MCAT 2015 & Health Professions Personal Competencies


Please consult the Current MCAT Information page. 


Healthcare is a dynamic field of study and professional realization. With the fast pace of scientific progress, the significant demographic, economic and policy changes that affect us nationally, the medical and other health professions have the great responsibility to ensure they prepare competent health professionals and leaders for the future. Healthcare practice is moving from a physician-centered to a team-based model. The social determinants of health are as important for patients' and communities' well-being as scientific expertise. 

Medical professionals, educators and admission officials recognize the need to adapt pre-medical and medical education to the changing needs of the profession and the patients. Several initiatives undertaken in the past few years have resulted in a new format for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) and a clear articulation of the scientific and personal competencies necessary for success in medical school and practice.  The new MCAT will replace the current one in spring 2015 and medical schools will announce changes (if any) to their evaluation of applications based on competencies in the coming years. Unlike the MCAT 2015, medical schools will likely not have a uniform set of expectations for the way applicants demonstrate their competencies. Their differences are not likely to be radical and the overarching goal of this reform is to make the admission process more inclusive and holistic.  

The Medical College Admission Test 2015 (MCAT 2015)

The Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) has undergone several revisions since its inception but has not been reformed since 1991. In response to the growth and inter-dependence of scientific knowledge, as well as the need to serve a progressively more diverse, and aging population, the MCAT will be modified in spring 2015. The new exam will apply to all current first-year students and sophomores. The exam will consist of 4 sections:

  • Biological and Biochemical Foundations of Living Systems
  • Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems
  • Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior
  • Critical Analysis and Reasoning Skills

The first two sections test concepts in biology, general and organic chemistry as well as biochemistry. The content knowledge expected of you is not fundamentally different from the current exam format. An emphasis will be placed on drawing connections between the concepts you have learned in these various disciplines and the overall context of medicine and living systems. Following the pre-medical/health careers courses should give you a solid foundation.

The third section is new to the MCAT exam and will draw on knowledge you gain from work in courses such as sociology, psychology, or community health. Foundational courses in Community Health, Sociology, or Psychology would be helpful in preparing for this section of the test. Interspersed throughout the exam will be questions that draw on your familiarity with statistics.

The fourth section, while new, draws on experience with critical reading and writing. It does not test any specific subject matter. You will be asked to analyze, evaluate and apply information from a range of disciplines in the humanities and social sciences. Courses with extensive reading and writing, as well as critical analysis will give you the skills you need to do well on this section. We also recommend that you embrace liberal learning at Brown and read consistently and broadly academic journals or periodicals in a breadth of fields for your own personal growth. These will help you develop the analytical skills to do well on this portion of the MCAT 2015


All questions are designed to test one of the following four skills: 

  • Knowledge of scientific concepts and principles
  • Scientific reasoning and evidence-based problem solving
  • Reasoning about the design and execution of research
  • Data-based and statistical reasoning

*** See bottom of page for exam preparation resources***

Health Professions Personal Competencies

As you explore your interest in the health professions, newly-articulated guidelines help you gauge your interest in the health professions better and serve as a roadmap to your self-reflection, academic, clinical, research and other activities. To strengthen their holistic approach to the application process, the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) with input from medical professionals and educators developed a set of personal competencies essential for success in medical and other health professions schools. This is great news for students and future applicants. It ensures that admission committees evaluate applicants holistically, not only based on grades and test scores. The new MCAT 2015 takes an integrative approach to the sciences and incorporates knowledge in the social and behavioral sciences to reflect the same holistic approach. This list of competencies also provides clear guidelines to the types of personal qualities that would be helpful as you explore your interest in health and medicine. Use these competencies first to reflect on the career direction you are taking and then to guide your choices of clinical, research or other volunteer activities while at Brown.  

Allopathic (M.D.) schools have started to adapt their admission expectations to reflect this- a process that will take a number of years. Beginning to plan now to develop qualities that address these personal competencies through your self-reflection, courses and co-curricular activities will be most helpful to you as an applicant in the future.


  • Integrity and Ethics

Behaves in an honest manner; cultivates personal and academic integrity; adheres to principles; follows rules and procedures; resists peer pressure to engage in unethical behavior and encourages others to behave in honest and ethical ways; and develops and demonstrates ethical and moral reasoning.

  • Reliability and Dependability:

Consistently fulfills obligations in a timely and satisfactory manner; takes responsibility for personal actions and performance.

  • Service Orientation:

Demonstrates a desire to help others and sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings; demonstrates a desire to alleviate others’ distress. Recognizes and acts on his/her responsibilities to society, locally, nationally, and globally.

  • Social and Interpersonal Skills:

Demonstrates an awareness of others’ needs, goals, feelings, and the ways that social and behavioral cues affect peoples’ interactions and behaviors; adjusts behaviors appropriately in response to these cues; and treats others with respect.

  • Teamwork:

Works collaboratively with others to achieve shared goals; shares information and knowledge with others and provides feedback; puts team goals ahead of individual goals.

  • Capacity for Improvement:

Sets goals for continuous improvement and for learning new concepts and skills; engages in reflective practice for improvement; solicits and responds appropriately to feedback.

  • Resilience and Adaptability:

Demonstrates tolerance of stressful or changing environments or situations and adapts effectively to them; is persistent, even under difficult situations; recovers from setbacks.

  • Cultural Competence:

Demonstrates knowledge of social and cultural factors that affect interactions and behaviors; shows an appreciation and respect for multiple dimensions of diversity; recognizes and acts on the obligation to inform one’s own judgment; engages diverse and competing perspectives as a resource for learning, citizenship, and work; recognizes and appropriately addresses bias in themselves and others; interacts effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.

  • Oral Communication:

Effectively conveys information to others using spoken words and sentences; listens effectively; recognizes potential communication barriers and adjust approach or clarifies information as needed. 

Osteopathic (D.O.) other health professions schools similarly look for personal attributes captured by these 9 competencies but have not indicated they will specifically address them in the admission process. 

External Information & Preparation Resources

To learn more about the the reform to competency-based medical education explore: 

To access tutorials and helpful preparation materials explore: