How Many Times Can You Take the PCAT?
If you want to attend a pharmacy college, taking the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is usually required for admission. Most schools want to see some standardized knowledge level in a student’s record, especially in chemistry, biology, critical reading, writing, and quantitative reasoning.
If you’re wondering if the PCAT is difficult, then you might also wonder how many times you’re allowed to take the test. Don’t worry — it’s not as hard as you think, and you are allowed to take the test more than once!
There are, however, a few other things you should know before arranging to take that daunting test. Let’s learn a little about the PCAT and what you can expect.
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How Difficult is the PCAT?
The PCAT is a computer-based test that lasts 3 hours and 40 minutes and consists of 192 multiple-choice questions. Also, there is one writing prompt. When you take the test, you are entitled to one 15-minute break.
The writing prompt is the section many students will consider the most challenging. The prompt gives you a problem related to health, science, or social civics. You must write an essay and present a feasible solution to the problem. You will have 30 minutes total to finish the essay.
One section is concerning biology, and in this test, you will have 48 multiple-choice questions. About half are strictly on biology, with other questions devoted to microbiology and human anatomy. You get 45 minutes to complete this section.
When taking the section on chemical processes, expect most of the 48 questions to be on general chemistry, with some questions devoted to organic chemistry and basic biochemistry processes. You get 45 minutes to finish this section.
You will have a somewhat even mix of questions on comprehension, analysis, and evaluation for the reading section. You are given passages to analyze, some on history, science, political and social issues, followed by 48 questions. You have 50 minutes to complete this task.
The quantitative reasoning section has a mostly even mix of 48 questions on math, algebra, probability, and statistics, as well as pre-calculus. You have 50 minutes to finish this section.
If At First, You Don’t Succeed — Retake!
The PCAT can be taken up to five times. Don’t worry about getting things perfect the first time because even if you don’t succeed after five times, you can still request permission in writing to retake the exam.
If you know your stuff, you’re going to get most of the questions right. While you cannot take your own calculator, some testing sites may let you use an online calculator on the computer system, or at least some extra scratch paper for math problems.
What You Should Know About Your PCAT Score
After completing the test, you can wait for your questions’ unofficial score report, which is available right away. Then later, you get the writing portion graded, along with the official score report, within five weeks of completion.
After testing, you are given a raw score on the multiple-choice questions you answered correctly. Then, the raw score is converted to a scaled score range, between 200 and 600. The median score is approximately 400.
The writing section is graded separately and by two different staff members. Based on the essay’s quality, you’re given a score from 1-6, and the average is taken from both scores.
Typically, the pharmacy school you’ve applied to can inform you of your passing score or if you must take it again. The official score transcript is first sent to the institution you chose before you see it. Scores are kept on file for six years.
Taking the Exam More Than Once On Purpose
Some students claim that they intentionally retake the exam from time to time, treating the first exam as a practice run. After all, you can take it five times, so what’s the harm?
The problem is that every time you take the exam, it costs money, and approximately $200 or more, for late or additional fees. Perhaps even more importantly, the admissions committee of your school gets to see all of your attempts to pass the exam.
Therefore, it’s not a great idea to use all four of your exam attempts since they will appear on your final record. The school has the option to consider your best score, or an average of your scores, or simply consider your unsuccessful attempts as a red flag. It’s up to the committee, and therefore, it’s best not to take that chance.
You may be entitled to extra accommodations if you have an approved condition according to the Americans with Disabilities Act 1990 and the ADA Amendments Act 2008.
Some of these accommodations include working in a distraction-free room, using a wheelchair-accessible station, the right to bring medication to the exam, extended time, and enhanced screen reading software.
You must submit the request in writing and have it approved before the day of the exam. Try to get a letter from your doctor in advance, as well as a HIPAA Consent Form.
That said, if you do not pass the exam the first time, that’s no reason to lose heart. You can request to retake the exam if you feel that your performance was compromised, or if you believe in your heart, you could do better. After all, room distractions, sickness, or other mitigating circumstances can hinder your best efforts.
If you strongly feel that your final score doesn’t reflect your true knowledge level, then yes, retake the exam. Let the school know you can do better if you’re given more opportunities to study. If you make the request and the school sees your dedication and passion, this could reflect favorably on your record favorably.
Remember, you can always get help from a PCAT prep book, which can help you excel with practice tests and extra reading to prepare you for the final exam. Why not preview a pharmacy college prep course right now and get a possible glimpse into your upcoming exam?