Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker, PharmD
Alex Barker is the founder of The Happy PharmD, which helps pharmacists create an inspiring career, break free from the mundane “pill-flipping” life. He is a Full-time Pharmacist, Media Company founder, franchise owner, Business Coach, Speaker, and Author. He's also the Founder of Pharmacy School HQ, which helps students get into pharmacy school and become residents.

How Pharmacy Schools Weigh PCAT Scores

JANUARY 21, 2016


In case this hasn’t been jammed into your brain enough times already, I’ll say it one more time: the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) is a big deal.
 
What hasn’t been jammed into your brain, however, is how pharmacy schools actually weigh scores. What things do they look for? What criteria do they judge you by?
 
Answering these questions accurately is difficult because different schools use different measures. To start, you should understand these basic PCAT measurements:
  • PCAT scaled score: This is designed to measure your abilities, knowledge, and level of comprehension. It is the scaled score of the 5 PCAT sections: verbal ability, biology, reading comprehension (for science-based topics), quantitative ability section (mathematics), and chemistry.
  • PCAT percentile ranks: This compares your score percentage-wise to the group of first-time test takers from previous years, which is called the normative group. If your percentile rank is 70, it means you scored better than 70% of the normative group. Pharmacy schools generally look at this statistic, but they also review specific scaled scores like chemistry or biology.
  • Writing section score: This is the average of 2 graders who rate your writing section on a scale of 1.0 to 6.0. So, if one grader gives you a 5.5 and the next gives you a 5.0, your final writing score would be approximately 5.3.
Of course, you are looking to score as high as possible in every area. In the event that you score poorly on some sections and you’re unable to retake the test, the best thing to do is to apply to a school that places more emphasis on your strong sections, or one that doesn’t look at your PCAT score.
 
A pharmacy school that is a big contender in pharmaceutical scientific research is probably going to place a higher emphasis on the science and mathematics sections than the others. In this situation, an outstanding science score could outweigh a poor verbal score.
 
You need to really know your desired school. What is its mission statement or vision? What is its ranking? Where is it located? What is the average PCAT score of admitted students? What field of pharmacy does the school specialize in, if any? What are the admissions requirements?
 
Learning the answers to these questions will provide valuable insight into the areas you need to focus on in order to maximize your chances of acceptance.
 
Every school looks for competence, which you can prove by blowing away expectations. Once you know what areas are important to your school, you can refine your PCAT study schedule and study more intently on practice tests. You can even use your new knowledge to update your PCAT teaching sessions.
 
If all else fails and you just can’t come up to par on your school’s emphasized sections, you can always apply to a school that places emphasis on your strengths!

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