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New Medical College Admission Test® Approved

Changes Add Emphasis on Behavioral and Social Sciences

MCAT2015 for Students

A better test for tomorrow’s doctors. That’s what the new Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®) is designed to deliver.

The changes preserve what works about the current exam, eliminate what isn’t working, and further enrich the MCAT exam by giving attention to the concepts tomorrow’s doctors will need.

  • Natural sciences sections of MCAT2015 reflect recent changes in medical education.
  • Addition of the social and behavioral sciences section, Psychological, Social and Biological Foundations of Behavior, recognizes the importance of socio-cultural and behavioral determinants of health and health outcomes.
  • And the new Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills section reflects the fact that medical schools want well-rounded applicants from a variety of backgrounds.

Washington, D.C., February 16, 2012—Starting in 2015, when aspiring doctors take the MCAT® examination, they will need more than a solid basis in the natural sciences. Under changes approved today by the AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges), they also will need an understanding of the psychology, sociology, and biology that provide the foundation for learning about the human and social components of health.

The changes to the MCAT exam, the first since 1991, are designed to help students prepare for a rapidly changing health care system and an evolving body of medical knowledge while addressing the needs of a growing, aging, and increasingly diverse population.

"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," said Darrell G. Kirch, M.D., AAMC president and CEO.

A new section, "Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior," will test the ways in which these areas influence a variety of factors including people's perceptions and reactions to the world; behavior and behavior change; what people think about themselves and others; cultural and social differences that influence well-being; and the relationships among socio-economic factors, access to resources, and well-being.

By testing what is taught in introductory psychology, sociology, and biology at many undergraduate institutions, this new section will examine concepts that provide a solid foundation for learning in medical school about the behavioral and socio-cultural determinants of health. The changes to the exam also recognize a growing body of evidence showing that integrating social and behavioral sciences into medical education curricula and clinical practice can improve the health of all patients.

In addition, a new "Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills" section will test students' reasoning ability by having them analyze, evaluate, and apply information provided in passages from a wide range of social sciences and humanities disciplines, including ethics and philosophy, cross-cultural studies, and population health.

The revised exam also will include two natural sciences sections to test concepts typically taught in introductory biology, general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, and physics that medical school faculty, residents, and students rate as most important to the success of entering medical students. Building on the framework described by the report "Scientific Foundations for Future Physicians," these sections will ask test takers to combine knowledge of natural science concepts with their scientific inquiry and reasoning skills to solve problems that demonstrate their readiness for medical school.

In another major change, the exam will no longer include a writing section. Feedback from admissions officers and other data revealed that this section offered little additional information about applicants' preparation for medical school, particularly relative to the insights gained from undergraduate grades and the other sections of the exam. With all the revisions to the test, the length of the exam will increase to about six and a half hours.

Sample questions and a detailed list of concepts and topics covered by the new exam are provided in a Preview Guide for MCAT2015 . In addition, a number of resources are posted on the AAMC Web site to help students, undergraduate faculty, and pre-health advisors prepare for the exam, including an informational video featuring students describing the new exam and giving tips for preparation. The AAMC will continue to provide new resources on its Web site as they become available.

The changes to the MCAT exam were developed by a 21-member advisory panel, the MR5 Advisory Committee, appointed by the AAMC in 2008 to review the exam, which is used for admission to medical school as well as by some other health professions including podiatry and veterinary medicine. The final recommendations are the product of an extensive, three-year period during which the MR5 committee gathered input from stakeholders at more than 90 outreach events, solicited expert input from blue-ribbon committees and advisory groups, and reviewed more than 2,700 informational and opinion surveys from undergraduate and medical school faculty, administrators, residents, and medical students.

The revisions to the MCAT exam are part of a broader effort by the AAMC and the nation's medical schools to improve the medical school admissions process. Through efforts such as holistic review and the development of tools to help admissions committees assess the personal characteristics of applicants, medical schools are working on new and better ways to assess prospective medical students on criteria beyond traditional academic predictors of success.

The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association representing all 137 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 62 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and nearly 90 academic and scientific societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC represents 128,000 faculty members, 75,000 medical students, and 110,000 resident physicians. Additional information about the AAMC and U.S. medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at

Lesley Ward
Senior Media Relations Specialist
Telephone: 202-828-0655

Why your waiter has an M.D.

Anthony Youn, M.D., VMD Username “tonyyounmd”, is a plastic surgeon in Metro Detroit. He is the author of “In Stitches,”  a humorous memoir about his Match Day and becoming a doctor.

I met Sam* in the OR a few years ago. A polite surgical technician in his early 30s, we’d often chat after work.

Sam obtained his medical degree from a school in Eastern Europe prior to immigrating to the United States. Now he spends his days cleaning surgical instruments and his nights working in a restaurant.

“Someday I’ll be a surgeon, just like you,” he says to me.

How did this happen? Sam had a bad Match Day.
Medical training in the U.S. involves four years of medical school followed by 3 to 6 years of residency training. International graduates must also attend residency in the U.S. if they wish to practice here.

On Match Day, graduating medical students learn which residency program they’ll be joining. Residency determines a physician’s field of medicine. For a young doctor to become a pediatrician, for example, he or she must complete a pediatric residency.

This year Match Day occurs today, March 16.

The National Resident Matching Program (NRMP) couples prospective applicants with residency programs, sort of like a medical version of eHarmony. Each applicant makes a list ranking the residency programs in their order of desirability. The residency programs do the same with the applicants, and the NRMP matches them up.
Not all graduating medical students get matched.

According to the NRMP, last year 971 graduates of U.S. medical schools were shut out, accounting for 5.9% of U.S. grads. Graduates of international medical schools fared even worse - less than 50% of them obtained a residency.

That means more than 7,000 doctors were left with a diploma that said “M.D.” but no guarantee they would be able to use it.

Just like Sam.

So what are all of these doctors doing?

The majority of unmatched grads obtain a temporary one-year residency spot with no guarantee of future training. They then reapply the following year with hopes of landing a permanent, multi-year residency position.

Others wind up performing research in labs prior to re-entering the Match. Still others abandon their dreams of becoming a practicing physician and exit the medical field altogether.

This situation is only going to worsen. Due to the pending doctor shortage, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has called for a 30% increase in medical school enrollment, or 5,000 more doctors each year. College universities have responded to this demand, with 18 new medical schools currently in the process of opening.

The increase in the number of medical students would lead to an increase in residency positions as well, right?


Since 2001, the number of first year residency positions has increased by 3,000, compared to a whopping increase of 6,500 applicants. The slow growth in residency positions is likely due to a 15 year freeze in Medicare support. The current federal budget problems make lifting the freeze unlikely in the near future.

So what does this mean?

For an unmatched M.D. like Sam, it doesn’t bode well. After going unmatched his first year, he tried to match again the following year, but failed.
As the years pass, it’s becoming more and more likely that Sam will never be able to use the degree he earned.

I watch Sam meticulously clean and rinse the surgical instruments, his hands moving steadily and purposefully. There is not an ounce of unused motion. The fluidity and grace in his hands remind me of my surgical mentors.

Then the sad realization hits me. It doesn’t matter how much Sam wants it.

He will never be a surgeon.

*Sam’s name and identifying details have been changed to protect his privacy.

Update: The National Resident Matching Program has matched 95% of U.S. medical school seniors this year - the highest rate in 30 years, according to a press release sent out on Friday. The largest residency increases were seen in internal medicine, anesthesiology and emergency medicine. Also, 510 more international students were matched than were matched in 2011.

Post by: Anthony Youn M.D. -- plastic surgeon

ValueMD Value-added content (continued)

Internationalism is Key

Margaret Lambert, Dean of Enrolment Planning at St. George’s University in Grenada, says that “US schools are now recognizing what progressive educators, such as those found at St. George’s, have known for years – internationalism in medical education is no longer a nice addition for future doctors. It’s a mandate.”

Dean Lambert, a vocal advocate for excellence in medical education, says that internationalism has always been the guiding beacon at St. George’s University. She points to the University’s network of clinical affiliations in the US, the UK, Canada, and the Caribbean, selectives in Prague, Thailand, Honduras, Kenya, and Sweden, and public health practica in 40 countries as proof. “Over 30 years ago, we made a commitment to health care equality with an eye to globalization, and we put resources behind that commitment. Our students and faculty have come from 140 different countries and we offer core clinical training in nine of the US states and in three countries besides the United States. Students have the opportunity for other global experiences – the world is our clinic.”

Not shy about describing the benefits of international training at her institution, Dean Lambert also says that a student who does not take exposure to a wide range of patient populations into consideration when choosing a medical school is making a mistake.

“Quality US and UK clinical training is at the core of St. George’s curriculum,” states Lambert. “But a medical leader needs more. If I come from Kansas and intend to return  to Kansas to practice in a small isolated community, I will still need proficiency in the demands of practicing global medicine. Because borders are fluid and diseases migrate,” says Lambert. “This kind of training leads to better clinicians who have broader clinical exposure and deeper experience, no matter where they choose to practice.”

Researching the Options

Lambert encourages students to question the possibility of adding international training, no matter where they decide to attend medical school, whether inside the borders of the Unites States or elsewhere.

“For years, we have advised students to carefully question a prospective medical school on traditional indicators of excellence in education – residency placement rate, attrition rate, historical USMLE pass rates, faculty-student ratio, campus facilities, support services and so on. We also know that students must look beyond these basic requirements to what their futures will likely encompass, which include dealing with issues relating to global health. They must ensure that they receive the training they will need now…and into the future,” she said.

Dean Lambert states students should:

  • Carefully research the prospective school’s website for documentation of international opportunities.
  • Visit the school, see the facilities, talk to students and professors and administrators. See the school that you are considering as the foundation of your professional life.
  • Study lists of the school’s clinical affiliations and selectives to uncover international locations.
  • Talk to other students on forums such as and about their actual experiences in clinical training.
  • Speak to graduates of the program about their overall experience and success in their postgraduate training.

“The US medical establishment is now recognizing the importance of international training for future medical practitioners and future physicians must recognize this is an important part of their medical school experience,” Dean Lambert concludes.