How to keep pace with the changes in medicine and not flunk the MCAT
MCAT (Medical College Admission Test) is a standard computerized examination for admission into various medical schools including allopathic, osteopathic, podiatric, and veterinary medicine in the US and Canada. The significance of scores varies depending on the medical school and qualifications and achievements of the applicants. The eligibility criteria for taking up the MCAT exam are the completion of any of these four courses: one year of biology, physics, English or two years of chemistry.
The four and a half hour exam tests the knowledge and cognitive skills of the students willing to pursue health profession through scores in the three contexts: natural sciences including test of scientific reasoning skills, problem solving skills and concepts of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics; critical analysis and reasoning skills include questions on passages relating to social sciences and humanities to test the analytical and reasoning skills; and finally testing the writing skills that includes two comprehensive essays.
This exam pattern has been prevalent since 1991; however, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) had decided to change the pattern from 2015 which means students applying for medical school admission in September 2016 will have to witness the new exam pattern. The changes in the exam pattern is basically to keep in pace with the rapid and significant transformation in the healthcare sector and shifting the focus of the healthcare professionals to the concepts that will be of great significance in the future. The new concepts identified for the new pattern is based on inputs from various advisory groups, extensive research and survey of a large number of medical school faculties, admission officers, medical students and residents.
The 2015 MCAT exam will consist of four sections: Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behaviour; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills. The most significant change between the old and the new version of exam will be the addition of the third section i.e. behavioural and social sciences and elimination of the writing skills section. In the 2015 MCAT, test of biochemical concepts has also been added to the in the natural science sections that included concepts of biology, general chemistry, organic chemistry and physics in the previous exam version. The new pattern will not only test the scientific reasoning and problem solving skills of the examinees but also their ability to use research methods and statistical methods to solve problems. The critical analysis and reasoning skills section will include questions that require examinees to use the current science with cognition in their analytical and reasoning skills. The individual test sections will also include more question and the exam duration will be approximately six and a half hours.
The most important thing to be understood is that the MCAT is not an exam to test the memorizing power of the applicants but to test the understanding of the subject concepts and the ability of the applicants to interpret and apply the knowledge in different scenarios. The basic two pointers to be remembered to take up the MCAT exam is time management and wrong answers do not score negative marks. Like for any other exam, time management is very important to be able to attempt all the questions. In MCAT, there is no negative scoring for wrong answers and only the right answers are summed to arrive at the final scores. Therefore the allocated time should be managed in a way that there is time to at least attempt all the questions.