New MCAT Reflective of Changes To Medicine, Medical School

Starting in just a few short weeks, a much different MCAT will be administered across the nation. These revisions are some of the most extensive changes to the test in its 80-plus year history. The new test will identify specific competencies whereas previous versions relied heavily on one's grasp of prescribed material.

The question for many is...why?

All of these changes to the MCAT are spurred on by a domino-effect that begins with the fact that health care is changing. Advancements in medicine and technology are consistently coming at a rapid pace. This is especially true today in the information age.

Since the last version of the MCAT was first implemented, medical research and scientific knowledge have taken great strides. Thus, the foundation that tomorrow's doctors need to have is also evolving. Future physicians will need enhanced critical reasoning skills and must also have the ability to apply an even broader set of knowledge to more diverse populations. What makes a good doctor is being redefined.

For instance, we now know how big a role behavioral and sociocultural factors play in determining health. Future physicians need to comprehend how behaviors, biological factors, physical environments and even social inequities all influence a patient and, on a larger scale, the communities in which they come from.

For this reason, medical schools are adopting more competency-based curricula, including the Michigan State University College of Human Medicine (CHM). Here at CHM, we will be transitioning into our Shared Discovery curriculum next year to better prepare students for residency and beyond.

The typical medical school curriculum has required a lot of book learning and memorizing facts. But medical schools like our own will implement clinical exposure much earlier to augment competency-based learning beyond lectures and reading materials.

Broader bodies of knowledge that include interprofessional training, communication, and the social determinants of health will be emphasized to ensure future doctors are able to deliver better patient care and solve the complex problems facing the future of medicine.

This philosophical change directly affects what incoming students need to be prepared for, which in turn affects how medical school applicants are reviewed in the first place. While CHM was the first medical school in Michigan to use the Multiple Mini-Interview format (MMI), others across the U.S. are switching to interview methods like the MMI as they transition into a more holistic review process.

Potential students must be more well-rounded than they were in the past. Meaningful social and volunteer experiences paired with clinical exposure are just two more things CHM considers when reviewing an applicant. The personal statement, secondary essays and letters of recommendation are also important factors beyond metrics when determining one's fit with our program. Lastly, one must do well on the MCAT.

The MCAT's purpose is to examine "the skills and knowledge medical educators and physicians have identified as key prerequisites for success in medical school and the practice of medicine," per the MCAT Essentials guide.

Since the skills and knowledge that will be required of medical school students have changed, the MCAT must adapt so that it may properly assess those key prerequisites.

As discussed in detail on our previous post, the test will still be heavy in natural sciences. But the new revisions will also require some competency with social and behavioral sciences. In addition, the Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section will test just that—the analysis and reasoning skills needed for success in medical school.

The hope is that this combination of testing will help diversify the workforce by making the exam and medical school application process more attractive to individuals from a variety of academic and demographic backgrounds.

Per the MCAT Essentials guide, "Increasing diversity within the study of medicine is something the AAMC and our members actively promote and endeavor to advance. It is hoped that the new content and skills tested on the exam will encourage people from broad educational backgrounds to apply to medical school."

The general consensus from medical educators and physicians alike is that the new MCAT will produce stronger, better equipped medical students. It's about more than science and preparation is always important. Here are some tips.

It is a very interesting time to enter the field of medicine. The release of the new MCAT is a milestone reflective not only of where medicine is, but also where it is headed.

Note: This is the second of a two-piece installment regarding the most recent set of revisions being made to the MCAT in April 2015. To read the first piece, please see "What You Need To Know About MCAT 2015: Details and Prep Info."



Popular posts from this blog

Third-Year Student Highlights First Half of Medical School Experience One Second At A Time

First-year student, Harminder Sandhu, Steps Up As Newest Student Blogger

Taking It All In, Part 1: Transitioning To A Special Medical School