Kaplan Test Prep’s 2016 survey of 68 medical schools across North America found that 43% believe that the new MCAT, which was initiated in April 2015, serves as a better tool to evaluate applicants’ potential to succeed in their program than does the old MCAT. The majority of those surveyed (56%) responded that they are “unsure,” and only 1% of admissions officers say that the new test worsens their capacity to evaluate applicants’ likelihood of success. According to those who believe that the new test has enhanced their ability to evaluate applicants, the exam now has a “broader variety of topics” tested, a better “focus on what the applicant has learned in school rather than rote memory,” and the added “biochem, sociology and psych that are beneficial to the school.” Despite the positive evaluations so far, medical schools are beginning only their second application cycle where students are submitting scores from the new MCAT and most of the schools are saying that there is still “not enough data” and it’s “too early to tell.”
The new MCAT is almost twice as long as the original. It also has a different scoring scale and has additional tests in biochemistry, psychology, and sociology. These constituted the biggest changes to the test in 25 years. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges (who designed the test), the new exam better reflects the changing landscape of healthcare and medicine.
Other findings from the survey include:
• 47% of medical schools say that a majority of their applicants during the last cycle submitted new MCAT scores, but 93% forecast a majority of their applicants from the current cycle will. Almost half of the medical schools surveyed stated that they would conduct longitudinal studies to measure the usefulness and effectiveness of the new MCAT.
• Despite the uncertainty, medical schools say that MCAT performance continues to be the most important admissions factor. 46% of the schools say that a low score is “the biggest application deal breaker,” with a low GPA placing second at 32%.
• Not only medical schools are using longitudinal data to improve their efforts. According to Eric Chiu, executive director of premed programs at Kaplan Test Prep, besides this most recent survey of medical schools, Kaplan has “also been collecting data from the tens of thousands of students who have prepped with Kaplan for the new MCAT to inform our recently released third-edition books and MCAT test prep programs.”
Although the test changed 18 months ago, the entering class of Fall 2016 is the first group of medical students who were able to submit the new MCAT scores with their applications. As schools get more scores from the new MCAT and are able to compare them with student performance over time, they will be able to better judge the effectiveness of this new tool in predicting applicants’ potential to succeed in their programs.