According to the American Association of Colleges of Pharmacy, approximately two-thirds of pharmacy programs require applicants to take the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). The test aims to predict a student's potential for success in school and covers subject areas that relate to the program. In many cases, a well-rounded liberal arts program will give you the knowledge you need to pass the test.
Naturally, the PCAT includes a section on chemistry and a section on biology. The biology section covers general biology -- including cellular and molecular biology, genetics and health concepts -- microbiology and human anatomy and physiology. While as much as 50 percent of the test questions fall into the "general biology" section, remember that the focus of these questions will be related to humans, not plant life. The chemistry section consists of questions in general chemistry -- including atomic theory, kinetic theory, bonding and reactions -- organic chemistry and basic biochemistry processes, so it can be helpful to focus your science college courses in these areas. Generally, it's a good idea to take at least two years of courses in each area, and many potential pharmacy school applicants major in one of these topics.
The mathematics section contains questions in a variety of areas, including algebra, geometry, probability, statistics, pre-calculus and calculus. Many of the topics will have been covered in high school, but you may need a bit of review. Plan to take calculus at the college level, even if you passed calculus in high school, to make sure your skills are fresh and at the forefront of your memory.
Liberal Arts Classes
The PCAT also contains a reading comprehension section and a writing section. You can learn these skills by taking classes in subjects such as history, sociology, art history, literature or composition. The skills you pick up in these courses will help you pass your test, so choose classes that pique your interest and that focus on elements of good writing.
Test Prep Classes
College classes give you a broad base of knowledge that will help you pass the PCAT. If you'd like a bit of an extra boost, though, it's smart to take a course specifically designed to prepare you to take the PCAT. Such courses, offered by companies like Kaplan or the Dr. Collins PCAT course, will help you fine-tune your knowledge and focus your studies on only those items you're likely to see on the test. In these classes, you'll have the opportunity to take practice exams, which helps you get comfortable with the format.
Maggie McCormick is a freelance writer. She lived in Japan for three years teaching preschool to young children and currently lives in Honolulu with her family. She received a B.A. in women's studies from Wellesley College.