Are You Ready for the PCATs ?

Many future pharmacy students may wonder how they will prepare for the pharmacy college admission test (PCAT). Most accredited pharmacy schools in the United States require potential candidates to take the PCAT, and receive a good score on it. Pharmacy students who plan on applying to pharmacy schools will usually plan on taking the PCATs during the Fall of their second year. The PCATs are offered several times a year and could change. Check the PCAT website for more information. Pre-pharmacy students could register at a specific time during the year. Registration involves paying a fee, choosing a testing site, a test date, and several options to send the scores to specific pharmacy schools.

Planning is a priority that should be on the checklist when preparing for the exam. Since the PCATs are taken while the student may still be taking prerequisite courses, it is a good idea if the students take courses that cover subjects that will be covered on the PCATs. This includes courses such as English, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, anatomy, and mathematics. Having to understand and memorize material already studied is a lot easier to grasp than having to learn new material. Keeping all course materials, notes, and old exams are also a good strategy. Exams that were taken for those science and math courses will reveal strengths and weaknesses. Focusing on the areas of the exams that reveal subject weaknesses, and reviewing them again using course notes and the textbook could tie up any loose ends.

PCAT review books are a good addition to any candidate’s test taking strategy. Review books are available at local bookstores or online. Try to read the user reviews of each book before purchase in order to verify from previous buyers if it had helped them with their exams. The reviews are usually noted by a score or the number of stars attributed to each review book. The scores are not meaningful unless it has a sufficient number of reviews. For example, if the book has a low rating based on two reviewers, it wouldn’t necessarily mean it was a bad book. Only two buyers of the book out of many others could have thought the book was insufficient for their needs for various reasons; they could have given it a low rating because the book was shipped too late! This has nothing to do with the content of the material, so try to be objective when looking at a review. The review books are usually abbreviated versions of what the candidate has already studied during their prerequisite courses. Obviously no one review book could encompass all the material that could be asked. Review books usually contain specific subject matters with different test taking strategy tips given by each PCAT review book author. Review books will include scenarios, practice examples, and time management tricks. Try to find a review book that includes many practice exams. Practice exams are probably one of the most useful strategies in preparing for the PCATs. The more practice exams, the more mock scenarios you could use to gauge how well you would do. If you run out of practice exams, look for more books that have different practice exam scenarios.

Since the PCAT review book is a comprehensive compilation with limited pages for each subject matter, another good technique is to find a review book that focuses on one subject matter for those subjects that a candidate may be weak or need more help with in addition to looking at their own class notes and exams. Review books could include AP or GRE review books. For example, if a candidate is weak on biology, reviewing a book on Advanced Placement (AP) Biology or Graduate Record Exam (GRE) Biology could be a good option. These books usually have a good number of sample questions and answers.

PCAT preparatory courses are another option for those that feel that they need tutorship or want additional assistance. PCAT courses could be expensive depending on the organization. Feedback from previous course takers or doing some research on the effectiveness of course is a good idea before making the considerable investment in time and money. Courses could either be online or taught in a classroom setting, and instructors could offer novel tips based on their experiences. Preparatory courses cover basically the same material found in PCAT review books, but have an added component of mock test scenarios in the beginning and end of the courses in order to monitor progress of the individual, and which areas the candidate would need more work. This is probably the most valuable aspect of the courses since mock scenarios best prepare the individual for actual PCAT settings such as time management and having a test proctor.

Finally, having the time allocated studying for the PCATs during the semester and semester breaks is very important. The test taker will need to be disciplined in order to consistently review the material in preparation for the exam. Many students usually begin to do considerable preparation during the vacation breaks, or the few months prior to the exam. One has to keep in mind that long lulls or gaps in time between preparation could cost the candidate many hours by having to study the same information for the second time around rather than using the same time to review other subjects areas. Making it a priority to maintain a consistent study regimen will keep the information fresh in the mind.

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