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PCAT Writing Section – What to Expect

This section can be difficult for many students prepping for the PCAT. Like the Critical Reading section, there is no content to study and memorize. This section requires no outside knowledge and only practice will help you improve. You won’t be able to rely on the study methods you are used to and that can be overwhelming.

What to expect

This will be the first section you face on test day. You will be given 30 minutes to write a well thought out essay in response to a “problem” you will be presented with in the writing prompt. You will be expected to not only understand the problem, but to provide a solution.

The prompt will be related to one of three issues:


Which could contain issues related to public health, medicine, nutrition, fitness, prevention, treatments, therapies, medications, drugs, attitudes.


Which could contain issues related to research, theories, findings, applications, controversies, education, attitudes.

Social, Cultural, or Political

Which could contain issues related to beliefs, attitudes, behaviors, trends, laws, policies.

Practice, Practice, Practice

Practice is extremely important here. It doesn’t matter if you’re majoring in English or Chemistry, you will need to practice this essay prior to test day. You may be able to write a great essay with ease, but you have a set time limit here. That can alter your performance pretty significantly. Make sure that you’re practicing within the set time constraints so that you’re prepared for the real thing.

Keep in mind that spell check won’t be available on test day. So, you’ll want to make sure that you give yourself enough time to proof your essay before the time is up. Your grammar matters, too. It’s possible to write a great essay and still score poorly because of the number of spelling mistakes and grammatical errors. So, when you’re practicing, try your best to finish with enough time to go over what you’ve written and fix your mistakes.

What to remember

This is essentially a persuasion essay. So, dig deep and remember when you learned about those in high school. Ensure that you’re able to write an essay that is structured properly and flows well. You want an introductory paragraph, at least two body paragraphs, and a conclusion paragraph. The thoughts should be organized and your conclusion should be clear – an outline can really help you organize your thoughts if you have time.

A lot of students worry about the prompt they’ll be receiving on test day. Don’t. It may be a complicated or unknown subject to you, but they will never require outside knowledge to answer effectively. It would be helpful for you to keep up on current events, though. There are plenty of practice prompts out there to help prepare you for what you’ll likely see when you finally sit for the real thing. Don’t hesitate to use them.

PCAT Writing Scores

The Writing section of the PCAT is scored 1-6, with 6 as the highest. If you leave the essay blank, you will be given a 0, or invalid score. You can also receive a 0 if you write the essay about something other than the prompt or in a language other than English.

Your essay will be scored twice, once by a trained scorer and once by Pearson’s Intelligent Essay Assessor TM. Unless there is a gap between these scores of more than one point, they will be averaged together. If there is a gap, a second trained scorer will read the essay and assign a score. The second reader’s score will be combined with the highest of the original scores and averaged.

You will also receive a mean score that represents the average of other PCAT test takers.

You can learn more about the scoring rubric for this section beginning on page 2 of this document:

Don’t worry

It can be difficult for some people, but the more you practice this section, the easier it’s going to be for you. The worst thing you can do is panic. Don’t worry. Just make sure that you are practicing this essay within the time constraints and adhering to what’s expected of you. You’ll do just fine.

Good luck!

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