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MCAT, GRE could be prepped for change

While students prep for the Medical College Admissions Test, the MCAT is prepping for changes.

Proposed changes to the MCAT might mean a longer exam and a doubling of the prerequisites for pre-med students.

The Association of American Medical Colleges has proposed a revised medical school admissions exam that would go into effect in 2015. The new test would omit the current writing sample, add psychology and sociology concepts, more advanced sciences and an additional 90 minutes.

“Although we are calling them recommendations, we feel pretty good that these recommendations are going to mirror very closely what the final outcome will be,” said Amjed Saffarini, executive director of Pre-Health programs for Kaplan Test Prep.

The final vote will be taken in February.

Although this change will not affect most current pre-med students, it might affect current college freshmen.

Saffarini said changes were proposed to address the issues that physicians face in the workforce, new material that doctors need to know and to figure out what works on the current exam.

A major change the AAMC has proposed is to get rid of the writing sample.

Sydney Agnello, a fourth-year in biology, took the MCAT last April.

“Removing the writing sample is a great idea since most medical schools don’t even look at or consider a students’ writing scores,” Agnello said.

In addition to taking out a section, they have added another: behavioral and social sciences principles.

“You go into a doctor’s office and you see the crowded wait room and they have a very short time to meet with patients, so communication skills become very important. Social skills become very important,” Saffarini said. “Empathy, compassion — these are the skills you want to see in your doctors.”

This section, worth 15 points, making the total exam out of 60 points instead of 45, is how the AAMC is assessing students on these attributes.

According to a March 31 Kaplan press release, advanced sciences, including cellular/molecular biology, biochemistry, research methods, statistics and expanded critical thinking will also be added.

“It is impossible to learn all of the science in medical school, so we have to bring that science from medical school down into your undergraduate instruction,” Saffarini said.

These changes will almost double the amount of prerequisites required for pre-med students.

Alex Cherry, a fourth-year in biochemistry, said a major concern will be the lesser variation among majors that enter into medical school.

“As it is now, two years of prerequisites are all you need and students can easily choose any major they want and fit that schedule,” Cherry said. “If a third year of various psychology, biochemistry and molecular biology classes are needed, then there is not much time to complete any non-science degree or a double major.”

Saffarini said with the addition of a section and more material, the test will be longer, just more than seven hours compared to the current 5 1/2.

“I feel like seven hours is really extreme for a time length,” Agnello said. “Five hours already seemed pretty long.”

If the changes are accepted in February, it will immediately impact how the schools treat the curriculum and the requirements for being a pre-med student will be more robust, Saffarini said.

Russell Schaffer, senior communications manager for Kaplan, said this will greatly affect OSU students because OSU is one of the biggest sources of medical school applicants of any college in the country, with 334 applicants in 2010.

“If you examine the changes themselves, you’ll see, you could call it a mixed blessing, but it’s really a benefit to students,” Saffarini said.

Revisions have also been made to other entrance exams. Students taking the GRE will also experience changes this year as a revised test is being introduced on August 1.

According to a March 22 press release from Educational Testing Service, changes to the GRE include new question types, navigation features and an on-screen calculator.


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