The attrition rate of 5% to 50% from US medical schools in the 1920s
propelled the development of a test that would measure aptitude for medical
studies. Since its development in 1928, the Medical College Admission Test
(MCAT) has undergone 5 revisions. The first version was divided into 6 to
8 subtests that focused on memory, knowledge of scientific terminology, reading
and comprehension, and logic. The second, which appeared in 1946, was reduced
to 4 categories: verbal and quantitative skills, science knowledge, and added
a category called understanding modern society. The major difference in the
third version, launched in 1962, expanded the test's understanding modern
society section to a broader test of general information. In 1977, the MCAT
underwent its fourth change: its science section, reading and quantitative
skill assessment sections were expanded; its general liberal arts knowledge
section was eliminated; its scoring report structure and scoring range were
altered; and its cultural and social bias was minimized. The current version,
beginning in 1991, has undergone another significant change. Although it does
not contain independent measures of either liberal arts or numeracy as separate
categories, quantitative skills are needed to solve some of the problems in
biological and physical sciences. However, its principal innovation is the
writing sample section. Through its 74-year history, the various renditions
of the MCAT demonstrate that the definition of aptitude for medical education
reflects the professional and social mores and values of the time.
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