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AAMC Releases Preliminary Recommendations for New MCAT® Exam

Washington, D.C., March 31, 2011—The AAMC (Association of American Medical Colleges) today released preliminary recommendations for a new version of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). The proposed recommendations were developed by a 22-member advisory panel, the “MR5 Committee,” appointed by the AAMC in 2008 to review the current MCAT exam.

The 14 preliminary recommendations are the product of an extensive, three-year period during which the MR5 Committee held more than 75 outreach events with stakeholder groups, 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.

In the next several months, the MR5 Committee will continue its dialogue with stakeholders on the proposed recommendations, leading up to final approval by the AAMC Board of Directors in February 2012. If approved, the recommendations will be introduced with the 2015 MCAT examination.

Included in the preliminary recommendations are key changes to the content and format of the current MCAT exam. The proposed changes aim to balance the exam’s focus on the natural sciences with the testing of critical analysis and reasoning skills, and direct attention to the behavioral and social sciences by:

  • Updating the exam’s two natural sciences sections to reflect current science and test how examinees solve problems in a way that helps demonstrate their scientific thinking and research skills;
  • Adding a new test of the behavioral and social sciences concepts that lay the foundation for medical students’ learning about the human and social issues of medicine;
  • Revising the current verbal section to test the way examinees reason through passages in ethics and philosophy, cross-cultural studies, population health, and other subjects to communicate the need for students to read broadly in preparing for their medical education.

Other differences between the current exam and the proposed new version would be the deletion of the Writing Sample test section. The more comprehensive content in the new recommended exam would increase testing time by approximately 90 minutes.

“In the last three years, we have engaged in an intensive outreach campaign to assess the current test and gather input on what a new and improved MCAT exam would look like,” said MR5 Committee Chair Steven G. Gabbe, M.D., senior vice president for health sciences and CEO of the Ohio State University Medical Center. “The committee believes these proposed changes will preserve what is best in the exam, eliminate what is not, and enrich the MCAT by emphasizing the concepts future physicians will need to master at this phase of their education.”

“Rapid changes in all scientific fields, the impact of behavior on health, and a more diverse population require tomorrow’s doctors to be more broadly prepared,” added Ronald D. Franks, M.D., vice-chair of the committee and vice president of health sciences at the University of South Alabama. “Although these recommendations are preliminary, we thought it best to be as transparent as possible as early as possible about the likely changes to the MCAT.”

The MR5 Committee also proposed recommendations about the types of resources that may be needed to assist and prepare examinees, their faculty advisors, and medical school admissions committees for the new exam, such as ones that:

  • Clearly describe the types of decisions test scores are and are not designed to support in a holistic review of an applicant’s qualifications;
  • Prepare examinees for the new test, paying special attention to the needs of students at under-resourced institutions;
  • Help medical schools track and conduct research on the value and validity of the new exam for student selection;
  • Provide low-cost preparation materials, in addition to fee waivers and discounts on preparation materials, for examinees who qualify.

Finally, the panel proposes that the AAMC develop an admissions toolbox that will help medical schools gather data beyond MCAT scores on integrity, altruism, and other personal characteristics early in their student selection process. The AAMC will explore if this information could be acquired through a new section of the AMCAS® (American Medical College Application Service) application that asks potential medical students to reflect on experiences that demonstrate their personal characteristics, through standardized letters of evaluation that ask about them or with other new application tools.

This is the fifth time the MCAT has been evaluated since it was first administered in 1928. The last full-scale review of the MCAT exam was completed in 1990. The AAMC currently administers more than 85,000 MCAT examinations each year at hundreds of locations in the United States and around the world.


The Association of American Medical Colleges is a not-for-profit association dedicated to transforming health care through innovative medical education, cutting-edge patient care, and groundbreaking medical research. Its members comprise all 147 accredited U.S. and 17 accredited Canadian medical schools; nearly 400 major teaching hospitals and health systems, including 51 Department of Veterans Affairs medical centers; and more than 80 academic societies. Through these institutions and organizations, the AAMC serves the leaders of America’s medical schools and teaching hospitals and their nearly 160,000 faculty members, 83,000 medical students, and 115,000 resident physicians. Additional information about the AAMC and its member medical schools and teaching hospitals is available at