what's tested on 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. The PCAT is administered exclusively on a computer-based test (CBT) format.

SectionAbout the SectionTime
Writing1 prompt30 minutes
Biological Processes48 multiple choice questions (50% General Biology, 20% Microbiology, 30% Human Anatomy & Physiology)45 minutes
Chemical Processes48 multiple choice questions (50% General Chemistry, 30% Organic Chemistry, 20% Basic Biochemistry Processes)45 minutes
Rest BreakOPTIONAL15 minutes
Critical Reading48 multiple choice questions (30% Comprehension, 40% Analysis, 30% Evaluation)50 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning28 multiple choice questions (25% Basic Math, 25% Algebra, 18% Probability & Statistics, 18% Precalculus, 14% Calculus)50 minutes
TOTAL192 Multiple Choice Questions, 1 Writing Prompt220 minutes (3 hours 40 minutes), not including Rest Break

** Each multiple choice subtest includes 40 questions that count towards score & 8 experimental questions.

Your PCAT Score

Immediately following your exam, you will receive your Preliminary Score Report, which shows your scaled scores & percentile ranks on each section but these scores are still pending verification by Pearson. Within 5 weeks following the end of the testing window during which you took your exam, your Official Score Report will become available online. Score reports will be available for one year following your exam date & official transcripts will be sent to the schools that you designated. PCAT scores are reported on the Official Score Report UNLESS you selected the “No Score Option” at the time of your exam– in which your exam will not be scored. Pharmacy schools only accept Official Score Reports, not Preliminary Score Reports. Scores will never be reported over the phone, email, or fax.

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.

What to Expect on Exam Day

Plan to arrive at your scheduled test center 30 minutes before your scheduled appointment time in order to have enough time to complete the necessary sign-in procedures. Be sure to visit your test site the day before, if possible, to be comfortable locating it & finding parking, etc.

If you arrive more than 15 minutes late for your exam, you will be denied admission & will not receive a refund for your PCAT Registration Fee and any other fees paid.

In order to be admitted to the test, you must have:

  • Two forms of original (no photocopies), valid (unexpired)  IDs
    • One primary ID: Government issued, name, photo, & signature required (Ex: Driver’s License)
    • One secondary ID: Only name required (Ex: University ID)

Prohibited items:

  • Food/snacks
  • Beverages
  • Books
  • Papers
  • Highlighters
  • Rulers
  • Notes
  • Earplugs
  • Calculators (including watch calculators)
  • Cell phones
  • Recording devices
  • Cameras
  • Headphones
  • Watches
  • Any other electronic devices or reference materials

If you violate the prohibited items policy in any way, including accessing prohibited items during breaks or if your cell phone rings/makes any noises in the secure testing area, your PCAT scores will be invalidated, no refunds will be issued, and you will not be allowed to transfer to a different testing window.

PCAT Test Dates and Registration

The PCAT is administered several times a year by Pearson at testing locations throughout the United States and Canada.

You can register for the PCAT at: http://tpc-etesting.com/pcat/ and within 24 hours of submitting your request, you will be emailed instructions on scheduling your seat for your exam at a Pearson VUE Test Center. To cancel your exam, you will first  need to cancel your seat at Pearson VUE & then cancel your registration at the PCAT site.

There are two deadlines to be aware of–  the “Registration and Schedule” deadline, in which you are more  likely get your preferred testing date, time, and location, and the “Late Registration and Schedule” deadline, in which you will be charged additional fees and will probably not get your preferred testing date, time, and location. Register with PCAT & schedule with Pearson VUE.

2019 – 2020 Important PCAT Test Dates

TESTING WINDOWREGISTRATION OPENSREGISTRATION AND SCHEDULE DEADLINE*LATE REGISTRATION AND SCHEDULE DEADLINE**CANCELLATION DEADLINE***
JULY 11-12, 2019April 15May 10June 26June 28
SEPTEMBER 10, 2019April 15July 10August 28August 30
OCTOBER 21 – NOVEMBER 1, 2019September 4October 4October 9October 11
JANUARY 6-7, 2020April 15November 1December 18December 20
FEBRUARY 1-14, 2020December 18January 15January 22January 24

Note: All ‘Registration Open’ dates begin at 12:01 AM CT; all deadlines are at 11:59 PM CT

* Register with PCAT and schedule with Pearson VUE, as seating is on a first-come, first-served basis.

** Last day for registering with PCAT and scheduling with Pearson VUE (late fees apply). The “Late Registration and Schedule” deadline will result in additional fees (nonrefundable), and you will be less likely to get your preferred testing date, time, or location.

*** To receive a partial refund, cancel your seat at Pearson VUE and cancel your registration on the PCAT site.

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 pcatweb.info.

If you have already taken the PCAT five times, restrictions may be placed on your registration in which case you may need to submit additional documentation to support your registration request & you wouldn’t be able to register for your PCAT until your documentation is received & if approved.

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