All About the PCAT

All About the PCAT

The Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) is designed to examine the skills and abilities needed to excel and succeed in pharmacy school. Currently, the overwhelming majority of AACP institutions require the PCAT for admission to pharmacy degree programs.

The PCAT tests basic scientific knowledge; math, verbal, reading comprehension, and writing skills; and your overall critical thinking skills. The test consists of 192 multiple-choice questions and one writing topic, placed in five 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.

SectionAbout the SectionTime
WritingDiscuss a solution to a given world problem30 min
Biological Process48 questions: General Biology, Microbiology, Anatomy & Physiology40 min
Chemical Processes48 questions: General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, and Biochemistry40 min
BreakRest and recharge!15 min
Critical Reading48 questions: 6 passages, 8 questions per passage50 min
Quantitative Reasoning48 questions: Basic Math, Algebra, Probability & Statistics, Precalculus, Calculus45 min

PCAT Test Changes

In July 2016, the PCAT will implement a number of changes to the test’s structure and question types, but don’t worry! We’ve got your back with revised courses to prepare you for the updated PCAT.

  • ADDED New passages, each with a set of four questions, will appear in both the Biology and Chemistry sections. The test makers had been trying out a few science passage-based questions previously, but these question types are now here to stay and will account for approximately half of your score for both science sections. You’ll need a strategic approach to handle these well on Test Day.
  • REMOVED The Verbal Ability section, which formerly contained analogy and sentence-completion questions, has been completely removed from the test.
  • CHANGED The Quantitative section now places more emphasis on word problems, especially in the context of algebra and arithmetic, and less focus on precalculus and calculus. All of the same content areas are still tested, but the number of questions you will see in each area will be different. You’ll need to be prepared to translate longer and more complicated questions into mathematical operations.
  • Due to the changes above, most test sections now have new names and timings:
    • Biology → Biological Processes (40 minutes)
    • Chemistry → Chemical Processes (40 minutes)
    • Reading Comprehension → Critical Reading (50 minutes)
    • Quantitative Ability → Quantitative Reasoning (45 minutes)
    • The Writing section has stayed the same and will still feature writing one essay in 30 minutes at the beginning of the test.

Your PCAT Score

Your score report will contain six separate scores (one for each section of the test) and a composite score. The five multiple choice sections—Verbal Ability, Biology, Chemistry, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Ability—are scored based on the number of correct answers. Your initial “raw score” is then converted to a scaled score ranging from 200-600. Your composite score is calculated by taking the average of your scaled score on each multiple choice section. Pharmacy schools will see both your individual section scores and your composite score.

Your Writing Sample will also be scored, but separately. Your essay is reviewed by two graders, whose scores are averaged. You will then receive a score on a scale from 1-6. Note that as of July 2014, there is not a second or unscored Writing Sample on the PCAT.

In addition to your scaled scores, you will receive your percentile rank for each section and for your composite score. For example, if your percentile score is 60, this means that you scored higher than 60 percent of the other test takers. The composite percentile rank is frequently the number students use when discussing their PCAT scores.

The PCAT is scored on a scale from 200-600 with the median being a 400. The 90th percentile is typically a 430. Many pharmacy schools require that you score above a particular level on your exam in order to be considered as a candidate for admissions. You should research the admissions requirements for the schools to which you plan to apply.

Why Kaplan for the updated PCAT?

  • The Most Realistic Practice — 5 new full-length, computer-based practice tests designed to match the new PCAT, plus a PCAT Diagnostic Test and over 2500 practice questions—all included in our In Person, Live Online, and Tutoring courses.
  • The Most Instruction — 12 classroom sessions for 36 hours of instruction from a Kaplan PCAT expert.
  • Updated Study Materials — You’ll get the new PCAT Lesson Book, flashcards, and Review Notes book, which cover all the subjects on the PCAT and include 16 pages of full-color Study Sheets. Plus, you’ll have access to our updated online workshops and quizzes as well as our new section tests, which provide over two additional full-length tests’ worth of realistically timed and scored practice in more manageable chunks for quicker practice.
  • PCAT Smart Reports™ — Get detailed breakdowns of where you’re improving and where you still need work after each practice test. We’ll also provide personalized recommendations regarding which resources will be most beneficial to you, based on your performance.
  • PCAT Prep On-the-Go — A sleek, mobile-enabled PCAT course available for easy prepping anywhere.

PCAT Test Dates & Registration

The PCAT is a computer-based test that is administered several times a year. Test dates are offered in January, July, and September in all locations with select locations offering test dates in October and November. The test is administered by Pearson at testing locations throughout the United States and Canada.

2017-2018 PCAT Test Dates

Test Date Register By
July 18 – 19, 2017May 19, 2017
September 7 – 8, 2017July 10, 2017
October 23 – November 3, 2017October 6, 2017
January 3 – 4, 2018November 3, 2017


Students are encouraged to register early, as seating is provided on a first-come, first-serve basis and there are no opportunities to take the PCAT standby. Registration costs $210 and can be done either online or via mail (additional fees may apply). For additional registration information, visit