With tests such as PCAT, it doesn’t really matter if you’re taking them for the first time or retaking for score improvement.
You will have to prepare adequately if at all you want to secure a place in the pharmacy school of your choice.
A lot has been said about this test. From coming up with the correct study schedule, choosing the test. Prep materials to studying for PCAT in a month.
But, I haven’t seen many individuals giving tips on how they effectively took the test.
And that’s why in today’s article, I will be giving you 10 crucial tips for taking the PCAT. I hope they help you get ready.
1. Study to Understand
There’s no other way of getting ready for the PCAT test apart from studying. You simply have to do it, be it with the help of a tutor, course, or by yourself.
What I have to realize, however, is the fact that most students don’t know how to achieve balance in their studies.
In fact, if you ask most of them, they will confess to believing that the more time you spend studying, the more successful you will become.
While there’s some aspect of truth in this kind of thinking, there’s some misleading information as well.
You see, you can spend 3 straight hours for let’s say a month studying for the PCAT. Yes, that will be intense, but you are likely to master sufficient content to boost your score.
But what happens if you want to study for more than three hours? Won’t that be great?
I would say yes and no. Yes, because you will cover more subjects and probably finish your reviews in time to relax.
No, because that might be too exhausting, and your brain might decide to go on recess a week to the actual exam, and you won’t do anything about it.
What if you decide to study for 20 minutes a day with a month remaining to exam day? It obviously isn’t going to be sufficient.
What I am trying to say is that you should focus on studying to understand. And as you do so, balance the time such that you don’t feel too pressured into covering multiple subjects.
For it’s better to study for an hour and have a clear understanding of concepts, rather than a 22-hour cramming marathon that will leave you confused on exam day.
You understand yourself better, so know the furthest you can push yourself and don’t force it.
2. Combine Study Materials
No matter how famous and great a test prep company is, they can’t entirely cover everything you need to prepare for the PCAT sufficiently.
So, yes, go ahead, buy those books and study, but don’t forget to invest in practice tests as well. They’re the best ways to master the PCAT exam patterns in readiness for what you will be facing.
Also, if you take time to research, you will understand which test prep companies offer the best study materials and in which section.
If you don’t have enough money to invest in various books/courses, you can get two nice ones and use them with various free online PCAT resources. For instance, you can use Kaplan, with Barron’s and some free materials from test guide.
You can also join a study group (with fellow PCAT on-budget students) where you get to exchange study materials.
To be on the safe side, always ensure to combine at least prep resources that work best for you.
I am going to write an article on various best PCAT prep books, so be on the lookout.
3. Take a Diagnostic Exam
The diagnostic exam is a practice exam that will help you weigh yourself. And it’s particularly essential if you’re taking the PCAT exam for the first time.
The results you get will help you know where to put more focus on as you study. Therefore, it will, in a significant way, affect your study schedule.
For instance, if you find out you’re good in most Biology sections, and not so good when it comes to organic chem sections, then your weekly timetable should allocate more time for organic chem as opposed to Biology.
That’s why it’s advisable to take a diagnostic exam at the beginning of week 1, in your study table, so that you can know the way forward.
Doing this will help you establish a baseline early enough, and you will be thankful to have known where to direct most of your attention.
For best results, always ensure to alter your study schedule accordingly after each practice test to help you balance your study time.
You should, however, not ignore your strong areas, no matter how tempting it might seem. If you do, they might soon turn into a weakness, and you will have too much to deal with.
4. Self-care is Vital
No matter what you plan to do, remember, you’re the one taking the exam. In fact, you’re the main partaker and no one else. So, if anything happens to you, let’s say like you get sick or too stressed, no one will take the exam for you.
Therefore, the best thing you can do is taking good care of yourself. And it includes feeding on healthy foods, setting time aside to exercise (even if it means a lengthy evening/morning walk), avoiding alcoholic beverages, getting sufficient sleep, and drinking enough water.
This is especially important during the last week of your exam day.
Also, don’t forget to avoid stressful situations. Yes, I know sometimes you can’t avoid certain circumstances, but you can at least manage it, even if it means talking to someone you trust about your problems.
Remember, you need to be in an excellent state of mind to master concepts. If you’re disturbed, it would be difficult to make even half-an-hour of your studying time productive.
Another thing, if you have gone through our previous article on how to study for PCAT for one Month, then you must have noticed that I insist a lot that you should take a day off to relax each week.
While this might seem like a waste of time, especially when you’re short of time, it actually isn’t. Relaxing helps to clear your mind. And it’s in this state that your brain’s activities optimize. Meaning the next study session will be more productive.
5. Know Your Study Habits
It’s often said that humans are weird. I tend to believe that we are peculiar in our own ways.
Because of this, it’s understandable that we can’t all have the same studying habits.
Some students work best with the guidance of a tutor (be it live-online or face-to-face), others only comfortably study on their own and at whichever place they please, while the remaining percentage love working as a group.
So, it’s advisable to understand yourself and adopt the best studying method that can help prepare for the PCAT adequately.
Also, if you find yourself getting distracted easily after an hour of studying and yet you still have 2 more hours to go, then consider taking short breaks after each hour.
The last thing you want is to feel too much pressured into absorbing content. Studying time should be your motivation time, so use whatever study habit that makes you feel inspired.
Remember, you don’t have to follow a crowd. You don’t owe anyone anything.
6. Procrastinating is Your Worst Enemy
Some things are better said than done, and so does procrastination seem to most PCAT students.
But you shouldn’t let the thought ground you. Instead, focus on the bigger picture.
You know that you want to join Pharmacy school, so work smart to achieve that goal.
And in this case, it means purposively taking the test as early as possible so that you have other options left if you score poorly.
The options in this include the opportunity to retake the exam for a better score and manage to join Pharmacy school within a good time.
That’s why sometimes you simply have to push yourself to study, even when your whole body is telling you to sit idling around.
I always say that as long as the brain is willing, the body can catch up along the way!
7. Try-out the Exam Conditions
Before the actual PCAT exam day, try to stimulate the test conditions.
And this includes psychologically and physically preparing yourself to fit into the exam conditions that you will be working with on the big day.
The best way to achieve this is to take long practice tests while focusing on time management. You can also imitate how your day will run on exam day and see if you’re ready for it.
For example, set the alarm and wake up early (the time you plan to be up on exam day), start preparing everything that you need to carry. When done, see if everything is in place or there’s something you forgot.
Remind yourself of the allowed items and the ones that aren’t and avoid keeping them in your backpack/purse, no matter how tempting it might get.
You should, for instance, get used to working without your scientific calculator and any study aid that you won’t have on that day. It will save you unnecessary frustrations.
The early you adjust, the better.
This is an essential aspect of the exam day. You need to warm-up your mind for the upcoming intense session.
Your brain must have rested enough on the previous day (remember I said no reading a day to exam).
Now, it’s time to help it ooze all the content you’ve been feeding it for the past couple of weeks or months.
If you love filling puzzles, this is the right time to get into it, same as crosswords or anything in that line.
Such activities not only jog your mind into full gear but also keep you distracted. This’s the best way to get rid of exam anxiety.
If you love exercising, you can take a few minutes to jog and practice breathing exercises.
9. Double Check the Course work
The week before the exams, take time double-checking the coursework you’ve covered.
Tick the sections that you have confidently covered and ones that require minor touches (by now, you should be done with subjects on your schedule, or at least tackling a small area.
Most subjects have more than two sections, like Biology 1&2. Others have three. Ensure all parts are thoroughly covered.
Remember, if you choose to ignore a small section, it could be the cause of your low score. So, never underestimate any part, no matter how common it might seem.
10. Understand what the test entails
It’s your responsibility to know which areas will be tested in the exam. How many subtests are there in PCAT? And how many hours are allocated into each section?
For instance, you will be tackling Critical Writing, Biology, Chemistry, Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning.
So, as you work on your strengths, ensure each of the five areas receives adequate attention.
FAQs About Taking The PCAT
What is the best way to study for the PCAT?
There’re various ways you can study for your PCAT exam. It all depends whether you’re on self-study, tutor-hiring, online courses, prep books, and much more.
But, you can always check out my previous article on how to study for PCAT in one Month for a glimpse of how to come up with a 1, 2&6 months study schedule.
When should you start studying for the PCAT?
You should start studying as soon as you’re done registering for the test. 3-5 months before exam day is ideal.
But you can still hack it if you study intensively for a month or even two.
So, I would say it depends on how busy you’re, the time you’ve before the exam and of course your test-taking skills.
How many times can you take the PCAT test?
You may take the PCAT exam up to 5 times.
But, you should focus on scoring highly on your first attempt.
If you’ve to retake, let it be the 2nd time and at most 3rd attempt.
That’s why it’s essential to register for the test as early as possible so that you can have sufficient time to prepare for a retake if the need arises.
What score do you need to pass the PCAT?
The PCAT is weighed on a scale of 200-600. So, 90 percentile should be around 430, which means the average score is 400.
So, you will need a composite score of at least 400 to join the best pharmacy schools.
The above tips aren’t conclusive, but they’re meant to help you get better a good PCAT score.
If you follow them diligently and add some personalized ones, then you won’t have to retake the test.
Feel free to try them out and let us know which ones worked best for you.
Remember working smart is the new definition of success. Good luck!