AAMC: Medical College Admissions Testing to Be Overhauled

November 27, 2011
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Posted in DiversionsKnowledge & Medicine

Posted in DiversionsKnowledge & Medicine

The year was 1989. Late summer. The pressure was on to perform. Whether it was due to studying inertia, laziness, or simply hubris — I elected to take the dreaded MCAT (the medical college admissions test) at the latest possible offering. Yes, I was reasonably confident of my standardized test-taking abilities, and I knew that my GPA could definitely hold its own. Still, as I look back on my senior year in college, delaying such an important and redoubtable requirement was pretty foolhardy.

Nineteen eighty-nine was also approximately the period in which the test gurus who formulated the exam took a curious turn and seemed to bend over backwards answering critics’ and educators’ assertions that the exam was too narrowly focused on the left-brain aspect of scholarship. What was needed, the sage designers of the MCAT decided, was a tool to measure the non-scientific literacy of those who were audacious enough to consider a career in medicine. Thus, the maligned essay question was introduced.

The body tasked with reviewing the MCAT’s current state of affairs has made its concerns with the exam’s future known, and it reflects a growing reality in the state of preparing those with an interest in medicine to be able to succeed in medical school. That medicine is constantly changing with respect to rapid advances in basic science research and social and economic healthcare policy trends is a complete understatement, one that is highlighted by the committee’s recommendations.

The new MCAT will preserve the best features of the previous exam, while ineffective sections (e.g.,the writing sample) will be jettisoned. The two natural science sections will be revised to focus on relevance to living systems, emphasis on critical analysis, and reasoning skills will increase in a revised verbal section; and a section on behavioral and social sciences will be added.

Yes, it has taken the testing gods some twenty years to kill the essay section. Well, here’s hoping that future practitioners of medicine will have the intestinal fortitude that successive iterations of the MCAT (starting in 2015) will now require — the quality of endurance. As it stands, testing length will increase by over 40 percent — to 6 hrs and 15 min. Ouch! Guess I’m glad my laziness didn’t get the best of me some 22 years ago! | LINK [PDF]

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