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Learning English to Take the PCAT

The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is a standardized test created for prospective pharmacy school students, and the PCAT tests general academic skills and scientific knowledge needed for those who plan to pursue a career in pharmacology. Students are given four and a half hours to take the test. The test contains seven sections which are verbal ability, quantitative ability, biology, chemistry, reading, and two writing sections. Sufficient English knowledge is needed in order to take and pass the PCAT, specifically for the verbal ability, reading comprehension, and writing sections. The remainder of the article will explain these sections, give some English studying tips, and provide helpful PCAT prep review websites.

Each section tests for different academic skill sets. The verbal ability section will test your grammar and vocabulary skills through analogies and sentence completion questions. The reading section will test for comprehension, analysis, and evaluation skills. This section typically gives you a passage to read and asks you to answer several questions pertaining to the passage. The writing section gives you a writing prompt addressing a problem. The purpose of the essay is to come up with a solution to the problem. The topics of the PCAT writing prompts include health issues, science issues, and social, cultural or political issues. An example of a prompt is “Discuss a solution to the problem of promoting healthy dietary habits among a population.” While the biology and chemistry sections will test your knowledge on various science topics, the quantitative ability section will test your problem solving skills on different mathematical concepts.

To ace the PCAT, start studying early, manage your time well, and study smart. The PCAT is only offered three times a year so it is best that you prepare for it well so you can achieve the best score as possible in one shot. The first step is to purchase a PCAT prep review book to aide you in studying. This link ( gives you the top five PCAT prep books and gives a review for each one. The next step is to make flashcards. Most PCAT prep books will provide a list of important vocabulary words. Study the list and make flashcards for the words and definitions you are unsure of. is a great site for creating and studying flashcards. Quizlet offers study features, modified tests, and fun games to help you learn all the words in your vocabulary list. This link ( offers 350 PCAT words that can be studied. This other link ( offers over 600 PCAT terms of vocabulary words and analogies. Studying these terms will definitely help you tackle the verbal ability section.

The next step is to take a lot of PCAT practice tests. Taking practice tests is the best way to familiarize yourself with the instructions, the format of the test, and the type of questions that may be asked. PCAT prep review books should offer at least one or two full practice tests. In addition, there are a lot of resources online that provide PCAT practice tests and questions. The following is a list of helpful PCAT practice websites:

  1. Kaplan Test Prep (
    In this link you will find a free full online PCAT practice test offered by Kaplan.

  2. PCAT Test Blueprint and Sample Items (
    This link shows a blueprint of the PCAT specifically showing what is being tested for in each section. This page also shows example questions from the test and provides nine writing prompts that you can use to practice.

  3. Test Prep Review (
    This website offers free practice questions on numerous topics covered by the PCAT. These self-assessment questions will help you see what subjects you may need to work.

  4. Practice Quiz (
    This site provides over 100 practice PCAT review questions from all the sections of the test. Practice quiz gives you a study mode or test mode options.

Another important tip is to time yourself while taking tests. This will give you an idea of how long you have to answer all the questions in each section. By doing this, you will learn how to manage your time while test-taking. This is an important skill to practice especially for the writing section since you are given only 30 minutes to write an organized logical essay addressing a solution to a problem. The more you practice testing yourself under pressure, the more confident and ready you will feel on test day. To register and learn more about the PCAT visit:

Photo Credit: Kai Schreiber
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