The Pros and Cons of the MCAT 2015

Was it worth the switch?

Some of the differences outlined between the old and 2015 version of the MCAT

Last year I had to write the MCAT, an exam meant to determine my candidacy for medical school, and ultimately, becoming a physician. On top of being a bundle of nerves over having to remember basically everything I’ve ever learned in school and flawlessly regurgitate it, I was also concerned about walking into the uncharted territory of the brand new MCAT 2015.

I remember way back in first and second year all my friends were preparing to take the old MCAT version, but I — being busy with work and school — brushed off the notion until my final summer. A couple months before I started preparing, I realized that the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) had decided to completely revise to MCAT for January 2015. With this revision came additional question categories, such as psychology, sociology and biochemistry. This multidisciplinary expansion tacked on 2 hrs to the already 5 hour writing time. As a student effected by this overhaul, I will briefly outline the major pros and cons of the version switch and discuss their implications.

Pros:

  • Additional categories test a wider knowledge base, and students ability to do well across categories shows versatility and may increase the criterion validity of the test.
  • Less selection bias based on university major/program. As someone in psychology, I found it incredibly advantageous to be able to demonstrate my strengths in the newly added psychology category.

Cons:

  • The exam was 7 hours. I don’t know about you, but sitting and concentrating on a computer screen doing timed questions, without water or food, and only 3 short breaks pushed me mentally and physically far past what I consider healthy. Maybe this was intentionally done to see how we preform under stressful and deprived conditions? Either way I believe this method to be a little unethical for what is proclaimed to be a solely knowledge based test.
  • Of medical school applicants, some will have MCAT 2015 scores, and others will have the older version scores. I don’t think it’s fair to compare the two as equals, considering the content, length and scoring (scores ranging from 3–45 now range from 472–528) differences. Even if a university was to just consider the MCAT 2015 category scores which carried over from the older version, that would not be a fair assessment method either, as students had to divide their study time differently across testing conditions.
  • Students preparing for the older version of the exam had many resources available to them for practice exams, study prep and testimony, whereas walking into the 2015 exam, no one knew what to expect. I purchased the Princeton Review texts and the ONE online practice test available through the AAMC, but even these had disclosures of potential inaccuracy to the real thing, so I felt disadvantaged in what to expect.

Personally, I find the cons outweigh the pros here. Even though I appreciated my topics of study being included in the new version, and agree with the reasoning behind it, the AAMC should have been more conscientious of the effects such changes have on the MCAT as a standardized assessment tool. Is it really reliable if people who took the old version can obtain extremely different scores on the new? Since both versions measure different content, one must be an invalid measure, in which case how are they comparable for medical school admissions?

References:

What Will MCAT2015 Look Like? (2014). Retrieved March 20, 2016, from http://blog.accepted.com/2014/06/20/new-mcat-vs-old-mcat-infographic/

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