The PCAT stands for Pharmacy College Admission Test. This is a standardized exam required by most pharmacy schools. You must take this exam before applying to pharmacy school. This exam is similar to the SAT or ACT that are required before applying to college. The difficulty level is a step up and it has more focus on the sciences and math. The PCAT has changed over the years and is now a computer based test. When I took this exam back in 2007 it was still a paper based exam. The writing portion of the exam is also a fairly new concept. Here is a breakdown of the exam which can change on a year-to-year basis:
- Writing Portion (30 minutes) – Tests ability to problem solve and conventions of language
- Verbal Ability (25 minutes) – Analogies and Sentence Completion
- Biology (35 minutes) – General Biology / Microbiology / Human Anatomy and Physiology
- Chemistry (35 minutes) – General Chemistry / Organic Chemistry / Basic Biochemistry Processes
- Reading Comprehension (50 minutes) – Comprehension / Analysis / Evaluation
- Quantitative Ability (45 minutes) – Basic Math / Algebra / Probability & Statistics / Precalculus / Calculus
To register for the exam you can visit: www.pcatweb.info
How to Study for the PCAT
The PCAT official website has practice exams and study guides for purchase. I do not recommend these if you are a poor college student. They are expensive and do not provide any additional benefit to other cost effective study guides. I personally purchased the online PCAT practice exam back in 2007 and felt that it was a waste of money (from pcatweb.info). What I found most useful when preparing of the PCAT was to do as many practice problems as possible from prep books. The nice thing about the prep books was that they included explanations on why a specific answer was the best one. The one I used to prepare for the exam was the Kaplan PCAT Prep Book. (This is an Amazon affiliate link, if you make a purchase it will help support this blog, thank you!)
The Kaplan PCAT book provides great information on strategies, review of all the topics covered in the PCAT, and practice exams. Reading the entire prep book and taking all the practice problems can take months. It is a lot of material to memorize. My approach was to give myself 4-5 months to prepare for the exam. I scheduled 30-60 minutes per day dedicated to study out of the PCAT book. Initially, I read every single page. This took a long time and I felt that I did not retain much of anything. After 1 month had passed I forgot what I had learned on day 1 when I first opened up the book. Half way into my study sessions I realized that it was best for my personal learning experience to just do practice problems. If I got the question wrong, I would go back and review that information and learn it carefully. How did I know this worked better for me? I kept track of my test scores each time I did a mock practice exam. My scores gradually improved over time. There are other great study resources, here are my Top 5 PCAT Study Tool Recommendations.
I can remember the PCAT exam day vividly as this was my 21st birthday! I did not party or have drink on my 21st birthday. Instead I spent it taking one of the most difficult exams of my life. It is a very long exam and once it was over I was exhausted and all I wanted to do was sleep. Two weeks leading up to this day I hit the books hard. I studied and took many practice exams, spending over 10+ hours a day studying in the library (including my current course load at the time). I would not recommend doing this as it can be quite stressful on your body and health. Surprisingly, my body put up with the torture and the day after the PCAT I became quite sick. It was probably a cold or something but all that studying and stress did take a toll on my body. Looking back I would recommend to take breaks, get physical activity, eat well, and sleep well.
Having experienced the PCAT, here are a few other tips that can help you succeed on test day:
- Get lots of sleep, do not stay up late studying the night before. Do something relaxing or get lots of physical activity in that day to help you get a good nights rest (try not to exercise right before bed though).
- Eat well and keep a balanced diet to prevent getting sick on test day.
- Bring a snack or something to eat during the break.
- Practice essay writing and time yourself.
- Focus on Chemistry and Biology as these are very important to pharmacy schools.
- Quantitative ability section is very time consuming. I found this part to be very challenging with the time allotted. I would recommend solving the problems you know quickly and skip the hard ones until the very end.
- See my Top 5 PCAT Study Tool Recommendations
I hope the recommendations above will help guide, motivate, and inspire you to achieve your goals. Follow my blog for more tips and advice on how to become a pharmacist. What are your experiences? Please comment below and share your thoughts.