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How to Study and Practice for the PCAT Test

by Alan Li, Demand Media

    The Pharmacy College Admission Test, or PCAT, is one of the most important components of getting into a good pharmacy college. It is a comprehensive test with seven sections -- Verbal ability, quantitative ability, biology, chemistry and reading comprehension are tested using multiple-choice questions, while writing is tested using two separate essays. Successfully preparing for the PCAT involves hard work and continuous efforts to identify weaknesses and correct them. You need to set aside enough time to prepare to achieve success.

    Gathering Test Materials

    You should pick up a PCAT review book to give structure to your study sessions. You can use your college notes and textbooks as reference and secondary sources. Popular PCAT review books include those published by Kaplan and by Dr. Collins. If you know people who have already taken the PCAT test, ask them about their experiences and get their advice. Get a copy of their notes, if possible, to help round out your own preparatory materials.

    Setting a Time Table

    The PCAT test takes place three times a year -- at the beginning of the year, the start of summer and in early fall. If you plan to take the PCAT, register for a test date that gives you enough time to prepare. Don't count on your intuition. Instead, take a brief read-through of the test material and see how well your knowledge matches up against potential test questions. If you find that you have serious problems, you'll need to register for a test date later than the next one available. Since the PCAT has six sections, you should divide your available time evenly, unless your read-through revealed glaring deficiencies in a test area.

    Effective Study Habits

    Spread your studying out to small daily sessions and alternate among the six topics. Cramming everything into marathon study sessions is less effective than spacing them out. Alternating topics helps keep each one fresh in your mind. If you have friends or peers preparing for the PCAT test, form a study group. Not only can you get help for topics you struggle with, but you can also improve your own understanding by helping others. Take notes throughout your preparation so that you have something to review near the end, unless you learn better by using alternate study methods.

    Practicing For the Test

    Regular practice tests have two uses. First, you can identify your areas of weakness that require work before the actual test. Second, you can measure your progress and use your newly identified weaknesses to modify your study time for better results. You can make practice tests for yourself by setting up a list of multiple-choice questions to answer within a set time limit, but you should also take a run at Pearson's practice tests. Not only is the official practice test the closest thing to the actual PCAT test, but it is also the best way to practice for the writing sections because you have no easy way to mark your writing by yourself.

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    About the Author

    Alan Li started writing in 2008 and has seen his work published in newsletters written for the Cecil Street Community Centre in Toronto. He is a graduate of the finance program at the University of Toronto with a Bachelor of Commerce and has additional accreditation from the Canadian Securities Institute.

    Photo Credits

    • Digital Vision./Digital Vision/Getty Images

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