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PCAT Guide 2018

What is on the PCAT exam?

The PCAT isn’t the same exam it was a few years ago. It was recently updated to more accurately measure the skills necessary to make a good pharmacy student AND a good pharmacist.

It is still a skills-based test, and it is still designed to assess basic scientific knowledge, reading comprehension, mathematics, as well as writing and verbal skills. Broken down into 5 separate sections, 4 multiple-choice and 1 writing, the PCAT is a very important part of your pharmacy school applications.

PCAT Sections

As mentioned above, there are 5 separate PCAT sections. The infographic below provides a brief overview of these sections. Please note that they are listed in the order they will appear on the exam.

PCAT Section Breakdown

Each PCAT section is also broken down into several different topics/subjects. You can view the full breakdown and topic selection here. For a brief overview of what you can expect in each section, keep on reading:


The writing section will contain 1 prompt. The subject will be a health issue, a science issue, or a social, cultural, or political issue. You will be expected to present a viable solution to the problem. We’ve got some tips for success on the writing section!

Biological Processes

This section will be broken down into several biology-related topics:

50% General Biology
20% Microbiology
30% Human Anatomy & Physiology

Chemical Processes

This section will be broken down into several chemistry-related topics:

50% General Chemistry
30% Organic Chemistry
20% Basic Biochemistry Processes

Critical Reading

This multiple-choice section will be broken down into six passages with a set of questions following each. The question topics will be broken down as:

30% Comprehension
40% Analysis
30% Evaluation


This section will focus on basic math skills and algebra. It is divided as:

25% Basic Math
25% Algebra
18% Probability & Statistics
18% Pre-Calculus
14% Calculus

Scoring on the PCAT

Once you finish your exam, you will have the option to choose a “no score option.” If you choose to keep your scores, an unofficial score report will be provided giving you a pending score for each of the multiple-choice sections.

Your official scores will be released 5 weeks after your testing day. These scores will be available online for one year and valid for five years.

PCAT Scoring Scale

Your Official PCAT Score Report

*note that percentile ranking and mean score are calculated based on all PCAT test-takers within a certain chunk of time

Verifying PCAT Scores

If you don’t believe the scores you have received are correct, you can have the multiple-choice sections or the writing section rescored. Your official scores must be released before this process can begin, but rescoring can be done no later than 60 days after your testing window has ended.

Sending PCAT Scores

You can have your scores sent to three schools for free. You must list the schools you wish to send scores to prior to registering. Once you have registered, these schools cannot be changed. You can, however, request more schools for an additional fee. One of the “schools” you choose can be PharmCAS (by entering code 104). By choosing this option, your score will be sent to all programs participating with PharmCAS.

Unlike most tests, your scaled score isn’t what pharmacy school admission boards are paying attention to. Schools tend to place more value on your percentile rankings than the scaled score. They want to know how well you scored compared to everyone else. While many schools don’t list expected PCAT percentile rankings, how you do will still play a big part.

Registering for the PCAT Exam

Registration for this exam is a two-part process:

Part One

You need register for the PCAT here. You will be asked to create a user account in order to register. Once you complete registration at the link above, you will be sent a confirmation email. This email will contain a link that will take you to the second step.

Part Two

Schedule your exam with Pearson VUE via the link in your registration email. You will need a PCAT Candidate Identification Number (CID) to complete this second step. A final confirmation email will be sent; it is recommended that you print this out and bring it with you.

Cancelling Registration

Just as registration is a two-part process, cancellation requires two steps. You will need the credit card you paid with in order to cancel.

  1. Cancel your appointment with Pearson VUE.
  2. Cancel your registration on the PCAT site.

If you cancel prior to the deadline, you can receive a partial refund. If you’ve lost the credit card that you used, there is another way, but it takes significantly longer.  

When Should You PCAT?

The PCAT is offered in short windows each testing cycle. These typically fall sometime in July, September, October/ November, and January. Check out this cycle’s scheduled dates ! Pearson also posts registration dates and cancel by dates.

Your PCAT Test Day

What You Need

You should arrive 30 minutes prior to test time to allow for check-in. If you arrive more than 15 minutes late, you will not be permitted to sit for the exam. In order to check in, you will absolutely need the following: TWO forms of original ID (a.k.a. no photocopies). One form must be a primary ID, which means it must be a government-issued ID with a photograph, signature and your name. The secondary ID only needs to display your name.

What Not to Bring

There will be no food/snacks, beverages, books/papers, highlighters, rulers, earplugs, cell phones, recording devices, watches, hats, or clothing/jewelry displaying related information allowed in the test room. During the test, you will have no access to your purse, phone, or backpack; these must be put in the provided storage space. All electronics must be turned off while in testing center.

Security Measures

The testing center may require you to take a digital photo or provide a signature, fingerprint, or palm vein scan. You will also be required to electronically sign the Pearson VUE Candidate Rules Agreement.

Top Pharmacy Schools

There are plenty of amazing pharmacy programs to choose from when deciding where to apply. If you’re curious how you measure up to the average accepted applicants at the top programs, you can see a full breakdown of the top 10 pharmacy schools! For a preview of the top 3, check out the infographic below.

What Does This All Mean for You?

The PCAT can be a difficult test for some. It is one of many things that pharmacy schools look for when they accept applicants, but it can be weighted a little heavier than some other factors. The biggest thing is to be prepared come Test Day.

If you’re just getting started with the exam, you can get started with your PCAT prep for free. Register for our Free PCAT Practice Bundle – it includes a full-length PCAT diagnostic and some amazing PCAT resources. Looking for more in-depth prep? Next Step also provides a comprehensive Online PCAT Course as well as One-on-One PCAT Tutoring Programs.

We want to wish you the best of luck on your PCAT exam!

Have questions? We have answers!

Just leave your question in the comments or email us at!

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