Pre-med students rush to take MCAT before major exam changes

Jeanne Kuang, Campus Editor

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Northwestern pre-medical students are rushing to take the MCAT before the new version of the test, which will be longer and include more subjects, is administered in April.

The exam used for admission to medical school will be administered six more times from November to the end of January before it undergoes significant changes, including an extension to a total of more than six hours of testing time and the addition of a social and behavioral sciences section.

The MCAT2015 will also feature critical analysis and reasoning skills sections to encourage medical school applicants to be well-rounded, according to the test’s developer, the Association of American Medical Colleges.

“It is the largest change to the MCAT in a generation,” said Eric Chiu, executive director of pre-medical programs at Kaplan Test Prep, which offers classes and practice materials for the exam.

Many pre-medical students at NU said they have either taken the test earlier than planned or seen their classmates rushing to register. Last year, 302 undergraduate students from NU applied to medical school, according to the AAMC.

Weinberg junior Bryan Huebner said he took the test earlier this month, two quarters before the spring of his junior year when pre-medical students typically take the MCAT.

Huebner said he took the test early to avoid the long testing time and new subjects.

“I just had a gut feeling those questions would be more ambiguous,” Huebner said, adding the new subjects are less focused on hard science.

Weinberg junior Jenny Zhang said she felt she would be unprepared for the MCAT2015. She took the test earlier this month and said she has seen many classmates looking to take it soon so they can take advantage of existing preparation materials.

“I guess our year will probably be a guinea pig year,” Zhang said. “If they come out with a new exam, there’s no way to know what’s actually going to be on the test.”

Zhang said she took the test early because the new exam would require knowledge in psychology and sociology, neither of which she has taken before.

“The new test focuses more on the role in society physicians have,” she said. “I think it’s really important. It’s just difficult transitioning into it.”

Instead of rushing to take the test early, however, Weinberg junior Jessi Marone plans to take the MCAT2015 in the spring. She said she wants to take her time completing a pre-requisite class before the exam and her knowledge as an anthropology minor may help improve her score on a test that includes the social sciences.

“I think the social science component is really important because medicine is a really social science,” Marone said. “You’re working directly with people, and if you don’t understand the people you’re trying to serve, you’re completely underserving them.”

Marone called the new exam’s length “daunting” and “frustrating.”

“I don’t understand why they modified it without shortening a section,” she said.

A Kaplan survey of 78 medical schools found no consensus on which test scores are preferred by school admissions for applicants who have a choice. While 44 percent of schools told Kaplan they had no preference, 28 percent recommended the current test, and 27 percent suggested the MCAT2015.

The Feinberg School of Medicine’s admissions department will accept either test score for a three-year period and students can submit either version of the test or both during that time, Warren Wallace, associate dean of admissions, said in an email to The Daily.

Wallace said the social science component of the test “is a good thing and very much in-line with the orientation of Feinberg to produce well rounded physicians.”

Clarification: This story has been updated to more accurately reflect Marone’s statements.

Twitter: @jeannekuang