PCAT Guide

PCAT Summary
What: The Pharmacy College Admission Test is an exam taken to evaluate the abilities of individuals interested in attending pharmacy colleges.
Who: The PCAT is developed by PsychCorp, a division of Pearson.
Where: The PCAT is offered at Pearson test centers in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico, and Qatar.
When: Individuals should take the PCAT when they are seeking admission to a higher-education pharmacy program.
How: Multiple choice questions plus two writing essays.
Type: The PCAT is a written test and is taken with a No. 2 pencil.
Why: PCAT scores help pharmacy colleges evaluate their potential students' abilities in areas relating to their future learning. High PCAT scores may increase the desirability of an admissions candidate.
Time: The PCAT exam takes approximately four hours. Additional time will be given for instructions and a short break halfway through the exam.
Language: The PCAT is offered in English.
Preparation: Taking practice tests may be beneficial. On the day of the test, bring No. 2 pencils, the admission ticket and two valid forms of identification.
Cost: As of 2009, the PCAT registration fee is $150.

By Caity Tarbert, Tests.com Contributing Writer

The Pharmacy College Admission Test, or PCAT, is a test designed to assess the academic skills of potential pharmacy-school students. It is an admissions requirement for pharmacy schools, and is typically taken by high school seniors. The test, developed by PsychCorp, is endorsed by the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy.

PCAT Questions and Content Areas
The PCAT is a written test taken with a No. 2 pencil that includes 240 multiple-choice questions and two writing topics. Eight questions from each section, as well as one of the writing topics, are experimental questions that will be used to develop future exams but will not count towards the test taker's score.

The PCAT includes five content areas, plus two writing sections. Each section contains 48 questions:

  • Verbal Ability – Analogies and sentence completion
  • Biology – Basic biology, microbiology, anatomy and physiology
  • Chemistry – General and organic chemistry
  • Reading Comprehension – Comprehension, evaluation and analysis of six passages
  • Quantitative Ability – Basic math, algebra, probability, statistics, precalculus and calculus

In each writing section, test takers will write an essay that addresses a stated problem. These sections are used to evaluate the candidate’s use of language as well as creativity in problem solving.

The examination lasts approximately four hours, with additional time allowed for instructions prior to the test and a short rest break about halfway through the exam. Test takers are given 30 minutes to complete Verbal Ability, Biology, Chemistry and the writing essays; 40 minutes for Quantitative Ability; and 50 minutes for Reading Comprehension.

Registration and Cost
Students should register for the PCAT as early as possible, as seating is on a first-come, first-serve basis. Registration can be completed online at PCATweb.info or by submitting a paper registration.

As of 2009, the PCAT registration fee is $150. Included in this fee is online or paper registration, one personal score report sent to you after completion of the exam and official transcripts sent to three schools that candidates specify at registration. Late registration warrants a $49 fee and is only available online.

On Test Day
Registered students report to a Pearson test center (most likely a high school or college in their area) on the day of the exam. Test centers are located in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Qatar, and students indicate their preferred testing location during registration.

Test takers should bring several sharpened No. 2 pencils, their admission ticket and two forms of valid identification, one of which must contain their photograph and signature, such as a driver's license or a government-issued ID card. Secondary forms of identification include a credit card, library card or utility bill. All forms of identification must have the exact same name as printed on the admission ticket.

PCAT Scores
Within six weeks of testing, students will receive a personal score report in the mail with their results. Scores are reported as scaled scores and percentiles for each of the multiple-choice subtests and as a composite score for the multiple-choice test as a whole. Writing scores are reported separately in the areas of conventions of language and problem solving. PCAT writing scores range from zero, being invalid, to five, being superior. There is no passing or failing score for the PCAT set by Pearson.

If you are thinking of attending pharmacy school and would like to begin preparing to take the PCAT, take a look at the test preparation materials available in our PCAT Directory. Read more about the PCAT in our interview with Dr. Gavin Putzer, PCAT preparation expert.

Sources: Pearson Pharmacy College Admission Test; pcatweb.info and Pharmacy College Application Service; pharmcas.org