Starting in 2015, undergraduates wanting to go to medical school will be taking a revamped version of the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), with new sections focusing on social and behavioral sciences (see “Major Changes on the Horizon for the MCAT” in the August issue of ENT Today).
Explore This IssueSeptember 2012
But that’s not the only planned change to the med school admissions process. The Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) is preparing a whole new slate of recommendations for improving the way med schools screen students. The changes will be designed to look at more than just classroom and test performance. They’re an effort to get at what kind of people the applicants are—and whether they have the qualities that will make them good, caring doctors.
The Multiple Mini-Interview
The new recommendations are a turn toward what the AAMC is calling “holistic admissions.” The goal is to assess each student’s “pre-professional attributes,” including communication skills, ability to work as part of a team, ethics sensibilities and other traits.
“Admissions requires a toolbox,” said Darrel Kirch, MD, president and CEO of AAMC. “Historically, we’ve very heavily relied on the MCAT because it was the standardized, accepted tool. We’re trying to improve the MCAT as a tool, but we’re also trying to improve other tools … so that the toolbox is a better toolbox.”
The changes will involve a new and, hopefully, improved application process. For example, one of the main ideas is to ask students to describe situations or experiences they’ve had that show they have the desired qualities. The AAMC, which is still fine-tuning the process, is also working with med school admissions offices to improve letters of recommendation so that they provide more relevant information.
Still another, and perhaps more significant, change will involve recommended improvements to the interviewing process, including adding more tailored questions and observations of role-playing scenarios and utilizing many interviewers rather than just one or two. “We’re seeing more and more innovation around interviewing to help it become more robust,” Dr. Kirch said.
One model for the interview process changes is the multiple mini-interview (MMI), in which med school applicants move from station to station undergoing one “mini-interview” after another. Each interview is designed to assess a particular trait and usually lasts about eight minutes, with a couple of minutes between stations. During these breaks, the applicant usually has a chance to review the next station’s question.