MCAT includes more disciplines


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All aspiring physicians hoping to enter medical school must spend hours of studying for one comprehensive exam that will dictate whether and where they will go to school.

Starting January 2015, the Medical College Admissions Test will be updated, including three new disciplines of study: biochemistry, psychology, and sociology.

“The reality is it’s been the current MCAT since 1991,” said Kathlene Huebner, the director of admissions for the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

Huebner said the MCAT is expanding to understand humanities better because physicians now deal with more diverse populations.

In March 2011, the Association of American Medical Colleges announced that it would begin surveying 14 disciplines to add to the MCAT. During that time, officials surveyed medical schools, physicians, and students, Huebner said.

The updates are set to replace the current written-exam portion.

According to a 2013 report by the medical-school group, there will need to be a proposed 30 percent first-year enrollment increase occurring soon amid concerns about a future physician shortage.

“Medical boards feel this particular science, with the forward movement of medicine, will need to give you a more empathetic and relatable physician,” said Joshua Kelly, the marketing coordinator for Altius, a MCAT prep program. “This is the MCAT going forward.”

Kelly said the new disciplines are trying to bring in more sociocultural understandings to a field that was previously viewed as a hard science.

The UI medical school has long had a social-science prerequisite, Huebner said, and approximately 75 percent of students take psychology courses during medical school.

“Medical schools are changing to be more holistic, not just scientific,” said Nathan Balukoff, a 2013 UI graduate with a B.S. in biology in the genetics and biotechnology track and a minor in psychology.

He said he took the MCAT last month and participated in the trial section for the 2015-updated exam.

With his background in psychology, Balukoff said he recognized some of the material on the section but thinks it won’t add any substantial amount of preparation.

“They’re kind of trying to probe your personableness,” said Iva Zdilar, another UI graduate who took the MCAT this summer as well as the trial section.

Zdilar graduated with a B.S. in neurobiology as well as with a B.A. in psychology.

She said she would have preferred the updated MCAT because of her familiarity with psychology.

However, in order to apply for medical school for the fall 2015 session, she said, she had to take the exam last month.

“It’s a really expensive exam, not just money-wise,” Zdilar said, noting the taxing amount of preparation for the test.

The style of questions won’t change for the 2015 update, Kelly said, but the exam might last a little longer than before.

Kelly said he suggests finding a test-preparation program that will place prospective students with a tutor who has experience with the new MCAT format, especially in the transitional periods.

The UI medical school will accept both forms of the MCAT for a short period of time, Huebner said, because test scores are valid for three years. The scoring will be different between the two and aren’t comparable.

Training will begin in September for the UI Admissions Office to interpret the 2015 MCAT results, she said.

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