Cover Story

Psychologists are also making their mark on health care's future as architects of a revised Medical College Admission Test (MCAT). Scott Oppler, PhD, and Dana Dunleavy, PhD, of the Association of American Medical Colleges, are beginning the second year of a five-year revision process.

Research has long shown the MCAT is a valid predictor of who will succeed in medical school. The AAMC is reworking the test to keep its content current with recent developments in medical science and if to see there are ways to improve the test's ability to identify who will be the most qualified physicians by, for example, adding measures of interpersonal skills or other traits, says Oppler. The association has revised the test four times since it debuted in 1928. The most recent version was issued in 1991.

Along with testing expert Paul Sackett, PhD, of the University of Minnesota, Twin Cities, they are surveying hundreds of medical education experts.

“We hear a lot of people asking us to consider developing tools for measuring noncognitive skills — or personal and professional characteristics — such as cultural literacy and awareness,” which the current MCAT isn't designed to assess, says Dunleavy. The AAMC is also interested in refreshing scientific content, and is looking into such areas as molecular biology and biochemistry.

A 22-member interdisciplinary advisory committee is exploring topics of particular interest to psychologists, such as assessing whether candidates would work well as part of interdisciplinary health-care teams. Members of that committee include psychologists Barry Hong, PhD, of the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and Richard S. Lewis, PhD, of Pomona College in Claremont, Calif.

Those involved with the revision say that working on the project is critical for the future. “My own health-care provider years from now will be someone selected for medical school in part on the basis of this revised MCAT,” adds Sackett. “Everyone involved can easily see its broad impact for our society.”

—J. Chamberlin