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MCAT changes impact students' testing timelines

Expected revisions to the Medical College Admission Test have caused some premedical students to take the test at a different time and may have effects on the preparatory courses and classes premedical students choose to enroll in.

The MCAT is the standard examination for prospective medical students in Canada and the United States. The Association of American Medical Colleges announced the changes last year as part of an attempt to test students on subjects that are becoming more relevant for doctors today. Among the changes is the addition of a new section titled “Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior;” a revised biological sciences section that emphasizes biochemistry; and a prolonged examination period, from 5 hours and 10 minutes to 7 hours and 30 minutes.

“It’s not just about treating symptoms. It’s more about treating patients and having a better sense of what society looks like,” Director of Health Professions Advising Kate Fukawa-Connelly, said. “So, they’re putting more emphasis on people and the humanistic side of health care.”

The direct impact the MCAT changes will have on students has yet to be known, Fukawa-Connelly explained, as students delay their application to medical school for numerous reasons.

“We’ve definitely seen trends towards students taking time off, but we don’t know if the causal link is their courses, their desire to get more exposure or just because they want to take a break from school for a year,” she said. “So there’s not really a good way to know whether it’s course-linked, but people are definitely taking their time.”

However, for some students, the changes have forced them to amend their timeline for taking the MCAT and thus, applying for medical school. Daniel Tzou ’16 said he wanted to take the MCAT this summer but had to delay it because he has not taken psychology or sociology. He added that he would also have had to wait because his schedule this year does not allow him to take biochemistry.

In addition to students’ application timelines, the MCAT revisions might affect premedical students’ decisions on their majors and methods for test preparation, Fukawa-Connelly said.

“More students might learn more about psychology, knowing that they’re going to have to take this MCAT, and then they might realize that they like psychology after doing that, so it may open up that avenue for students in ways that haven’t before,” she explained. “But I think Princeton students have always followed their passion in terms of what they’re going to major in, and I don’t see that changing.”

She added that reliance on test prep courses might change, as updating the material with the limited test information given about the MCAT would be difficult.

“I know a lot of prep courses are trying to update their material for the new MCAT, but all we have to go off right now is a few practice questions,” Fukawa-Connelly said, noting that full-length practice tests are not available yet.

A full-length practice test is expected to be available this fall.

Students with questions regarding the new MCAT changes are advised to visit the Health Professions Advising office for more information.

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Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this article incorrectly stated when a full-length practice test for the new MCAT will be available. It will be made available this fall. The 'Prince' regrets the error.