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Students taking MCAT in April will have a broader, longer exam

BY GRACE PATERAS | FEBRUARY 17, 2015 5:00 AM

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The new MCAT will have local medical-school hopefuls taking a test for nearly eight hours beginning in April.

The Medical College Admissions Test is a national exam that the Association of American Medical Colleges issues for students wanting to go into med school.

Some students, such as University of Iowa junior Collin Thatcher, said classes in undergraduate school will help on the MCAT.

“[MCAT is] a comprehensive overview of my entire college career,” he said. “My classes all will help.”

The test has undergone its first content modification since 1991, and the medical-school association is confident the changes will improve tomorrow’s physicians.

The new test, which will first be issued on April 17, will no longer feature the writing portion.

Instead, biochemistry, psychology, and sociology sections will be included on the test.

The test will take seven and a half hours, which includes an hour and a half of breaks between tests and an additional lunch break. The new exam is around two and a half hours longer than the old test.

“The main reason people believe it will be difficult is because preparation is more difficult,” said Owen Farcy, a Kaplan Test Prep instructor. “It’s practically double the length of the exam.”

He said with areas added to the test that pre-med students didn’t have to study for previously, it could create a harder test.

With the new additions to the tests, students are expected to know a broader range of topics.

“With the test covering more doesn’t make me nervous because everyone has to take the same test,” UI junior Alex Meyer wrote in an email. “But there is just some extra work involved studying the extra material.”

Instructors at Kaplan Test Prep help students prepare for the MCAT, as well as other nationalized tests across the nation.

Farcy said students who take the test need to be aware the tests are more than a standard science test.

“It’s not a science test; it’s a critical thinking test,” he said. “It incorporates science that they need to be aware about [for the real world].”

Farcy said his firm’s program charges $2,000 for an extensive training course, which includes review of all content, needed to know for the exam.

Other ways Kaplan offers help to students is through its study aid books.

Students, such as Thatcher, use the books to study on their own for tests.

The reason students want to pay for additional help to do well on the MCAT, he said, is to look good for medical-school admissions offices.

“Med schools are looking to see whether or not students can succeed in the rigorous of medical schools,” Farcy said. “It’s very important to have a strong test score to succeed in med school as well.”

From a Kaplan survey study of 78 medical schools, 41 percent of the admissions offices said a low MCAT score was “the biggest application killer,” said Russell Schaffer of Kaplan.

The test adjustment, according to Thatcher, has both positive and negative judgments.

“I think it was a good idea to add the psychology side of stuff,” Thatcher said. “People need to know how to communicate with people. But I don’t like the fact that I have to study more now.”


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