The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is a computer-based test used by colleges of pharmacy to identify students who show the aptitude to pursue training in pharmacological science. The PCAT measures a participant's academic ability and their knowledge of science to help determine whether a career in pharmacy is a good choice.
The PCAT is only administered several months throughout the year, which vary. For the 2016 testing season, you can register to take the test in July, September, October and November. The test will also be available in January of 2017. Tests are only administered at official Pearson VUE testing centers. You'll need your PCAT CID before you can see the dates, places and times of administration. You can also register by calling 866-508-8836, although participants are encouraged to schedule online.
The current cost to take the PCAT is $210.
You'll need to take the PCAT no later than the October session prior to the year you plan to begin pharmacy college. There's an official PCAT practice test available online for those who've completed their PCAT registration. You can find it at the Pearson Vue website listed above.
What Is On the PCAT?
The PCAT consists of five timed sections. The first section -- Writing -- must be completed within 30 minutes. The next two sections -- Biological Processes and Chemical Processes -- are allotted 40 minutes each. For Critical Reading, you're allowed 50 minutes, and for the final section -- Quantitative Reasoning -- you'll have 45 minutes, for a total test time of 205 minutes. You'll encounter 193 multiple-choice questions and one writing prompt along the way.
How the PCAT Is Scored
The multiple-choice sections of the PCAT are scored electronically, based upon the number of correct answers. The essay part is scored through the Pearson Intelligent Essay Assessor, in conjunction with trained scorers. You should do your best to answer all questions, though some questions are embedded as experiments for future tests and will not count toward your score. You'll take the test in order, one timed section at a time, with no opportunity to return to prior sections. It's important to work as quickly as you feel comfortable doing.
Unofficial scores will be available immediately after taking the test. Official scores will be made available online only -- approximately 5 weeks after the end of your individual testing window. You can elect whether to have them included in your official transcripts at the time you take the test. If Included in your transcripts, your scores will be forwarded to the colleges of Pharmacy to which you've applied.
PCAT scores range from 200 to 600, with 400 being a average score. Ninety percent of the people who complete the PCAT score around 430. Your scores are then converted to percentile ranks, or composite scores, that indicate how well you performed in comparison with everyone else who took the test.
Retaking the PCAT
Schools look at PCAT scores differently, but most are interested in your composite score -- your percentile rank. A percentile rank of 80 means you scored better than 80 percent of those who took the test. If your composite score is lower than you would like it to be, you may wish to retake the exam. A competitive score typically falls within the 74 to 79th percentile. Anything lower and retesting is probably a good idea.
You can retake the PCAT by re-registering and repaying the fee and may take the test up to five times before needing special permission to test again. Most colleges look at your highest composite score in conjunction with other factors such as your GPA and how well you did on your interview.
When you're ready to begin your studies at the college of pharmacy of your choice, schedule your PCAT exam. It's a requirement for 85 percent of the pharmacy colleges in America.