The Pharmacy College Admission Test, PCAT, is a standardized test administered to prospective pharmacy school students. While not all pharmacy schools require that one take the PCAT, the majority do. The PCT is designed to test the applicant’s knowledge in the areas covered by a pre-pharmacy curriculum. These courses are required for pharmacy school admission, and the PCAT serves to assess an applicant’s skill level in these areas.
The test is divided into seven sections: verbal ability, quantitative ability, biology, chemistry, reading comprehension, and two writing sections. Scores range from 200 to 600. Writing scores are graded from 1 to 5, with 5 being “superior” and 1 being “weak.”
The exam consists of 280 multiple-choice questions: 58 questions in analogies and sentence completion; 58 in general biology, microbiology, anatomy, and physiology; 48 in algebra, geometry, probability, statistics, pre-calculus, and calculus; and 58 in chemistry. Then there is the essay/writing portion of the exam.
PCAT scores range from 100 to 300, with an average score of approximately 200. While some schools accept scores in the 50th percentile, many of the better schools require scores above the 80th percentile. Although most pharmacy schools will also want to look at school transcripts to evaluate one’s GPA, PCAT scores are often more heavily weighted in this analysis, as they are more specific to the type of course work one will engage in during pharmacy school.
There are numerous web sites available for test preparation and test practice. These may include practice test questions or entire practice exams. Some companies have created study aids in the form of flash cards to help prospective pharmacy school students study and prepare for the exam.
Most schools require that the PCAT, offered only three times per year, be taken by October of the year prior to the start of pharmacy school. One of the most highly ranked pharmacy school programs in the United States, the University of North Carolina School of Pharmacy at Chapel Hill, states that the average composite score for applicants to its program is in the 85th percentile. By contrast, the number-one ranked program in the country, the University of California San Francisco School of Pharmacy, does not even require the PCAT for admission.
The PCAT is required by most pharmacy schools for admission. The reasoning behind this is that the PCAT was designed to assess a student’s skill level in the basic science courses required as prerequisites for pharmacy school admission. Other standardized tests are not as useful to pharmacy schools.