Anatomy of the PCAT®

The Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) is designed to examine the skills and abilities needed to excel and succeed in pharmacy school.

The PCAT tests basic scientific knowledge; math, verbal, reading comprehension, and writing skills; and your overall critical thinking skills. The test consists of 240 multiple-choice questions and two writing topics, placed in six separate sections. The exam spans approximately four hours, including one short break given in the middle. As of July 2011, the PCAT is offered exclusively on the computer.

Writing

You will be asked to complete two separate Writing sections on the PCAT—one at the beginning of the exam, and the other immediately after your break halfway through the exam. Both Writing sections are 30 minutes long and consist of a single prompt that will test your knowledge of language conventions and your problem-solving skills. Responses to the essay prompts will be typed. While you will be able to use standard word processing functions such as cut, copy, and paste, you will not have access to additional features such as spelling or grammar check. One of the two Writing sections will be an experimental item that does not count toward your score.

Verbal Ability

The Verbal Ability section will test your vocabulary and your knowledge of the English language. The section consists of 48 multiple-choice questions, of which 40 are scored items and the remaining 8 are experimental problems. The questions are split between Analogies (60%) and Sentence Completion (40%), and you will have 30 minutes to complete the section.

Biology

The Biology section of the PCAT contains 48 multiple-choice questions, 40 of which count toward your score. The remaining 8 questions are experimental and do not affect your score; however, you will not be able to distinguish between scored and experimental questions. Topics tested include General Biology (50%), Microbiology (20%), and Human Anatomy and Physiology (30%). You will have 30 minutes to complete the Biology section.

Chemistry

The Chemistry section of the PCAT contains 48 multiple-choice questions, 40 of which count toward your score. The remaining 8 questions are experimental and do not affect your score; however, you will not be able to distinguish between scored and experimental questions. Questions in the Chemistry section are divided between General Chemistry (50%), Organic Chemistry (32%), and Biochemistry (18%). You will have 30 minutes to complete the Chemistry section.

Reading Comprehension

Reading Comprehension is the only question type that appears on all major standardized tests and the reason isn't too surprising. No matter what academic area you pursue, you have to make sense of dense, unfamiliar prose. Pharmacy, of course, is no exception. On the Reading Comprehension section, you will have 50 minutes to read 6 passages and answer 48 multiple-choice questions based on the passages with 8 questions coming from each passage. One of the passages and its associated questions will be experimental and will not count toward your score. The questions are designed to test your ability to comprehend, analyze, and evaluate the information provided.

Quantitative Ability

The Quantitative Ability section of the PCAT is designed to test the math skills that will be required in pharmacy school. The section contains 48 multiple-choice questions, 40 of which count toward your score. The remaining 8 questions are experimental and do not affect your score; however, you will not be able to distinguish between scored and experimental questions. You will have 40 minutes to complete the Quantitative Ability section, and no calculator will be provided. Scored items test Basic Math (14%), Algebra (19%), Probability and Statistics (19%), Pre-Calculus (24%), and Calculus (24%).