The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is an admissions examination used by pharmacy colleges in the United States. The exam was developed in 1973 by the the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy (AACP)'s PCAT Advisory Panel and The Psychological Corporation (now Pearson). It was first administered for admissions purposes in 1974.
In 2005, recognizing that many pharmacy schools were now requiring applicants to submit writing samples, the PCAT Advisory Panel added a writing subtest to the PCAT. The specific focuses of the other sections of the exam also changed over time to address the changing demands of the field.
Starting in 2011-2012, the PCAT has been administered at Pearson VUE test centers in a computer-based format. Both the multiple choice sections and the essay section are completed on computer.
Function of the Test
The PCAT is an admission examination for candidates applying for admission to pharmacy schools in the United States. Many, but not all, pharmacy schools in the United States require PCAT scores from applicants. Because different schools set different standards for admission, there is no single "passing score" on the PCAT exam.
The PCAT Advisory Panel does not appear to publish detailed test statistics, but it reported that between June 2007 and January 2011, a total of 68,241 candidates took the PCAT exam. Based on those numbers, it can be estimated that approximately 19,000 candidates took the exam each year during that time period.
The PCAT is offered in six small windows each year clustered primarily around autumn. In 2014-2015, the testing windows were scheduled for July, September, October (twice), November, and January. Candidates must register a few months in advance of the intended testing date if they wish to avoid a late registration fee, but late registration is generally available until about a week before the exam date. The test is administered at Pearson VUE testing centers. The fee to take the PCAT is $199.
Candidates receive an unofficial preliminary Score Report after completing the examination. The Official Score Report is made available within 5 weeks following the end of the testing window. Candidates who wish to retake the exam may do so up to four times without restrictions. Candidates require special permission to register for the test a sixth time or more.
Candidates with disabilities who require special testing accommodations must indicate on their registration form that they will require accommodations and must submit a request and supporting documentation to the PCAT Customer Relations team prior to scheduling the PCAT exam. It may take up to sixty days to process a request for accommodations, so candidates are encourages to start the process as early as possible. Upon receiving approval from the PCAT Customer Relations team for an accommodation, the candidate must call the Pearson VUE Accommodations Coordinator to schedule the examination.
Candidates are expected to arrive half an hour before the exam is scheduled to start, allowing time to check in to the testing center. Being more than 15 minutes late to the exam may mean denial into the test. Two forms of valid, government issued photo identification are required for admission. Food, drinks, notes, books, electronics, highlighters, and earplugs are not allowed in the testing center. 
The PCAT Test is designed to test the skills of candidates in six different areas: Writing, Verbal Ability, Biology, Chemistry, Reading Comprehension, and Quantitative Ability. Combined, there are 233 items, including a thirty minute writing prompt. Aside from the writing topic, all of the questions are multiple chioce. The entire testing period, including the break, lasts about four hours. 
- Sample PCAT Biology Questions
- The reason penicillin and related antibiotics are not toxic to humans is
- A. mammals, but not bacteria, have enzymes called beta-lactamases, which can destroy these compounds.
- B. they cannot cross the cytoplasmic membrane of eukaryotic cells.
- C. penicillin inhibits protein synthesis on bacterial ribosomes but does not affect eukaryotic ribosomes.
- D. animal cells do not have a cell wall, which is the target for penicillin in bacterial cells.
- Which of the following is NOT common characteristic of the male and female reproductive tracts?
- A. meiosis
- B. response to gonadotropin-releasing hormone
- C. the production of gametes beginning at puberty
- D. the need for accessory cells to allow maturation of gametes
- Sample PCAT Chemistry Questions
- Which of the following pairs of compounds are carbohydrates?
- A. glucose and cellulose
- B. starch and caffeine
- C. levulose and gallic acid
- D. mannose and pyridine
- The primary structure of a protein molecule is determined by
- A. the relative positions of amino acid residues according to bond angles
- B. the sequential order of amino acid residues in the molecular structure
- C. the folding of the molecule at specific amino acid residues in the molecular structure
- D. the geometry of cavities in the overall molecular structure
- Sample PCAT Quantitative Ability Questions
- What is the least common multiple of 6, 15, and 21?
- A. 27
- B. 70
- C. 210
- D. 1890
- A cellular phone company offers unlimited data usage for $149.99 per month, or $59.99 per month for the first 5GB of usage and 5 cents for each additional MB of usage. What is the minimum number of GB, to the nearest hundreth, a customer needs to use each month to make the unlimited plan a better value? (1GB = 1024 MB)
- A. 1.75
- B. 1.76
- C. 6.75
- D. 6.76
- Sample PCAT Verbal Ability Questions
- Choose the word that BET complete the analogy in capital letters.
- HAMMER; CARPENTER;;STETHOSCOPE;
- A. patient
- B. hearing
- C. heartbeat
- D. doctor
- The _____ child refused to obey his parents, despite numerous time-outs.
- A. recalcitrant
- B. sedentary
- C. taciturn
- D. eclectic
- Sample PCAT Reading Comprehension Questions
- Refer to the following passage for questions 1-2
- Asthma is a chronic, long-term lung condition characterized by these four basic abnormalities:
• narrow airways • inflamed airways • airways that are overly sensitive to particular triggers, such as certain medications, infections, irritants, allergens, exercise, and dry, cold air • the secretion of excess mucus in the lungs
- A person with asthma has abnormalities in
- A. the airways
- B. the lungs
- C. the airways and the lungs
- D. the bronchial system
- Which of the following is not a characteristic of asthma?
- A. narrow, inflamed airways
- B. high blood pressure
- C. overly sensitive airways
- D. excess mucus in the lungs
The PCAT comprises one writing section and five multiple-choice sections:
|Distribution of questions on the PCAT exam|
|Section|| # of
| Time limit
|Scaled score range|
|Reading Comprehension|| 6 passages,
|Total|| 1 essay,
| 3 hours 40 minutes
(plus one rest break)
(average of scaled
Each of the five multiple-choice subtests of the PCAT is assessed on a scaled score ranging from 200 to 600. In addition, a total Composite score, also ranging from 200 to 600, is calculated by averaging the five scaled subsection scores. Each of the five sections is weighted equally in the calculation of the composite score.
The writing section is scored on a scale from 1 to 6. Both computerized writing assessment software and trained scorers are involved in this process.
The PCAT Advisory Panel does not publicly publish scoring statistics such as percentile ranks.
Answers to Sample Questions
Biology: 1;D 2;C Chemistry: 1;A 2;B Quantitative Ability: 1;C 2;D Verbal Ability: 1;D 2;A Reading: 1;C 2;B
- PCAT: PCAT Basics: Purpose, Structure, and Administration, 2014-2015 December 1 2014
- AACP: Admission Policies and Practices for Pharm.D. Degree Programs Anticipated for 2014–15 December 1 2014
- PCAT: Interpreting PCAT Scores, 2012-2013 December 1 2014
- PCAT: PCAT Candidate Information Booklet, 2014-2015 December 1 2014
- http://pcatweb.info/downloads/CIB_MNL_FNL_on-line.pdf PCAT Handbook] 17 November 2014
- PCAT Blueprint 17 November 2014