What Is the PCAT? All You Need To Know

November 16, 2023
5 min read
Contents

”Rohan

Reviewed by:

Rohan Jotwani

Former Chief Resident in Anesthesiology, Weill Cornell Medicine, & Admissions Officer, Columbia University

Reviewed: 11/16/23

The PCAT is an important test for students interested in becoming pharmacists. To learn more about what the PCAT is, read on. 

You’ve likely heard of the MCAT, but have you heard of the PCAT? If you’re an aspiring pharmacist, the PCAT is currently a requirement to get into many pharmacy schools, so it’s important you become familiar with it!

To make getting to know the PCAT as simple as possible, this guide will cover what’s on the PCAT, how it’s scored, how much it costs, and everything else there is to know about the PCAT!

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What Is the PCAT?

Let’s start with the basics; what is the PCAT?

The Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) is a specialized test used to measure prospective pharmacy students’ knowledge and academic potential for pharmaceutical education.

The PCAT is designed to most accurately test the skills deemed necessary to succeed in science-oriented courses, and is a major deciding factor in pharmacy schools’ admission decisions.

Pharmacist holding pills

What Is On the PCAT?

While the PCAT is intended to evaluate students on their potential to succeed in pharmacy, you can expect to be assessed on more than just science! As a comprehensive test, the PCAT tests science knowledge, reading abilities, critical thinking skills, your writing and communication skills, and even math!

In total, the PCAT will contain 192 multiple-choice questions and one written essay. 

These multiple-choice questions involve the following content:

  • Biological Processes: 48 questions on general biology, human anatomy and physiology, and microbiology
  • Chemical Processes: 48 questions on general chemistry, basic biochemistry, and organic chemistry
  • Critical Reading: 48 questions involving analysis, comprehension, and reading evaluation
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 48 questions on basic math, algebra, calculus, pre-calculus, probability, and statistics

Students will be given one essay prompt on a topic relating to health, science, social, cultural, or political issues for the written portion of the exam. 

In total, the PCAT will take 220 minutes, or just over three and a half hours to complete.  

How Is the PCAT Scored?

Within five weeks of your test, you will receive your test score. The PCAT uses a scaled score, meaning your final score is determined by how many questions you get right and how difficult your questions were in comparison to other tests taken. 

On your official score report, you will receive a score from 200-600 on each section of the exam. Next to this score, you will be shown your percentile rank in each section. This is the percentage of other test-takers who earned a lower score than you.

The writing section is scored from 1-6. Next to your score, there will be the average of all the writing scores in the last year for comparison. This is the only section of the exam that is not scored electronically. Trained scorers will evaluate these responses based on the conventions of language and your problem-solving skills. 

What Is a Good PCAT Score?

A good PCAT score ranges from 411-430, depending on the school you’re interested in. In general, a score of around 400-410 is around the 50% percentile, meaning it’s the average score. Most schools will require scores in this range at the minimum and likely higher to be considered competitive. 

Many pharmacy schools also have higher expectations for the science-based sections than the other ones. Fortunately, achieving a competitive score can be made easier with expert pharmacy school admission help! These specialists know the winning tips and strategies to improve your score drastically. 

Pharmacy School Selection Quiz

How Long Is the PCAT Exam?

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The PCAT exam will take around 235 minutes, or just under 4 hours, to complete. This time limit includes a 15-minute, optional break. 

Here’s a breakdown of this timeframe:

  • Writing: 30 minutes
  • Biological Processes: 45 minutes
  • Chemical Processes: 45 minutes
  • Optional Rest Break: 15 minutes
  • Critical Reading: 50 minutes
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 50 minutes

What Should You Bring for the PCAT?

All you’re required to bring for the PCAT is two valid forms of original, unexpired identification. One should be a primary ID, and the other a secondary ID. 

Valid forms of primary IDs with photographs and signatures include:

  • Passport
  • Driver’s license
  • Military ID
  • Government-issued identification card
  • Alien registration card
  • Canadian Health Card

Valid forms of secondary IDs with your name on them include:

  • Major credit/debit card
  • Library card
  • Student ID
  • Utility bill
  • Any government-issued ID without a visible signature, or with an embedded signature

How To Register for the PCAT

To make the process of registering for the PCAT as easy as possible, follow this step-to-step guide:

1. Visit the Pearson Website and Make an Account

You will be registering for the PCAT using the Pearson Assessment website for the PCAT. You’ll have to first make an account in order to apply for your exam.

2. Check the Test Availability

Before officially registering for the PCAT, you’ll want to check if there are seats available at your desired test location and time. You can do this by visiting PearsonVue, which will show you all of the upcoming test dates. 

Once you’ve selected the upcoming test dates, you’ll be asked to put in your address to find the test locations closest to you and to see how many seats are left.

Since the PCAT is administered on a first-come, first-served basis, ensure you register early to avoid any delays!

3. Log In To Your PCAT

On the Pearson Website, click “Log in to PCAT” to begin the official registration process. Once you’re here, you’ll be asked to enter in all of your personal information as it appears on your primary ID.

After entering in all of your information you may indicate which pharmacy schools you’d like to have your test sent to, if you already know. Ensure you only select schools you’re sure you’d like to apply to because after the registration process, you will not be able to change or delete the schools.

The registration fee allows you to include three score recipients. Any PharmCas schools you choose only count as one, as the score goes directly to PharmCas and not your desired school.

If you require test accommodations, you will also have to request them during this stage before you checkout. 

4. Pay For Your PCAT

Once you’ve entered all of your information, you’ll be asked to pay for your test. After confirming your details and paying, you will receive a confirmation email telling you that you have successfully registered for the PCAT.

5. Make a Pearson Vue Account

Registering for the PCAT is only half of the process. The last part is scheduling your test, which can only be done once you’ve received registration confirmation. It’s recommended that you schedule your test within 24 hours of receiving your registration confirmation to ensure you get your preferred test date and location.

Using Pearson Vue, go to the “Scheduling” drop-down and click “Schedule Online.” You will then be prompted to log in to your Pearson Vue account, which you won’t have if you’re a first-time test taker. You’ll need to make a web account.

6. Confirm Your Details

Once you’ve made an account and logged in, ensure all of your personal details are correct. If they aren’t, you can only change your email address yourself through your PCAT account, not your Pearson one. Any other changes must be made through the PCAT Customer Service. 

7. Make Your Selection

Click on the “Pharmacy College Admission Test” Link and then “Schedule this exam” in order to view the test dates and times. Follow the online instructions to confirm your desired test, and read through the policies before confirming your selection! 

You will need your PCAT CID in order to schedule your test, which can be found in your registration confirmation email.

Once you’ve successfully scheduled your PCAT, you will receive an appointment confirmation email.

PCAT Testing Dates

There are only January test dates available now:

  • January 3–9, 2024

Keep the following associated deadlines in mind for these test dates:


Test Date
Registration and Schedule Deadline Late Registration and Schedule Deadline
Cancellation Deadline
January 3–9 November 1 December 13 December 15

Registration for all of the tests opened on April 14. Applying for a test by the late registration deadline will cost an additional fee.

If you cancel your score before the cancellation deadline, you will receive a partial refund for your test.

How Much Is the PCAT?

Person putting coin into piggy bank

Registration for the PCAT costs $210 and an additional $49 if you register late.

PCAT 2024 Update

In an attempt to encourage more pharmacy school applicants and reduce bias and barriers, the PCAT will be phased out after the January 2024 testing period. This exam will not be offered during the 2024-2025 admissions cycle or beyond and will no longer be a requirement at any pharmacy school. 

FAQs: PCAT Exam

While we’ve gone over the most important aspects of the PCAT, you might still have some remaining questions. In case you do, here are the answers to frequently asked questions about what the PCAT is.

1. Is the PCAT Hard?

The difficulty of the PCAT varies from test-taker to test-taker. Since several subjects are tested, some find the PCAT to be relatively difficult. However, with sufficient practice and studying beforehand, the PCAT shouldn’t be too challenging.

2. What Does the PCAT Test?

The PCAT tests science knowledge, reading skills, reasoning skills, and writing skills that are deemed essential to succeed in the pharmaceutical field.

3. Is the MCAT Harder Than the PCAT?

Yes, the MCAT is considered to be a more challenging exam. It has more advanced and specific questions and is much longer. While the PCAT is under four hours, the MCAT is seven and a half. 

4. How Many Times Can I Take the PCAT?

You can take the PCAT five times. However, since the PCAT will no longer be offered after the January 2024 tests, you may only have one shot to nail it!

5. What Does PCAT Stand For?

PCAT stands for Pharmacy College Admissions Test.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’re more familiar with the PCAT, you hopefully have the information you need to begin preparing to write your exam! After completing this exam, you’ll be one step closer to accomplishing your goal of becoming a pharmacist

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