The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is a standardized and specialized exam approved by the AACP [American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy] The test identifies scientific and academic knowledge required for qualified applicants to schools and pharmacy colleges. The PCAT has separate sections timed separately, and the candidate must work only on one part within a specified duration of time and therefore not possible to revisit earlier sections of the exam.
Candidates have four hours to complete the CPAT as it consists of five separate sections of 240 multiple –choice questions and two topics in writing. The four hours includes short breaks and time for the administrator’s instructions. The sections include;
Writing subtext, a 30 minutes section, involves questions concerning health issue, political issues, social or cultural or science issue. Examinees present a solution to the problem fluently, in the form of an essay explaining the original question. Scoring depends on the length of the article and correctness as this section determines the effectiveness of language and problem-solving skills. Scores show how a candidate, present solutions clearly and articulately.
The biological section takes 45minutes, and it tests on how well a candidate masters the basic concepts of biology, which includes microbiology, general biology, human physiology and human anatomy. Biology takes 60% of the exam, 20% of microbiology and anatomy, and 20% of the remaining covers physiology. A candidate knowledge of key terms and definitions results to success on this subtest.
The chemistry section tests on the inorganic chemistry and basic principles of elementary organic. 60% of the subtext consists of General chemistry, while Organic chemistry makes up the remaining 40% where a candidate has 45 minutes to complete the section. It involves Mastering of fundamental theories like kinetic theory and the ability to apply the information to problems solving, which results in good grades in this subtext.
Quantitative ability section[50 minutes ], tests the numerical reasoning in algebra, statistics, calculus, basic maths, calculus and pre-calculus; 15% will check on necessary math skills, algebra 20%, statistics and algebra make up 20%, pre-calculus 22% and the remaining 22% asses on calculus. A candidate should apply principles or mathematical equations since most questions require computations. A candidate must develop a strategy on how to maximize the allocated time as many questions take time to answer.
This section determines the ability of a candidate to understand and evaluate reading passages which are related to science. Comprehension makes up to 30%, 40% test on analytical skills and the rest, 30% check the candidate’s ability to evaluating passages. Time allocated for this section is 50 minutes. The reading section comes immediately after the break and in between the mathematics and science-based sections. Therefore, a candidate should quickly switch the way of thinking to get ready.
It is important to note that a candidate has an extra 15 minutes allocated for an optional break.
A candidate should take the PCAT exam once if possible as it is a waste to take the exam when not fully prepared because the possibilities of a retake are very high. Reasons why a candidate should attempt the exam once include;
The exam is relatively expensive, and it should motivate candidates to take the exam once as other costs come on the top of the actual exam, like the cost of purchasing more prep materials. Candidates, who take the exam before engaging in prep, need to purchase more practice tests, preparation books and other revision articles. If unsatisfied with the score, the candidate is likely to buy more revision materials, thereby incurring extra costs.
A candidate should also consider the fact that admission committee checks on their PCATattempts where most probably they may wonder why a student did so poorly in the first attempt. They might also check on a candidate best section score or overall score from each attempt and maybe taking advantage of them.
However, there are situations where a retake is unavoidable, and a candidate should plan on it as early as possible if it happens as there is an allowance of taking the exams up to 5 times.
Students should prefer taking the PCAT during or just before the application period for pharmacy graduate programs as it is the senior year of the student’s undergraduate degree programs. Applicants may also take the PCAT while waiting for their school application process. Actual due dates of application vary from program to program although deadlines are either May or early June in most pharmacy schools. Candidates should not wait until the last minute for them to take PCAT as it is possible to get stuck with lousy PCAT scores.
Candidates get their scores online in not more than five weeks after the exams, which means the PCAT has no official scoring calendar. The PCAT questions are in multiple-choice and therefore graded electronically except the writing section. Trained scholars read the essays from the writing section by checking on the problem-solving ability and grammatical correctness. Overall average scores range from 200-600; thus, 600 is a perfect score, and 200 is the lowest possible score. The PCAT counts on the correct answers only when calculating the ratings, and therefore, students should aim at filling all the questions as the wrong answers do not count against them. The PCAT score is valid for six years.
Students should register the exams, early because they operate on a first-come, first-served basis. The standard registration fee of the PCAT is 210 dollars, and 49 dollars, non-refundable late fee for those who register past the deadline. Late registration is only available online. Like in any other exam, students cancel their booking expecting a partial refund of their registration fee. Those who cancel past the deadline receive only a half of the registration fee, and the remainder covers expenses incurred during the cancellation process.
Candidates who feel that their scores are inaccurate can have the writing section or multiple-choice section rescored by paying 40 dollars or 50 dollars respectively. Those who doubt the results can have them verified at an extra cost of 40 dollars. Other costs include transport cost where a candidate may need to travel to testing centres. It is essential to make proper calculations before taking the PCAT.
Candidates have to purchase preparation materials whether they study on their own or they choose to get some help. Next Step Company, self-study books and practice tests provide documents necessary for revisions. PCAT is an expensive prep option, but candidates can sign up or enroll in a one on one course. Interested candidate can get free consultations from academic managers to determine suitable tutoring for them.
Most pharmacy schools or colleges require candidates who inspire to join the colleges to have completed the PCAT successfully. The test is necessary because it determines quantitative reasoning, biology, critical reading and chemistry, which are essential elements in the pharmacy course. Students should not hesitate to take this course because accommodation is available under certain circumstances to individuals who meet approved eligible conditions.