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How to Retake the PCAT

Nobody plans for it to happen, so what should you do if you find yourself faced with retaking the PCAT? The Pharmacy College Admissions Test measures the skills and abilities required to succeed in pharmacy by examining your knowledge of pre-pharmacy subjects. The PCAT serves as an important factor in your pharmacy school admission, though different schools evaluate scores differently.

In order to maximize your chances of getting into your first-choice school, you must perform well on the PCAT. If your current round of scores don’t accurately reflect your abilities, it’s time to regroup and educate yourself before trying again.

Should you retake the PCAT?

As a general rule, an 80 percent ranking on the test will keep you competitive. Because each school is different, though, you’ll want to understand your school’s individual focus on PCAT scores. Most schools will generally indicate an average test score for its accepted students.

Understand, though, that admissions committees will see each of your PCAT attempts. They may look only at your best score, or they may average your scores. Be informed about taking the test more than once, and only do it if you really believe it’s warranted.

Understand your scores

The test includes three basic measurements.

1. Scaled Score

The scaled score measures your abilities, knowledge, and comprehension. It represents your performance on the five sections of the test: verbal ability, quantitative ability, reading comprehension, biology, and chemistry.

2. Percentile Ranks

This portion of your score compares your performance to other first-time test takers, called the normative group. If you scored a 70 here, you performed better than 70 percent of the normative group.

3. Writing Score

Two graders will score your writing sample on a scale from 1.0 to 6.0 and average their scores together.

Different programs may focus on different aspects of your test score. Additionally, most pharmacy schools establish benchmark scores that represent the minimum score expected from successful students.

Evaluate your performance

If you didn’t score as well as you hoped, begin by evaluating what went wrong. Did you spend too much time on one area? Did you lack test-taking skills? Did your nerves affect your performance? Honestly assess whether your study schedule served you well, and be prepared to adjust your initial plan to fit your needs.

Understand that your first effort wasn’t wasted, because now you know what to expect. Your first experience will help you perform better the next time around. You’ll have an idea of your weaknesses, so you’ll be able to address them as you prepare.

Make adjustments

If you didn’t follow a regimented study schedule the first time, develop one now. If your first experience led you to believe that you studied the wrong information, be prepared to adjust your plan. Instead, craft a schedule that allows you to maximize your study time and learn the way that suits you best. Determine when you’re most effective at studying, and designate time to practice the material. If you learn best in the morning, schedule your study sessions then.

Take a look at how you studied, and make changes accordingly. If you self-studied, look into a PCAT course or supplement your prep with representative PCAT practice tests. Consider one-on-one tutoring if you still can’t reach the score you need. Incorporate a mix of practice problems and simulated tests into your program. Study early and often to increase the odds that you’ll retain the information. Avoid the natural tendency to study the sections you’re strongest in. Assuming that your time is limited, focus instead on problematic areas.

Prepare well

Whether it’s your first effort or your second, prepare well for the test. Diagnostic exams can determine where you are in the process and be realistic about your likely improvement.

Take a look at this pretty-close-to-exhaustive list of everything you’ll need to know about the PCAT, including terms to know, tips to prepare, score information, and my own personal story with the test.

Retaking the PCAT isn’t the end of the world, and it isn’t necessarily an indicator of how your career will go. Recognize that your PCAT score is simply a predictor, but that it doesn’t guarantee your success in pharmacy school. Neither does it guarantee your failure.

The Happy PharmD has built classes to help you through the entire process, including completing the PharmCAS application. We’re here to ease the process so you can focus on choosing the best school and getting your pharmacy career off on the right foot.

Written by Alex Barker, founder of Pharmacy School HQ.

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