The Medical College Admission Test, more commonly known as the MCAT, is about to undergo some major reconstructive surgery.

The Association of American Medical Colleges will administer the exam in digital format beginning in January and plans a myriad of other changes, including fewer questions, more testing dates and faster score reporting.

According to the AAMC website, the test, which is the gateway to medical school admission, will no longer be administered in classrooms, but at designated Thomson Prometric computer testing centers. The center closest to UCSB is located in Camarillo.

Comprised of 214 questions and two 30-minute essays, the test currently takes about 60 days to score. The electronic upgrade is expected to reduce this turnaround by half. The examination will now feature just 144 questions – a reduction of one-third – and take about five hours to complete in its new iteration, down from eight.

Students’ knowledge is evaluated in four sections: physical science, verbal reasoning, biological science and a writing sample. Tested topics include general chemistry, organic chemistry, basic physics, biology, critical thinking and data interpretation.

Many UCSB students expressed their dissatisfaction with the old test’s tedious bubbling.

“This [new test] will definitely be easier,” Randall Cornateanu, a first-year biopsychology major, said. “I hate writing and bubbling in answers. If I write for too long, I get too lazy to think.”

Naveed Natanzi, a fourth-year biology major who plans to take the MCAT in January, said he also appreciates the change.

“Although the new test is completely different, people will adjust,” Natanzi said. “If you practice enough, the test becomes virtually the same.”

Prospective med school applicants will now have 22 test dates to choose from for the 2007 MCAT. In the past, AAMC offered only two test dates per year. However, each test date will only accommodate a maximum of 16 test-takers per site.

The 20 additional dates will incur increased costs for AAMC, as more questions must be written. AAMC vice president and MCAT director Dr. Ellen Julian said the savings incurred by not printing and shipping textbooks will partially offset the costs.

To ensure test takers’ security and identity, the MCAT exam will replace the photo IDs and ink thumbprints with biometric identification systems, which include electronic photographs and fingerprints. Medical schools will have access to test-taker records during the enrollment process.

Registration for the new exam begins in early November. More information is available at