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Association of American Medical Colleges Tomorrow's Doctors, Tomorrow's Cures®

Preliminary Recommendations

The MR5 committee has drafted its preliminary recommendations for the next version of the MCAT® exam.

The preliminary recommendations consider the following: (1) the content and format of the new test; (2) essential  resources to support exam changes; and (3) what the AAMC should do to develop new measures of integrity, service orientation, and other personal characteristics that admissions committees can use early in student selection.

Again, the 14 recommendations are preliminary and provide a basis for conversation as the committee prepares its final recommendations. It’s important to note that the committee is farther along in its work on some parts of the testing blueprints than others and on some parts of its plans for testing resources and administration issues than others. Nonetheless, the committee is eager to release its preliminary recommendations to promote conversation about the directions and themes they describe.

The committee’s recommendations for the content and format of the new exam preserve what works best about the current MCAT® exam, eliminate what doesn’t, and enrich the exam by giving attention to concepts that future physicians are likely to need—using a testing format that already has proven to  be successful.

Preliminary Recommendations

The advisory committee’s preliminary recommendations regarding the content and format of the MCAT® exam:

1. Include four test sections and report four scores:

  •  Molecular, Cellular and Organismal Properties of Living Systems

  •  Physical, Chemical and Biochemical Properties of Living Systems

  •  Behavioral and Social Sciences Principles

  •  Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

2. Test examinees’ knowledge and use of the concepts in biology, chemistry, physics, biochemistry, cellular/molecular biology, research methods, and statistics that medical school faculty, students, and residents rate as most important to entering students’ success.

3. Test examinees’ knowledge and use of the concepts in behavioral and social sciences, research methods, and statistics that provide a solid foundation for medical students’ learning about the behavioral and socio-cultural determinants of health.

4. Test examinees’ ability to analyze and reason through passages in ethics and philosophy, cross-cultural studies, population health, and a wide range of social sciences and humanities disciplines to ensure that students possess the necessary critical thinking skills to be successful in medical school.

5. Eliminate the Writing Sample section.

6. Introduce the new exam in 2015.

7.  Report scores on a scale that’s similar to the current 1-15 scale, rather than a pass/fail or other categorical scale.

8.  Update the content that the exam tests on a regular schedule to ensure MCAT® keeps pace with the rapid changes in science.

The resources provided to examinees, pre-health faculty and medical school admissions committees should:

 9.  Clearly describe the types of decisions test scores are and are not designed to support in a holistic review of applicants’ qualifications.

10. Help prepare prospective examinees and pre-health faculty for the new exam, with special attention to the educational needs of students at under-resourced institutions.

11. Help medical schools track and conduct research on the value and validity of the new exam for student selection at their schools.

12. Provide low-cost preparation materials; discounts or waivers on testing fees and preparation materials for examinees who qualify for assistance; and—for examinees with disabilities who qualify—scholarships for the costs of evaluations that they need to apply for testing accommodations.

To help medical schools consider data on integrity, service orientation, and other personal characteristics early in student selection, the AAMC should:

 13. Vigorously pursue options for gathering data about personal characteristics through a new section of the AMCAS application, which asks applicants to reflect on experiences that demonstrate their personal characteristics, and through standardized letters that ask recommenders to rate and write about behaviors that demonstrate applicants’ personal and academic characteristics.

14. Mount a rigorous program of research on the extent to which applicants’ personal characteristics might be measured along with other new tools on test day, or as part of a separate regional or national event, or locally by admissions committees using nationally-developed tools.

 Arguments in Favor of the Preliminary Recommendations

 Using a testing format that has proven successful, the committee’s preliminary recommendations preserve what works, eliminate what isn’t working, and, by attending to concepts that future physicians are likely to need, further enrich the exam.

  • They balance testing between the natural sciences and the behavioral and social sciences, critical analysis and reasoning.

  • They respond to the SFFP recommendations and reflect current science.

  • They ask examinees to demonstrate their knowledge of natural and behavioral sciences by solving problems that call for scientific thinking, research and statistics skills.

  • They communicate the need for students who are prepared to deal with the human and social issues of medicine, and they stress the necessity of reading broadly to prepare for medical school.

  • They call for a scoring system that reports scores for four sections using score scales with numerous score points, which enables admissions committees to weigh and evaluate scores in ways that meet their specific missions and goals.

Preliminary Recommendations FAQ

For even further information and answers to frequently answered questions please visit the FAQ portion of the MR5 site.

Next Steps

The MR5 committee will preview its preliminary recommendations this spring and discuss its final recommendations at the AAMC Annual Meeting in Denver. AAMC’s leadership will propose the future test to the Board of Directors in February 2012