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The path to becoming a pharmacist officially starts when a person is accepted into a college of pharmacy. Of course, for most people, the road to a pharmacy career begins long before they win one of the very limited and highly sought after admission slots to an American pharmacy school. Most of those who become pharmacists began dreaming and planning for such a career back in their high school days or earlier. They began laying a solid foundation in high school science courses; they applied to selective colleges and took the right pre-pharmacy classes, etc. So, unofficially, the path begins much earlier; officially, however, it begins with admission to a school of pharmacy.
Admission to a pharmacy school may be the door to a career as a pharmacist, but passing the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is the key that unlocks that door. The PCAT is one of the most difficult admissions tests in existence, and every year thousands of people fail it. Technically, there is no “failing” score, as each school sets its own standards and guidelines, but generally speaking, lower scores lead to lower prospects for admission. If a score is extremely low the test taker’s chances of winning admission to any school will be close to zero. Because the PCAT is such a critical part of becoming a pharmacist, getting a high score on it is imperative.
The PCAT is a standardized test that consists of 240 multiple choice questions, and two essay questions. Test takers are given four hours to complete the exam, along with a break around halfway through the four hours. It is only given a few times a year, at Pearson VUE testing centers located in cities across the country, and it is a computer based exam. The fee to take it is currently around $200. The subject matter and format are much like those found on tests such as the SAT and the GRE, but there is a much stronger emphasis on chemistry and biology and math, as these are so essential for success in pharmacy careers.
The best preparation for passing the PCAT is to do well in college, especially in subjects such as calculus, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, etc. Cramming is rarely enough to make up for a lack of learning in the actual classroom, or working on assignments. There are study guides and other aids available, and these can be helpful for a person who has a solid foundation in the subjects, but probably won’t be enough to help a person get a high score if they didn’t do well in these subjects in college.
PCAT test breakdown
PCAT Test Video Review
by Enoch Morrison
Last Updated: 06/06/2013
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