Starting in 2015, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) will include several new sections in the social sciences and critical thinking, as well as eliminate the writing sample. As a result of the new content, the test length will increase one hour, bringing the total testing time to about six and half hours long. The upcoming changes stem from medical schools embracing a more holistic approach to admissions. The hope is that the 2015 MCAT will assist medical schools in attracting students with broader undergraduate training. For more, see Blog.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), the current MCAT “is a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee’s problem solving, critical thinking, writing skills, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine.” The new MCAT is being billed as “a better test for tomorrow’s doctors” by the AAMC, which expects the changes in the MCAT to motivate many more pre-medical students to take courses in psychology, sociology, or health behaviors.

A 2011 report released by the AAMC suggests that the integration of social and behavioral sciences into medical education curricula and clinical practice will improve the health of all patients. In the report, AAMC President and CEO Darrell Kirch, said, “Being a good doctor is about more than scientific knowledge. It also requires an understanding of people. By balancing the MCAT exam’s focus on the natural sciences with a new section on the psychological, social, and biological foundations of behavior, the new exam will better prepare students to build strong knowledge of the socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health.” The changes to the MCAT reflect the fact that medical schools want well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds.

According to the US News article, “What Looming MCAT Changes Mean for Aspiring Doctors,” pre-medical students’ course selections will be affected. They will now need solid foundations in basic sciences, social sciences, behavioral sciences, and the humanities. The entire pre-med curricula will be shifting to ensure that students take the required coursework to prepare them for the new MCAT. In addition, older applicants may need to enroll in a post-baccalaureate program or supplement their earlier education with additional courses.