MCAT to integrate communication skills

In keeping with societal changes and advancements in the medical field, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) will undergo changes in 2015 for the first time since 2007.

The new MCAT will explore ways to add communication skills to the testing experience. It will be divided into four sections; the first three will remain science based while the fourth section will consist of reading passages and questions based on ethics and cross-cultural studies. Section one will regard cellular and molecular biology, section two will cover biochemistry and section three will deal with the behavioral and social sciences.

“The idea is that a good doctor isn’t just someone who just knows science, they should have the instincts of compassion and have the ability to relate to people,” said professor George Briggs, chair of the biology department.

Although the Association of American Medical Colleges will be removing the essay portion of the exam, the new sections will add about 90 minutes to the test, making it approximately 6 1/2 hours long.

Briggs said he agrees with the changes but he also realizes that this might make attaining the course requirements for the pre-med program more difficult than it already is. The changes will take place in 2015, which means students coming in next fall will be affected.

Aside from the original course requirements, it will also be necessary for pre-med students to take certain introductory biochemistry, sociology and psychology classes.

“It might be problematic how the colleges respond to this,” said Briggs.

“By moving in this direction, the AAMC and the medical schools show that they are interested in medical school candidates that understand people, not just scientific details,” said Max Jacobson, a senior biology major who teaches the MCAT class for Kaplan Test Prep at Geneseo. Jacobson said he believes the changes will ultimately have positive effects on the medical field.

According to Jacobson, it is important for employees involved in such a precise and intricate area of hire to also be able to understand how people work according not only to their brain chemistries but also to their cultures and individual characteristics.

Jacobson also said that despite the changes, the main focus of the test would stay the same.

“This is because physicians need to be able to incorporate new details on the fly and make smart decisions,” he said. “Critical thinking is the focus of the old MCAT, and will still remain the focus in the new MCAT,” he said.

According to Jacobson, it is important that workers in the medical field are able to analyze a situation and respond and communicate with the patient appropriately.

Freshman anthropology major Rae Benton is also pre-med student and said that she agrees with the changes to the MCAT.

“In order to be a doctor you need to be able to communicate with all different kinds of people,” Benton said.