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The new MCAT (medical college admissions test) is a hot topic right now. The New York Times just wrote an extensive article on it (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/04/15/education/edlife/pre-meds-new-priorities-heart-and-soul-and-social-science.html) as did the NEJM. The MCAT in it’s current form has been around for many years and the AAMC is looking to change it up. The new MCAT will have a section focused on sciences as currently structured, but also social and behavioral sciences. Basically, the new MCAT is looking to screen more well rounded physicians. After all, being a physician is not just about knowing the hard sciences, but about caring for an actual human being.

From the NY Times article:

The adoption of the new test, which will be first administered in 2015, is part of a decade-long effort by medical educators to restore a bit of good old-fashioned healing and bedside patient skills into a profession that has come to be dominated by technology and laboratory testing. More medical schools are requiring students to take classes on interviewing and communication techniques. To help create a more holistic admissions process, one that goes beyond scientific knowledge, admissions committees are presenting candidates with ethical dilemmas to see if their people skills match their A+ in organic chemistry.

Questions abound about the new MCAT. Will it make for better doctors? How can you capture empathy and compassion with a multiple choice test? Can you teach someone to have better bedside manner and a better “people person”, or is it ingrained in you from the start. These questions have vague answers right now but one thing is for sure, beginning in 2015 students will no longer have to just worry about organic chemistry, but also about social skills.

Of course medical schools already interview candidates to get a feel for these less testable skills, but the new MCAT will provide a quantitative measure. I believe while the new MCAT is taking correct steps in making physicians of the future more cognizant about bedside manner and skill other than the hard sciences, there is still no better way to get to know a person than to meet them and interview them one-on-one. If you know how to interview, you can know almost instantly whether they have the social skills to be a good physician.