In 2012, the president of the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) announced in an open letter to all pre-medical students a new Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The reason given for the change was that “the health system of tomorrow will require a different kind of physician.” Instead of focusing just on core concepts in the natural sciences, the exam added novel emphases on problem solving, reasoning skills, and foundational topics on human and social issues related to medicine. These changes manifested in a new MCAT with four sections, and the new MCAT was launched in April 2015.
Changes Before the New MCAT
Believe it or not, the MCAT exam has gone through quite a number of revisions before the 2015 change. While I have no intention of going through all the history, I do want to explain the most recent change. Here is the timeline of the events that occurred:
2008: The AAMC announced the formation of a committee to perform a comprehensive review of the MCAT exam. The committee was tasked with evaluating the content of the current exam and suggesting changes with the goal of improving the utility of the test score for medical school admissions committees.
2011: The committee presented its recommendations for a new MCAT exam.
2012: The recommendations suggested by the committee were approved and the new MCAT was set for launch in 2015.
2013-14: One important finding from the committee was that the writing section of the MCAT was of low value to medical school admissions committee. Following the announcement in the previous year, the AAMC canceled the writing section of the MCAT in 2013, as the new MCAT would not include a writing section. In place of the writing section, the AAMC created an optional trial section at the end containing potential passages and questions for the new exam.
January 2015: Traditionally, the MCAT is offered in the months of January through September each year. As little information had been released about the new MCAT, pre-medical students rushed to take the old MCAT by September of 2014. When all of the testing dates filled up, the AAMC decided to extend test dates for the old MCAT through the rest of the 2014 and the start of 2015. The last administration of the old MCAT was on January 23rd, 2015.
The First Administration of the New MCAT
Registration for the new MCAT opened in February 2015 with April 2015 as the first possible test date. The AAMC knew that students would not want to be the first to take an entirely new exam so they offered students taking the test in April a financial incentive in the form of a $150 Amazon gift card. Since then, the new MCAT has been administered for an entire year and the scores have been used successfully by medical school admissions committees in evaluating applications in the 2015 – 2016 medical school application cycle. There are no more gift cards now but pre-medical students will still have to take this new MCAT exam. Check out one of our other posts to learn more about what to expect on the new MCAT.