About PCAT Test
PCAT stands for Pharmacy College Admission Test. The development of the exam is the responsibility of PsychoCorp, which is a part of Pearson. It acts as an admission test for pharmacy colleges.
The purpose of the exam is to examine whether the students being enrolled for pharmacy courses are equipped with enough knowledge and skills required to complete the challenging course successfully.
The exam is endorsed by American Association of Pharmacy, AACP. It is the US national organization responsible for pharmacy education in US. All the accredited colleges and schools that run pharmacy degree programs recognized by Accreditation Council of Pharmacy Education comprise the AACP.
The results of the test are used for research by Pearson besides their utility as admission criterion.
Reliability of PCAT
The PCAT is developed and reviewed by educators and administrators from schools of pharmacy. They make sure that the test contains items suitable to its purpose and pharmacy curriculum needs. The items are selected according to the abilities, skills and knowledge that students are expected to possess by colleges of pharmacy. Research carried out by Pearson is the basis of determining whether the test can accurately predict performance in pharmacy education. If such checks are not made on the test items, then the authenticity of the test shall be in doubt and it shall not be able to keep up with the changing trends in pharmacy education.
An exam like PCAT is required for ascertaining that the students being admitted to pharmacy courses possess the threshold level of skills and aptitude for commencing pharmacy education. In the absence of such an entry level check on students, it shall be difficult to understand how capable and motivated a student is to take up pharmacy professionally. This could result in admitting undeserving students and loss of resources, energy, time and money. Besides, there shall be no set system for judging candidates. Colleges would be in a lurch and would devise their own methods of judging students, which might not be as efficient.
PCAT Test Items
There are two types of testing items in PCAT. The primary testing item is multiple-choice questions. There are 240 such questions on which 5 subtests are based. Each question is followed by 4 answer options. The second type of testing item is essay writing. You have to write essays on given problems. Two subtests are based on this type of testing item.
Experimental Items: There are 48 multiple-choice items in each of the five subtests; 40 of these are scored while the other 8 are experimental items. One of the two subtests on writing essays is experimental. Experimental items are indistinguishable from scored items and thus each testing item has to be considered equally important by the test taker. The purpose of experimental items is to judge whether these items shall be suitable for future administrations of the test.
PCAT Test Breakdown
The PCAT contains seven subtests. The details of these are given below.
- Verbal Ability: This is a multiple-choice subtest to be completed in 30 minutes. The items are based on knowledge of non-scientific general words and their usage. The questions are based on analogies and sentence completion.
- Biology: This multiple-choice subtest contains questions that test your understanding of concepts that are basic to Biology including microbiology, general biology, human anatomy and physiology. You are given 30 minutes to complete this subtest.
- Chemistry: The questions of this subtest judge your capabilities related with inorganic and elementary organic chemistry through multiple-choice questions. You shall have to attempt this subtest within 30 minutes.
- Reading Comprehension: The questions in this subtest are based on 6 passages that contain content related with science. The multiple-choice questions that follow determine how well you can comprehend and analyze given information. 50 minutes are allotted for this section.
- Quantitative Ability: The multiple-choice items in this section are to be completed within 40 minutes. They test your mathematical abilities of understanding and reasoning. The content covered includes basic mathematics, algebra, probability and statistics, pre-calculus and calculus.
- Writing: There are two subtests based on writing. Each subtest contains an essay to be written in 30 minutes. The essay is based on a problem and you are judged for your ability to use conventional language to convey your ideas.
Note: Each subtest has a time limit on it. You can only
attend to one subtest at a time and you cannot exceed the testing time
limit on a section. You cannot go back to a previous subtest nor skip
to a later one. The entire testing session lasts for four hours.
Registration and Cost
You can register for the test either online or via mail. Late registration is possible only through internet. It is advisable that you register early. Seats are granted on first-come-first-served basis. Also, keep in mind the time at which results are required by the colleges you are applying to and select a test date accordingly.
The fee for registration is $150. You are allowed to send your score report called the Official Transcript to up to three schools on registration. For each additional Official Transcript you shall have to pay $20.
Retesting: You can take the test up to 5 times. For further retesting, special permission is required.
- The answer booklets of PCAT are scanned. The multiple-choice questions are scored electronically while trained human scorers score the Writing subtests.
- The Score Report is mailed to you within 6 weeks of testing and the Official Transcripts are sent to the schools selected by you at the time of admission. The scores cannot be received on phone or via fax.
- The scores of all attempts of test in the previous five years are reported. You can select the No Score Option at the time of taking the test. As a result of this your scores are not released to anyone. If you select the No Score Option then the score of that attempt is not reported in your score report.
- Each multiple-choice subtest is given a scaled score and a percentile rank. A composite score for the complete multiple-choice portion is also reported. This composite score is the average of all the scaled scores of the five subtests. A percentile composite rank is also reported.
- The scaled scores range from 200 to 600.
- The Writing Subtest score is reported as separate scores for Conventions of Language and Problem Solving, two components of essay writing. These scores range from 0 to 5 with half point increments.
- Marks are not deducted for incorrect responses.
- All multiple choice items carry equal marks.
- Scaled scores for the same subtest can be compared across different test forms. However, scaled scores for different subtests cannot be compared.
- The test scores are not limited by any passing or failing scale.
- Pharmacy schools set their own limits for minimum test score requirements.
- You can get your multiple-choice portion hand-scored or your writing sections rescored within 60 days of testing. A new score report shall be sent to you and to the schools you apply to incase there is a difference in scores.
The test scores are used by
colleges for considering students for admission into pharmacy courses.
Since your score report is detailed, colleges shall consider each score
before they arrive at a conclusion about your potential. They get a
fair idea of your capabilities by your percentile scores since these
scores shed light on your performance relative to a norm group.
Pharmacy schools take into notice your high school records,
undergraduate records, reference letters and interviews, along with
other such criteria for admission purposes.
Preparation for PCAT
There is one thing absolutely certain about the test - if you do not work hard towards the exam, you shall not benefit from this exceptional opportunity. The exam stands as a golden prospect for you to exhibit your aptitude and get entry into a pharmacy school purely on the basis of merit.
Specifically preparing for the test, rather than mere revision of your text books shall certainly help you. Instead of general preparation, concentrating on the question types and content typical to the test shall help you utilize your time and resources best. Though revision of lengthy text and detailed concepts does benefit in tackling the exam, one needs to be conscious of the pressures of time while preparing. You should stick to the test syllabus and question types. Tips for preparation come in handy for time management, not only while taking the exam but also for preparation. For instance, rather than solving a question in the Quantitative Ability subtest to arrive at the solution, you could learn how to work backwards and substitute each answer option in the question to check which value holds valid. In other words, you need to prepare prudently for the exam rather than working hard without any direction.
Preparation for the test does not happen in a few months. It is the work you put in for years of schooling that forms your basics for the exam. However, you need to put in directed efforts for two to three months before the exam. Relying on your knowledge is no good unless you learn how to put that knowledge to use for testing items.
The PCAT is a competitive exam and you should not forget that numerous other candidates are vying for the same schools as you. You shall have to score a high percentile to prove your worth to admission authorities.
There are some essentials for scoring in the test. A clearly defined goal, authentic updated information, timely registration and scheduled and dedicated preparation are some of them. The most important thing, however, is your level of motivation. If you are inspired to do well and clear the exam, there is no stopping you from achieving your goal, even if you do so in more than one attempt.