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Students study harder to adapt to MCAT changes

If getting into medical school isn’t stressful enough, pre-med students will now have to know more and study harder to meet the new requirements of the revised Medical College Admission Test (MCAT).

The new exam will add biochemistry, psychology and sociology to the current list of subjects that include biology, organic chemistry, general chemistry and physics. The length of the test will also stretch from five hours and 10 minutes to seven hours and 30 minutes. 

Students can take the current version of the MCAT until January. The revised exam, which was announced in February 2012, will replace the existing test in April 2015.

“It’s going to be different,” said Allison Distler, a USF junior majoring in molecular biology. “We’re not used to taking courses like sociology (and) psychology.” 

Distler will be taking the test in 2015, and said her studying methods are heavily affected by the three additional semesters’ worth of material included in the new exam format. 

Owen Farcy, the director of pre-medical partnerships at Kaplan Test Prep, said the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has been thinking about updating the MCAT for some time now. 

The last major changes to the test took place over 20 years ago. 

“This is going to be a drastically different test,” she said. “The practice of medicine as well as the science that underlies medicine has changed dramatically (since 1992).”

The 2015 MCAT will focus more on research design, graphical analysis and data interpretation, which are areas Farcy said pre-med students aren’t as exposed to. 

Saeed Sinan, a freshman majoring in biomedical science, said he thinks the newer version of the test will create well-rounded medical students. 

“It’ll give me more of an idea about psychology, physiology, how a person reacts to something … it’s not just (about) biochemistry and physics,” he said. “I’ll learn in depth and it’ll make me believe why I should be a doctor.”

In a survey done by Kaplan of 78 different medical schools, results showed that 44 percent of the institutions said it made no difference which version of the test students took, 28 percent prefer the current version and 27 percent prefer the newer one. 

Since students will likely find themselves taking more classes in order to prepare for the 2015 exam, Kaplan and the Princeton Review offer tutoring and courses to help students brace themselves for the changes. 

Kaplan will host a monthly series beginning Sept. 22 called The Pulse to help pre-med students understand and “dissect” the new test. 

Additionally, USF Morsani College of Medicine is partnering with the Princeton Review to offer a course entitled “Medical Sciences Success Skills” this fall. The three-credit course covers subjects such as physics, general and organic chemistry, biology and verbal reasoning review.

Students can also download an “MCAT 2015 Sneak Peek” digital guide to take a full-length practice test for free.

Despite a more challenging test, Farcy said better students and practitioners would result from the new MCAT.

“It’s going to create better applicants to medical school and better young physicians,” he said. “That’s really the goal here, to select the best students for medical school but ultimately to select the best of the next generation of doctors.”