PCAT Test Structure Explained
The PCAT test is the official entrance exam to many pharmacy colleges in the U.S. The primary intent of the PCAT test is to evaluate the academic knowledge of the applicants and to determine whether they have the necessary scientific acumen to complete a pharmacy degree program or not.
The Chief Aspects of the PCAT Test
The main features of the PCAT test are described as follows:
- Test Sections
The PCAT test has 6 sections; namely, Chemistry, Biology, Writing, Reading Comprehension, Verbal and Quantitative Ability. There are two Writing tests and one test each in the other 5 PCAT sections. The subject areas, along with the skills assessed in each of these test sections are described as follows:
Writing - Grammatical Conventions and Problem Solving Abilities
Verbal Ability - Sentence Completion and Analogies/Comparisons
Chemistry - General & Organic Chemistry and Biochemistry
Biology - Microbiology, Human Anatomy and General Biology
Quantitative Ability - Basic Math, Algebra, Calculus and Statistics & Probability
Reading Comprehension - Comprehension and Evaluation of passages
- Test Format
The PCAT test is a computer-based test. The order in which the test sections will appear during the actual test is mentioned as follows: Writing Topic 1, Verbal Ability, Biology, Chemistry, followed by a short break, Writing Topic 2, Reading Comprehension and finally, Quantitative Ability.
- Test Duration
The total duration of the test is about 4 hours. All sections of the test except Quantitative Ability and Reading Comprehension are about 30 minutes long. The Quantitative Ability test section is given about 40 minutes, while the Reading Comprehension test must be completed within 50 minutes. It is important to note that there are 2 Writing topics given during the test, each taking up-to 30 minutes.
- Question Types
The type and number of questions in each section of the PCAT test are listed as follows:
Writing - 2 Essay Writing assignments. One of these 2 assignments is not scored and is experimental in nature.
Reading Comprehension - 48 multiple choice questions on 6 passages
All other test sections include about 48 multiple choice questions each.
Out of the 48 questions in the above-mentioned test sections, only 40 questions are scored and the rest of them are for experimental or research purposes.
- Registration, Centers and Dates
The PCAT test can be taken only at selected Pearson Testing Centers across the U.S. After reviewing the available dates, test locations, fee and registration requirements, the applicants may register for the test online at www.PCATweb.info. While registering, the applicants must accurately select the list of pharmacy colleges to which their scores must be sent. After the online registration is complete, the applicants will receive a confirmation email that contains instructions to schedule the actual test on a convenient date and location.
- Test Scores
All the multiple choice questions of the PCAT test are scored electronically, while the 2 writing essays are scored by a team of accomplished scorers. A preliminary score report is available at the end of the test. However, the official score report is published on the website about 5 weeks after the actual test date. Around the same time, copies of the official score reports are also sent to the pharmacy colleges, assigned by the applicants during the test registration.
The official PCAT test score report displays a standardized score for all the test sections, except Writing, based on the number of questions answered correctly and the difficulty level of each section. Moreover, the percentiles of students in the same testing window that received scores lesser than the applicant's standard scores are also printed in this report. The Writing topics are given absolute earned scores, along with which the average score of the candidates during the same testing window is also reported. An important feature of the scoring process is that, any applicant may, at the end of the test, choose a 'No-Score' option. This option means that the entire PCAT test will not be scored and no score reports will be available. Another key point to be noted is that there is no pass or fail criterion that is reported in the score reports. Most colleges have their own recommended minimum scores that they will check against to decide on the admission of qualifying candidates.
In conclusion, the PCAT test is an important selection tool for the pharmacy college aspirants in the United States, and has been helping pharmacy colleges select the right mix of students for their campuses.
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