67 questions)
  3. Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior (67 questions)
  4. Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills (60 questions)

The drawback to the elimination of the writing section from the MCAT is that the test will actually double in length.  The new MCAT has 261 questions to be answered over the course of 6 hours and 15 minutes.  This new test format challenges your stamina and endurance, two crucial personal attributes you’ll need in mass amounts if you are to succeed in medical school.

Students enjoying Songkran festival in ThailandThe Association of American Medical Colleges has extensive information on the changes to the topics and content of the new MCAT, so make this your first stop as you begin planning a course of preparation for this important test! — Post by Madelaine Kingsbury.

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