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Graduate School Tests...Get Ready, Study, Get Set...Go!

Contributed by Mera Kachgal, PhD, LP and Jennifer Rosand, M.Ed. of the Health Careers Center.

Students applying to a health professional program at the graduate level often need to take a graduate level entrance exam as part of their application. Which test the student takes depends on the program and the school they are applying to.

To stay in line with the times, these entrance exams change from time to time as well. Following is a general guideline of recent changes for selected tests. You should still do your homework though on the test that you are planning to take, to ensure that you have the correct information for that exam!

Medical College Admission Test ® (MCAT)

Thinking of medical school? Then the MCAT is in your future. This test is defined as "a standardized, multiple-choice examination designed to assess the examinee's problem solving, critical thinking, writing skills, and knowledge of science concepts and principles prerequisite to the study of medicine."

To help this test stay in line with medical school requirements, this test is under pretty big renovation at this time, with changes starting in 2015. For the most part, the new changes will impact traditionally-aged college students who are entering college as freshmen in fall 2012 and plan to take the test as juniors in 2015, with the goal of entering medical school in fall 2016.

Many changes are happening to the MCAT exam. According to, those changes for 2015 include:
• Natural sciences section
• Social and behavioral sciences section, psychological, social and biological foundations of behavior
• Critical analysis and reasoning skills section
However, if you are taking the MCAT in 2013 or 2014, there are going to be changes in preparation for this coming change in 2015. For example, according to, changes for 2013 and 2014 include - but may not be limited to - this information:
• The Writing Sample section will not there, but a voluntary, unscored trial section will be (starting in January 2013).

Learn more about changes during the 2013-2014 time-frame at the AAMC website.

Read more about the MCAT® through its official source online:

Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT)

The PCAT "measures general academic ability and scientific knowledge necessary for the commencement of pharmaceutical education". This is the test that those who are applying to pharmacy school take as part of their application. The PCAT consists of 240 multiple-choice items and two Writing topics.

Changes effective in July 2011, include the following:
• New test offered in computer-based format at Pearson Vue testing centers
• 240 multiple-choice items and two essays
• Test is offered on specific days in three months (January, July, September) instead of four months as in the past
• 4 hours allowed

And effective for July 2012, per Pearson's website (
• Changes have been made on the subtests in Biology and Chemistry
• A single earned Writing score will be reported along with the mean writing score earned by all candidates during that testing.

Official PCAT information and registration:

Graduate Record Exam (GRE) General Test

This test is required for most PhD and MBA programs, and it is also required for several University of Minnesota health professional programs, including the Doctor of Physical Therapy, Doctor of Nursing Practice, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine, and Master of Public Health concentrations.

The GRE General Test includes four subtests that measure general skills needed for graduate study. These subtests include verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, critical thinking, and analytical thinking. (Note that some academic programs also require a GRE Subject Test).

The revised version of the GRE General Test was launched in August 2011. The changes are substantial and include the following:

• No analogy or antonym questions in the Verbal Reasoning subtest. Instead, there will be more reading comprehension questions in this subtest.
• More specific scoring scale for each subtest: 130-170 compared to the previous 200-800.
• Ability to go back and review questions and revise answers within the same section of the test.
• 4 hours allowed instead of 3.5 hours.

Learn more information and register here:

Additional details can be found here.

Additional Sources:

About the Revised Tests

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Jennifer Rosand published on April 4, 2012 1:11 PM.

Mental Health Careers Panel was the previous entry in this blog.

MCAT Changes...Views from a Physician is the next entry in this blog.

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