It happens every year in August and April — anxious premeds cram during the final few days before they take the Medical College Admission Test, or MCAT. This April, the scene will be the same, but the test they take will be slightly different.
After reviewing the content of the MCAT in 2001, the Association of American Medical Colleges made minor changes to the test questions and scoring. In addition, major structural changes have been made to the Graduate Record Examination, or the GRE.
But Carla Riccio, marketing coordinator at the Kaplan Test Center in New Haven, said she does not expect the MCAT changes to have drastic effects on the test-takers.
“[The changes to the MCATs] are not earth-shattering,” Riccio said.
However, the modifications are good news for those dreading organic chemistry and verbal reasoning, as both parts of the test are now shorter. Three questions on organic chemistry (in the biological sciences section) have been replaced by questions on genetics and DNA. In addition, there are five fewer questions in the verbal section, with the same amount of time allotted for the section.
Riccio said that there are also more minor changes to the test. The first part of the MCAT will now focus on physical science instead of verbal reasoning. Also, the top scores in verbal reasoning will no longer be reported across a range of 13-15. Now, test-takers will receive exact scores for the verbal section. As a result, Riccio said, they will be able to get a total score for all the multiple-choice sections.
“I think that it will benefit the students more,” Sandy Mong ’04 said. “There will be more of a curve. Students will probably generally score higher.”
Starting this month, prospective graduate students also face a reformatted test. A 75-minute analytical essay section replaces the multiple choice analytical skills section of the old GRE. This writing section consists of two separate essays — one analyzing an argument and one in which the test-takers are asked to advocate their perspectives on certain issues.
“For people who would do well on the other version, writing will offer the opportunity to do just as well,” said Derek Miller ’04, who said he plans to take the GRE. “For people who have trouble with the logic section, it will allow them to perform more closely to a classroom situation, which should be better. I don’t know the last time a graduate class had to answer whether Susan was taller than Billy.”
Those who are planning to take either the MCAT or the GRE will have opportunities to practice the newly formatted exams in New Haven for free. Kaplan will offer practice tests at its center Oct. 26, while the Princeton Review will be coming to campus to hold a review session.