Most pharmacy schools in the United States use the Pharmacy College Admissions Test, or PCAT, to assess prospective students in their programs. The questions are designed to test skills deemed necessary for pharmacy school curricula, as well as for a future career as a pharmacist. The test consists of 240 multiple-choice questions and two essay questions divided into seven sub-tests -- verbal ability, biology, chemistry, reading comprehension, quantitative ability and writing. Each pharmacy school sets its own minimum PCAT score, so check with the individual programs for requirements.
Biology topics on the test include anatomy and physiology, microbiology and general biology. The biology section is 30 minutes long and contains 48 multiple-choice questions. Students planning on taking the PCAT should take two semesters of general biology with lab. The first semester of biology generally covers cell biology and anatomy and physiology, while the second semester will include evolution and genetics.
The 30 minute long chemistry section contains 48 questions on general chemistry, elementary organic chemistry and biochemistry, with a focus on general chemistry. Students should take two semesters of general chemistry with lab in addition to one semester of organic chemistry. While organic chemistry is a common prerequisite for the PCAT, the University of Florida college of pharmacy website states that students may either be enrolled or have completed organic chemistry.
The quantitative ability section of the PCAT tests math skills that will be needed in pharmacy school. It is a 40-minute section with 48 questions and no calculators provided. Topics in this section include algebra, probability and statistics, pre-calculus and calculus and basic math skills. According to the University of Florida college of pharmacy website, students should have completed calculus before taking the PCAT.
The reading comprehension section of the PCAT does not have set prerequisites, but rather tests skills in comprehending and evaluating given information. The reading comprehension section gives students 50 minutes to read six passages and answer 48 multiple choice questions. Common courses to prepare for this section are English composition and literature, history, philosophy or a social sciences course such as psychology or sociology.
Verbal Ability and Writing
The 30-minute, 48-question verbal ability section presents analogy problems and sentence completion questions, while the two 30-minute writing sections of the PCAT consist of single prompts that will examine problem solving and communication skills. Although there are no set prerequisites for these two sections, humanities courses that develop communication and verbal reasoning skills will be beneficial. Courses such as communications, English composition and literature or philosophy will help prepare the student for these sections.
- Kaplan Test Prep: The PCAT at a Glance
- University of Florida College of Pharmacy: Prospective Students FAQ
- A2ZColleges.com: PCAT
- University of Houston College of Pharmacy: Pharm.D. Prerequisites/Pre-pharmacy Curriculum
- AACP: Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) about Pharmacy Admissions
- TestPrepPractice.net: About PCAT Test
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