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13 May

Students prepare as the American Medical Association (AMA) prepares to transition to the new 2015 MCAT

New 2015 MCAT

It's hard to believe it, but the new 2015 MCAT will be upon us soon. There are a lot of big chances that you should be aware of.

Why is the MCAT exam changing?

According to the AAMC, the entire healthcare paradigm has changed sufficiently to warrant a reconsideration of the material and the focus of the MCAT exam. Indeed, the exam has been totally redesigned.

How was the MCAT revised?

For more than three years, the AAMC (American Association of Medical Colleges), which is responsible for administrating the MCAT, had its 21-member advisory committee review the current exam format, in order to find ways to improve the exam. More than 2,700 surveys completed by faculty, medical students, residents and physicians were used in its revision.

How will the content and organization of the 2015 MCAT look?

The writing sample has been completely removed and much of the organic chemistry and physics has been removed from the exam. Moreover, what constitutes the current Physical Sciences and Biological Sciences sections of the exam has been reorganized and reweighted into two new categories called the Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems and the Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems. The Verbal Reasoning section of the exam has been transformed into a new section called Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills.

In addition to these changes, a new section comprised primarily of new psychology and sociology subject matter has been added on the 2015 MCAT exam. These sections aim to examine understanding of the behavioral and socio-cultural determinants of health. Topics such as social stratification, access to resources and well-being are also included in this section of the exam. This change constitutes a major departure from the previous MCAT which had no content in these subject areas whatsoever.

How has the relative focus on content shifted on the 2015 MCAT?

The size of the test has increased substantially, and entire areas of previously important subject matter (areas of organic chemistry and physics) have been eliminated entirely.

Old MCAT
SectionQuestionsMinutesProportion of exam
Physical Sciences 52 70 36%
Verbal Reasoning 40 60 28%
Biological Sciences 52 70 36%
Totals 144 200 100%
2015 MCAT
SectionQuestionsMinutesProportion of exam
Biological/Biochemical Foundations 67 95 26%
Chemical/Physical Foundations 67 95 26%
Psychological/Social/Biological
Foundations of Behavior
67 95 26%
Critical Analysis and Reasoning 60 90 23%
Totals 261 375 100%

The new section on Psychology, Sociology and Biological Foundations of Behavior has gone from 0% on the old MCAT to 26% of the total exam for the 2015 MCAT.

How will the core science sections on the 2015 MCAT exam be weighted?

The new Biological and Biochemical Foundations section of Living Systems section will have the follow breakdown:

  • Introductory biology (65%)
  • 1st-semester biochemistry (25%)
  • General chemistry (5%)
  • Organic chemistry (5%)

The new Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems section will have the following breakdown:

  • General chemistry (30%)
  • Organic chemistry (25%)
  • Introductory physics (25%)
  • 1st-semester biochemistry (15%)
  • Introductory biology (5%)

How will the test writing and prep experience change?

The 2015 MCAT will still be computer based, but it will be significantly longer at 6.25 hours. There is a lot more breadth of material to cover and students will now need to take courses in sociology and psychology in order to prepare for the MCAT. In general, the focus of the material has shifted and material has been both added and removed. The changes are so significant that it is difficult to speculate as to whether the test will be any “harder” than it is now. With that said, certainly the philosophy of the exam has changed from an exam strictly rooted in the core sciences to being an exam that is perhaps more holistic by encompassing the social sciences.