The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



GMAT, MCAT change format

Casey Kenny | Friday, April 15, 2011

Students planning to take the Graduate Management Admission Test (GMAT) or the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in the near future will have to adjust to proposed changes to both tests.

The GMAT, which is used for admission to graduate business schools, will soon introduce a new section designed to test advanced reasoning skills, while the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) has announced possible changes to the MCAT.

Such changes will likely have a significant effect on student preparation for these exams, and the test preparation companies that draw business from these students are paying attention.

“Preparing will now be more of a project as the test is now more challenging and competitive,” Andrew Mitchell, director of pre-business programs for Kaplan Test Prep, said. “We expect to see challenges similar to those encountered in business school and in one’s business career.”

The Graduate Management Admission Council (GMAC) will launch the updated version of the GMAT on June 2, 2012. The revised test is designed to measure a test-taker’s ability to evaluate information from a range of different sources and formats to better reflect the challenges in today’s information-rich environment, according to the official GMAC website.

The website said the overall length of the test, as well as the current verbal and math sections, will remain unchanged. A new, separately scored integrated reasoning section will replace one of the two existing 30-minute writing sections and will require test-takers to “analyze information from multiple sources, interpret information presented graphically and discern relationships between data points.”

Admissions officers and test prep companies will follow the latest version of the GMAT closely, Mitchell said.

“Time will tell how business schools will evaluate the new GMAT, and at the end of the day they are looking for an objective measure of how people will perform in business school,” Mitchell said.

The AAMC recently released preliminary recommendations for changes to the MCAT which, if accepted, would likely be implemented in 2015.

The MCAT currently tests students on their scientific knowledge, including general chemistry, organic chemistry, biology and physics.

According to the AAMC’s website, the proposed changes reflect an effort to increase student readiness for the field of medicine and involve adding material on behavioral and social science principles. Topics that may be covered included cellular and molecular biology, biochemistry, research methods and statistics, in addition to an expansion of the current verbal reasoning section to incorporate ethics, philosophy, cross-cultural studies and population health. The current writing sample would be eliminated.

These recommended changes would extend the MCAT’s duration from the current 5.5 hours to more than 7 hours. They will also affect undergraduate student preparation for the exam and may require curriculum adjustments in order to adequately prepare students for additional test material.

Notre Dame is carefully reviewing the possible MCAT changes and the challenges they may present, Kathleen Kolberg, assistant dean of Undergraduate Studies at the Center for Health Advising, said.

“We have not made any changes but are looking at the detailed reports to decide how best to respond,” Kolberg said. “We are very serious about getting students into medical school and will attack this in the most serious way.”

Test preparation programs and services are also evaluating the AAMC recommendations, Dr. Jeff Koetje, director of academics for Kaplan Test Prep’s pre-health programs, said.

“These preliminary recommendations present certain challenges for test takers,” Koetje said. “They are unique to the new format and concern the new time requirements as well as the new content.

“We know pre-med students are dedicated to becoming doctors, and they will take on these challenges. Students need the support of their universities and advisors, and Kaplan is prepared to support as we are working on plans to adjust the curriculum.”