The New MCAT (debuting in 2015)

I’m not sure if this has already been posted and, if so, feel free to delete this post.

The NY Times has an extremely interesting and pertinent article about the addition of a new section to the MCAT beginning in 2015.

Here is the link: edlife…

What do you guys think of it? I think the idea is nice, but that a standardized test will never be able to test for bedside manner - that kind of information should be gleaned from recommendations and volunteer work and not from standardized tests.

However, I find standardized tests useless in general and vote for their abolishment, so perhaps I am biased.

Ridiculous. The problem isn’t that physicians don’t want to listen to patients, they don’t have time. Pushing the meat is what is required to get the money in. Money in, salary goes up, student loans get paid. I think it’s really that simple. A new test is not going to change any of that. Besides in our relativistic postmodern society people will know what the correct answer is on the test but that does not mean that it will translate into the real world.

I feel like I have a lot to say about this and am not sure that my opinions on it really hold water. But in all honesty, how can a written test gauge how well you will treat a patient in a real world situation? I would agree with the fact that doctors should be empathic, but I don’t know that the MCAT is the best way to go about that.


I agree completely, Indie–you can’t. But, at the same time, you have to try to gauge it somehow. I don’t think the new MCAT will be a singular gauge of those kinds of things, though… rather, just another tool in the box to assess basic things about one’s personality and how problems/issues are looked at by the test taker.

Example–for new hires at my company, part of the process is a personality profile. It’s a seemingly random (and kind of weird) set of ethical questions… less than 20. And, by looking at it, many people think they can predict what the “right answer” is. (i.e. ‘what the company WANTS me select’ as right). However, in doing so, it actually reveals some pretty accurate things about that individual’s personality. I do the hiring on my team, and I’ve been through my team’s assessments–they are DEAD on for each person. And yet, each person picked what they thought was the ‘right’ answer (I’ve talked with them about this post-test.) NOT necessarily what they would pick…but what they thought we wanted to see. They are, after all, trying to get the job. So, when the poster above says that “people will know what the correct answer is on the test…” In my experience, that’s still far more subjective than you might think.

So…I’m not sure where I’m going with this… but I think the new MCAT may just assess some things that the current one can’t. Adding a few “squishier topics covering social and behavioral sciences and another on critical analysis covering areas like ethics and cross-cultural studies” won’t tell med schools whether a person will be an empathetic, caring doctor in the end. But if it helps poke at the test taker’s personality a little better, then I think it can be of added value. If it doesn’t, then there’s really no harm done. That will reveal itself pretty quickly either way.

Regardless, I applaud them for continually trying to evolve our standard of measurement and make it a better assessment of true success as a physician.

Great food for thought–and only time will tell. Right now, I have to get through the current MCAT, so I should probably make that one my focus.

I have worked in Human Services for 28 years and as a clinical provider for 16 of those years. We use multiple tests and tools to tease out measures of personality, symptom profiles, conscience, and lots of other “squishy” variables. There is a LOT of hard science out there in my profession that is focused on measuring these attributes. Having worked with many, many doctors in the healthcare field whom are, I am sure, brilliant in Math and Science, but whom had ZERO people skills and bedside manner, and having had to clean up many of their messes (those in nursing can chime in anytime here) I have found myself wishing many, many times that doctors who do more harm than good because of their inability to know how to act around patients had somehow been “weeded out”. It is NOT enough to just be brilliant. I don’t think Hippocrates wrote the oath as he did based on a doctor’s projected MCAT, but on how a doctor should serve, and behave, with patients and society in general. And carrieliz is right. These tools can be amazingly accurate based on the hard science behind them. I see TREMENDOUS value in adding this to the test. In my profession, in our junior year of undergraduate, we needed to pass a screening by professors that determined if we were “emotionally fit” to enter into the profession. Those in the helping professions who are not, burn out and become diagnosed themselves rapidly when subjected to the caregiver stress of the profession. I applaud the makers of the MCAT for finally considering this important aspect of what it takes to be a healer.

Very interesting article. I have known about the changes for some time, but never really looked into it as much as this article does.

I think this is the best quote out of the whole article:

"Being a good doctor isn’t just about understanding science, it’s about understanding people.”

While we are always against change, I think the MCAT adding SOMETHING to try to address bedside manner is a good step. It certainly is more valuable than the verbal reasoning section!

In the end I don’t know how much affect it will the end results, as I have always debated that part of the “end result” (i.e. lack of bedside manner and bitterness) is the PROCESS and not the person. It brings you back to the whole Nature vs Nurture debate.

I will be very interested to see what the doctors of the future will look like!

The MCAT is not a personality test and therefore is a poor gauge of it.

Perhaps the article is a bit misleading. The AAMC webpage on MR5 makes no mention of testing for bedside manner. With regard to the psychological and sociological section, the preview guide simply states “This section tests your knowledge and use of the concepts in psychology, sociology, biology, research methods, and statistics that provide a solid foundation for learning in medical school about the behavioral and socio-cultural determinants of health and health outcomes.” 006/data…

However, I guess the AAMC is looking into other methods (not the MCAT) for testing / evaluating / measuring bedside manner. These seem to be directed more at the AMCAS application and the interview process. See recommendations 13 and 14 and the link to the “Innovation Lab” webpage. minary_r… _mr5/646…