Pharmacy College Admission Test is the entrance exam that you shall
have to appear for if you intend to take admission into a pharmacy
course in any pharmacy school accredited by Accreditation Council of
Pharmacy Education. This entrance exam measures the levels of skills in
English comprehension and writing, Biology, Chemistry and Mathematics
that you possess. This quantization of your skills forms the basis on
which colleges judge you and consequently grant admission.
Your chance of obtaining admission into any pharmacy school is directly related with your scores in PCAT. Though high test scores do not guarantee admission, you certainly impress admission authorities who then tend to favor your case for admission. Your past credentials, recommendations and personal interview are also considered for making the final admission decisions.
Method of Scoring
The test contains seven subtests or sections. Two of these are based on writing whereas the other five contain 48 multiple-choice questions each. Of these 48 questions, 8 are experimental questions and do not count towards your score. The other 40 questions are granted marks. The multiple-choice questions are scored electronically whereas the written responses are scored by trained experts. Only one essay is scored as the other is an experimental test item.
Scoring of Writing Section: For the essay response, the scale used varies from 0 to 5. The essay is judged for two important aspects, Conventions of Language and Problem Solving. Each of these is given a separate score by two examiners. In case their scores differ by one point, the average of the two scores is reported. The final scores reported for the essay are thus average scores and range from 0 to 5 with half point increments. If, however, they differ in their opinions by more than one point, then an additional scorer is called in for scoring the essay.
The mean Writing subtest scores of all test takers who appeared for the same PCAT exam as you are also reported. This is done for the purpose of making comparisons, as percentile ranks for the Writing subtest are not reported.
The writing score points are explained to assist schools in understanding the level of competence in words, rather than figures. A score of 5 represents ‘superior’ capability and 4 stands for an ‘efficient’ level. A score of 3 represents ‘adequate’ performance, whereas a score of 2 represents ‘limited’ and 1 signifies ‘weak’ performance. A score of zero signifies an ‘invalid’ attempt. A score below 3 shall not be helpful to you in any way. The detailed explanation of each of these grades is given in the PCAT Candidate Information Booklet.
Score Report Details
You receive a personal copy of the score report. Besides, Official Transcripts are sent to colleges that you select at the time of registration. These score reports are dispatched within six weeks of testing through regular mail. Scores cannot be inquired over the telephone or through fax.
Your score report contains the following scores for the multiple choice subtests. There is no passing or failing score in PCAT.
- Scaled Scores: These are reported for each multiple-choice subtest. These scores range from 200 to 600. The scaled score for a test is calculated on the basis of the number of correct responses. No mark is taken away for incorrect responses and all testing items hold the same value. The scaled scores are calculated to equalize the differences that exist among different test administrations. These make it possible to compare the score of one subtest in two score reports. However, you cannot compare two scaled scores across different subtests.
- Percentile Ranks: These are reported for each multiple-choice subtest, based on the scaled scores. The percentile ranks are calculated in comparison with a selected norm group. This score represents the number of examinees in the norm group who scored lesser than the candidate.
- Composite Score: This is the average score of the multiple-choice subtests. The average is calculated without giving any weights to the scaled scores of the different subtests.
- Percentile Composite Rank: This is the percentile rank corresponding to the Composite Score. It gives a fair idea of where the student stands in comparison with the other test takers in the complete multiple choice portion of the test.
- Scores of Previous Performances: The scores earned in PCAT in the previous five years are reported in the score report. If you select the No Score Option at the time of testing, then your score for the performance is not reported to anyone. This score does not appear in the score reports of any consequent attempt.
You can get your test rescored on payment of a fee. In case there is
any difference in the scores thus obtained, a corrected Personal Score
Report is sent to you and corrected Official Transcripts are sent to
the colleges you applied to.
- Colleges place limitations on appearance for PCAT. For instance, University of Kentucky requires that the candidates appear for the test in June and do not consider scores of the test taken in January of the year in which the candidate applies.
- Most colleges allow you to reappear for the test as many times as required. While some colleges consider the latest scores for admission, others consider the highest scores obtained.
- Pharmacy schools have their own limitations on the scores of PCAT. While some require a minimum composite score for application, there are other colleges that have minimum limits set for the composite scores as well as for scores of subtests. For instance, University of Florida puts a limit of 50% composite score for application. University of Tennessee requires a minimum composite score of 40th percentile and a minimum score of 25th percentile in each subtest for application.
Points to Ponder
There are some points of significance that one must ponder over.
- The test primarily contains multiple-choice items. Thus, you are at an advantage since multiple-choice items are more scoring than subjective testing items.
- Since there is no negative marking in PCAT, you can afford to guess the answer to a question you do not know the answer of.
- All questions carry equal credits. Hence, you must concentrate on easier questions first and then move to difficult or unfamiliar ones.
- Attempt the complete test, since you might get an answer correct by intelligent guesswork.
- If you do not have any rational reason for a poor performance, there are rare chances of your increasing your score by retesting. Reappearing for the test shall show in your score report which goes to show lack of seriousness if there is no significant gain in your score. Ponder over the decision to retest.
- The two separate scores of the Writing subtest show that you need to concentrate on both the aspects of writing, effective usage of English and logical problem solving skills.
- Since the score report takes around six weeks to reach its different destinations, you should keep this time gap in mind when you register for the test. Check with the colleges you apply to for their requirements and keep sufficient room for results to reach them when you register.
- Since the score report is very detailed, you need to concentrate on each part of the exam. A high score in one subtest and a low score in the other shall lower your chances of admission since pharmacy schools look for students who are evenly talented across different subject areas.
There are two primary consequences of a low score in PCAT. The first is that you could be forced by circumstances to take admission in a college that you do not like. The other is that you shall have to reappear for the exam to earn a worthwhile score. Either of these situations calls for inconvenience and extra effort. It is best to stay clear of such situations by putting your best foot forward in the first attempt itself. This can only be achieved through meticulous planning to tackle the exam and dedicated studies.