By Yvette Pittman, PhD
The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has made some major changes to the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), which they will introduce in the spring of 2015. I recently attended an informative session about the revised MCAT (MCAT2015), led by the AAMC at the University of Maryland, College Park. Several aspects remain the same, such as computer-based testing and the evaluation of general science knowledge. MCAT2015, however, tests several additional concepts within psychology and sociology, asks test takers to use critical analysis and reasoning skills to solve problems from multiple disciplines, and is two hours longer than the previous version.
About the new exam
The new exam consists of four sections, each scored separately, including:
- Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
- Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
- Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
- Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills
The first three sections each have 59 questions and are based on ten foundational concepts in the sciences. The content tested in these sections is typically taught in introductory psychology, sociology, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, physics, and biochemistry college courses. The critical analysis and reasoning skills section consists of 53 questions with no disciplinary knowledge required. Since there are more questions for each section, the seat time will be longer, totaling 7.5 hours, with built-in breaks. The AAMC’s website provides a detailed breakdown of the test day.
The revised MCAT includes a new scoring system as well. Examinees will receive five scores with percentile ranks: one for all four sections and a combined score. The scoring scale for each section will range from 118 to 132, and the total score from 472 to 528. Confidence intervals are also included for all five scoring results to account for variables that may affect scores, such as test anxiety, fatigue, test room conditions, or timing of exposure to topics.
In mid-February, the MCAT2015 registration will open. The AAMC will offer 18 dates to take the exam between April and September. Although there are less exam dates, the number of available seats will remain the same and there will be more college campus testing locations. To support the longer day of testing, the registration cost increased slightly to $300. And to encourage students to join the first exam group in April, AAMC is offering all test takers a $150.00 Amazon.com gift card as an incentive.
To prepare for the new exam, the AAMC had created several low-cost resources. “What's on the MCAT2015 Exam?” is a free online interactive tool that provides an overview for each section and informs which scientific concepts and reasoning skills will be on the new exam. It also contains video tutorials that cover test material with sample questions and explanations. The AAMC also released “The Official Guide to the MCAT® Exam (MCAT2015), Fourth Edition.” It includes everything you need to know about the test, from information about registration to what to expect on your test day (for $30). And for five dollars more, you can even opt to include 30 online sample questions for each section.
If you’d like to experience the entire test ahead of time, the “Official MCAT2015 Sample Test” is available for purchase ($25). Written by the test developers, this full-length test has 230 questions and allows you to practice in timed and untimed settings. The program identifies patterns in your test-taking skills and provides you with an answer assessment for all four sections.
For study materials, Khan Academy and the Pre-health Collection within MedEdPORTAL’s iCollaborative offers a large collection of free video tutorials with review questions covering all of the new MCAT foundational concepts. Early in 2015, the AAMC will release hundreds of official MCAT questions in addition to the first practice test that offers you an estimated score at the end. Practice questions will have the feature of indicating which foundational concept or skill is being tested for each question.
Want to learn more? Check out the AAMC website—it is full of information regarding the MCAT2015!