How To Prepare For the PCAT: A Comprehensive Strategy

The PCAT is an important part of the pharmacy school application process. It’s also a very important exam in its own right, with its own rules and regulations. Here’s everything you need to know about the test.

The Pharmacy College Admission Test is a standardized test that helps identify qualified applicants to pharmacy colleges and schools. Learn more about the test, how it’s scored, and what you should expect on test day.

What is the PCAT?

The PRAXIS-PCAT is a standardized test that helps identify qualified applicants to pharmacy colleges and schools. The exam measures critical thinking, problem solving, reading, and writing skills.

The test covers the 12 introductory topics that are covered in an undergraduate pharmacy degree program. It also contains sections that help students with specific practice experiences. For example, one section contains topics from practicing emergency medication administration.

A PharmD candidate can pass the test in about five hours. Successful PCAT takers are encouraged to choose a Saturday morning time slot, since it can be especially stressful on a weekday morning.

However, like any standardized test, there are exceptions to the time and date suggestions.

Information You Need to Know About the Test

The test consists of three parts:

Objective Reasoning Test Writing Test

The first part of the test focuses on a very basic knowledge of some basic science topics. The focus of this section is the student’s understanding of basic organic chemistry concepts. You’ll study general thermodynamics and how that relates to organic chemistry. You’ll learn about what happens at the molecular level to things like DNA.

The second part of the test focuses on writing skills. You’ll work on personal narrative writing and descriptive writing skills, including how to cite sources and using active voice. This section of the exam is mostly self-directed. The student must choose their own topic and organize their responses, with a few prompts that help to speed the process along.

The Importance of a Good Night’s Rest

The night before the test, plan to have a good night’s sleep so you’re ready to spend the next day studying and preparing. It’s not uncommon to wake up early on test day, even if you have no way of knowing what time the test will start or end.

The clock is your friend. When planning your study schedule, use the clock to guide your plan. Set aside 30 minutes each morning to study, and make sure you set an alarm to remind you to do so.

Don’t Stress Out About the PCAT

Studying for the exam is a high-stakes endeavor, but don’t let the pressure of the moment get to you. Relax, take some deep breaths, and don’t stress out.

Holidays Mean the PCAT Is a Few Weeks Early

The exam usually takes place during the first week of May.

Preparing for the PCAT

It is important to understand that the best preparation for the test comes from an active, personalized study plan based on the information contained below. Once you have this information, you can create a plan that will help you prepare adequately for the test.

Teach yourself how to take a complete test.

In order to succeed on the test, you need to know how to properly formulate, formulate and take the exam. Take some time to teach yourself about the various elements of the test and learn about the scoring rules. Start by learning about the test elements and then start studying what it means for each section of the test. You can learn about this by reading different resources or reading the sample questions and answers.

Get a good night’s sleep.

Keep up with your studies

One of the best ways to take your exam is to keep up with your studies throughout the exam period. This is because your exam taking time will be markedly reduced if you don’t. It’s very common for exam takers to have 10-12 hours total exam time over the four-hour exam period, and we recommend you ensure you’re not cutting any of that precious study time.

Your best preparation for your exam is to make it a priority to stay well-prepared. You can do that by giving yourself adequate study time. Most schools recommend 10-12 hours over the four-hour exam period. Just be sure to allocate enough time so that you can cover all of the topics you need to master.

Take good notes

Take good notes during the course of your studies. You’ll need those notes to study for your exam.

Develop a routine for test day

If you haven’t been following the PCAT, be sure to develop a practice routine before your test day. Don’t just dive right into a 20-hour exam the day before you take it! It takes time to adequately prepare for this test. Just one day of reviewing and re-reading the questions won’t cut it.

A practical strategy to test preparation is to memorize the 100 or so key words and concepts related to the material you’ve covered in class, but don’t expect to recall all 100 words and concepts by the time you’re sitting in the testing room. These are the vocabulary words you need to master. For example, you won’t be able to test on words like the “bacterioacoustic oscillation” concept in biological factors of respiratory disease (section II).

What to Wear on Test Day

Most tests require applicants to wear one or more types of clothing. Trousers, skirts, dresses, and sweaters are allowed on the PCAT. For men, shirts with solid collars and short sleeves are required. As for shoes, most test takers will be allowed to wear closed-toe shoes. Closed-toed shoes, like sandals and heels, are not allowed on the test day.

Test-Day Rules

PCAT takers can get very specific about rules and regulations regarding the test. For example, the PCAT uses a two-part test. The first part consists of 200 multiple-choice questions that assess analytical reasoning, reasoning skills, and the ability to write an essay.

The second part of the test contains 60 true-or-false questions. Your score on this section measures your knowledge of medical school curriculum.

Be comfortable but presentable

First, make sure you’re prepared for the test. I recommend wearing workout or business-casual clothing, but this is something you’re on your own to decide. Don’t wear an article of clothing that is indicative of your personality. Wearing too many items of clothing that are socially unacceptable, such as sweatpants, a workout outfit, or even jeans can be seen as distracting and disrespectful. Strive to present yourself professionally for the test.

If you are not well-dressed, that’s okay. There are always changes in the test schedule so this is not uncommon. If you are on an early schedule, you may not have the opportunity to change clothes before the test.

Don’t wear any hats, ties, or bowties.

Bring a watch and water

The test starts at 8 am, and runs for 2 hours. You should have about 2 hours of reading time in between every set of questions, which is to account for stopping, waiting for answers, and resuming reading. To be on time for the test, make sure you’re prepared with 2 hours of reading time.

Read: What to Bring to the PCAT

Bring an audio book or something to listen to, like Pandora

Don’t bring a textbook or anything else. You’ll be distracted by that.

Expect 2.5 to 3 hours between sets of questions

If you’re a US citizen, you’ll need to check in with the US consulate before going to the test. Some international students have to present a passport to prove they’re allowed to take the test, but if you’re staying in the US, you’ll probably have no trouble.

Dress in layers

The weather on test day is unpredictable. A combination of cold and wind are not a good thing for test-takers. If possible, dress in layers.

Practice with a partner

Dress in layers and practice with a friend. The test day will come and go, but they can always ask you for a warm-up and exercise, which they may need to answer a question on the test.

Bring snacks

If you know you will be hungry at test time, bring a bag of snack bars or your favorite healthy food to eat on the test day. Carrying your food with you is also much more manageable than bringing a bunch of other items.

Bring a watch or timer

Bring a watch or timer to test your timing skills. This will be a big help to you in case you get lost or are struggling.

Don’t forget to bring snacks!

What Is The PCAT?

The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is a standardized test that helps identify qualified applicants to pharmacy schools and residencies. The test scores show prospective students how well they meet the admission requirements and whether or not they qualify for a scholarship or financial aid package.

To prepare, students should:

Start studying before you need to for the test. This will allow you to read the passages as they are relevant to the test, and make notes accordingly.

Prepare reading and test-taking strategies.

Take practice exams at a time that fits your schedule.

Get copies of the sample test, practice reading the passages, and study the test-taking strategies.

Research the test requirements and the history of the test.

The Day of the Test

In order to get a reliable idea of how the test will play out for you, it’s best to make a few preparation plans.

Exam Preparation

It can be helpful to write down a few key points to study while you wait for the day of the test to arrive. Make a list of questions you expect to see on the test (along with detailed answers), and write down where you need to focus your studying in order to prepare for each.

Plan

Begin to prepare now. Your best opportunity for preparation is in the month leading up to the test. But even in those few weeks leading up to the test, some students are unable to make much progress. Do what you can to stay on track.

Scheduling

If you plan to take the test at a test center, make sure that the center has a copy of the test. Read your contract for a list of specific locations. Check the contract for details about your test date and times, as well as how to pay for the test.

A unique arrangement, this is required because of the cost of taking the test. The exam usually costs $40 per sitting.

A test center may be located in a different state than your home state, so make sure you understand the charges for this option before you sign.