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The Best PCAT Study Guides - 2018-2019

Article by Jane Newsom. Last Updated: Monday, Oct 15, 2018.

Overview Of The PCAT Exam

The Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT) is a prerequisite for just about every pharmacy school in the country. It covers a broad range of topics over the course of 192 questions and 4 hours. The 5 main topics include:

  • Biological Processes
  • Chemical Processes
  • Critical Reading
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Writing

As a prospective applicant to a pharmacy program, the PCAT is one of the most important tests you will take, and weighs heavily on entry to any particular program.

We’ll cover the exam in detail, and give you our picks for the best PCAT study guides, review guides, and practice tests for test years 2018-2019 below, but if you just can’t wait, here’s the short list:

PCAT Exam Details

The PCAT Exam is a fully computerized exam, given at Pearson VUE test centers across the country. The PTCE lasts 4 hours, with 1 break, and contains 192 multiple-choice questions and 1 writing prompt. For 2018-2019, the test is given offered in July, September, October, November, January, and February.

Exam Sections

The PCAT Exam contains 5 sections:

Writing

This section consists of 1 writing prompt, which you will answer over the course of 30 minutes.

Biological Processes

This section contains 48 questions and lasts 45 minutes. Questions are further broken down as follows:

  • General Biology (50%)
  • Microbiology (20%)
  • Human Anatomy and Physiology (30%)

Chemical Processes

This section contains 48 questions and lasts 45 minutes. Questions are further broken down as follows:

  • General Chemistry (50%)
  • Organic Chemistry (20%)
  • Basic Biochemistry Processes (30%)

Critical Reading

This section contains 48 questions and lasts 50 minutes. Questions are further broken down as follows:

  • Comprehension (30%)
  • Analysis (40%)
  • Evaluation (30%)

Quantitative Reasoning

This section contains 48 questions and lasts 50 minutes. Questions are further broken down as follows:

  • Basic Math (25%)
  • Algebra (25%)
  • Probability and Statistics (18%)
  • Precalculus (18%)
  • Calculus (14%)

Exam Scoring

An initial score will be generated for each of the multiple choice sections as soon you complete the exam. The scores provided will include both a ‘scaled score’, and a percentile rank. The writing section is scored manually, so the final complete score will be available about 5 weeks after your test date.

Your composite score (combining the scores for all test sections) is scaled to a range between 200 and 600, with 400 being the average / median score. Each school typically has its own cutoff for acceptable scores, so you can research those to find out what you should be shooting for.

The schools you apply to will see both your composite score, as well as your score for individual sections.

Best PCAT Study Guides

Kaplan PCAT Prep Plus

PCAT Prep Plus
2018-2019 Edition
by Kaplan
Price:$32.74
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: Concise, yet thorough review of all exam content.
Cons: Small number of typographical errors.
Our Rating: 5.0 / 5

Our top pick overall is the Kaplan PCAT Prep Plus from Kaplan. Kaplan is a leader in exam prep books, and their PCAT study guide is a shining example of why that is. It concisely covers all of the exam topics, but goes into enough detail to help you be sure you’re prepared on test day. The full list of features include:

  • 2 full length practice tests (online).
  • Practice questions for each subject with detailed answer key.
  • Proven strategies for each section of the exam.
  • Overview of the PCAT exam so you know what to expect.

Between the online practice exams, the in-book questions, and the thorough written content, this book has it all. Whether you’re just looking for a last minute refresher, or doing more intense review you’ll find something useful here. If you only plan to pick up one resource to help you study, make sure it’s this one.

PCAT Study Guide

PCAT Study Guide
2018-2019 Edition
by Test Prep Books
Price:$23.74
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: Good review of all test topics.
Cons: Practice questions are somewhat simpler than the exam.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

PCAT Study Guide takes our second spot for study guides. As with our top pick, it provides a full review of the important exam content. It doesn’t quite match the top pick in terms of practice tests and questions, but it’s still a great resource which you’re sure to find useful. The full list of features include:

  • Quick overview of the exam format and what to expect.
  • Thorough coverage of all 5 exam sections.
  • Practice questions with detailed answer explanations.
  • Test taking strategies for each section of the exam.

Some people find the practice questions to be far simpler than the kaplan guide and the exam itself. This may or may not be a deal breaker for you, but the review content and strategies are good regardless. Even though it didn’t quite take our top spot, this is a completely viable choice to help you succeed on your first crack at the exam!

PCAT Secrets Study Guide

PCAT Secrets
Pap St Edition
by Mometrix
Price:$62.98
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: In-depth written reviews.
Cons: Lack of practice questions may be a deal breaker for some.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

PCAT Secrets Study Guide is another good option for students preparing to take the PCAT. It has unique video links that take you to more in-depth video reviews that can be super useful for some students. Features include:

  • In depth review of the exam and it’s format.
  • Embedded video codes for video tutorial portal.

The main drawback of this guide is the lack of significant example questions. The written content does a great job of reviewing the exam sections, so if you’re better at learning through reading and don’t care about the drills (or have another resource like flashcards for that), this is still a viable option.

Barron’s PCAT

Barron's PCAT
7th Edition
by Chisholm-Burns
Price:$12.34
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: Lots of practice questions and tests.
Cons: Some typographical and other errors.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

Barron’s PCAT rounds out our picks for best PCAT Study Guides. They’re a major player in the exam prep area, and they do a good job with this title. It has a good number of full length exams, which can be quite handy in the final days leading up to your test. It also has plenty of practice questions and answers. Features include:

  • 2 full length practice exams.
  • Thorough review of all test topics.
  • Practice questions with detailed answer key.
  • Proven strategies to increase your score.

Between the online exams and solid overall content, this study guide is fully worth your consideration. In a field of quality study guides, don’t let the last place position scare you off - it’s still quite good.

Best PCAT Flashcards

In addition to the excellent books mentioned above, prospective pharmacy students will see significant benefits in prepping for the exam using flashcards. Our top picks for Best PCAT Flashcards are outlined below.

PCAT Flashcard Study System

PCAT Flashcard Study System
Flc Edition
by PCAT Exam Secrets
Price:$73.99
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: Comprehensive list of terms covering major exam topics.
Cons: Cards are relatively dense and contain a lot of info.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

PCAT Flashcard Study System is our top pick for flashcards to help you prepare for the PCAT exam. It has over 650 cards containing key information across all test topics. Key features include:

  • Over 650 flashcards.
  • Covers all major topics and themes covered by the exam.

If you plan to pick up flashcards to help in your studies, these are your best bet. Repetitive drilling on major topics is a good way to help in the days leading up to the exam. Flashcards have a tremendous benefit for students who elect to use them in their test preparation.

PCAT Flashcard Book

PCAT Flashcard Book
4th Edition
by Della Ata Khoury
Price:$11.83
(as of 25 May 19 10:21 GMT)

Pros: Comprehensive list of terms covering major exam topics.
Cons: Cards are relatively dense and contain a lot of info.
Our Rating: 4.5 / 5

PCAT Flashcard Book isn’t actually physical flashcards, but rather a book containing the same short form questions you’d see on PCAT flashcards. The format may or may not agree with you, but the questions themselves are quite good, and cover all the major topics. Key features include:

  • Over 350 practice questions.
  • Covers all major topics and themes covered by the exam.

This entry didn’t take our top spot due to the book based format, which we expect to be off putting for many people. There are also fewer questions overall in this book than in our top pick. That said, the material is good, and you won’t be disappointed if you decide to go with this selection.

Wrapping Up

For prospective Pharmacy students, the PCAT is one of the most important exams you need to prepare for. Study manuals, flashcards, and practice tests are a huge help to many people, and if you’ve read this far you’re probably one of them.

We’ve rounded up the top PCAT study guides and flashcards and presented them above. To recap our recommendations:

Top Study Guide RecommendationPCAT Prep Plus
Top Flashcard RecommendationFlashcard Study System for the PCAT Exam

Our top pick for best PCAT Study Guide is PCAT Prep Plus. It’s the most comprehensive and accurate guide on our list, and is the most well-rounded resource available - with multiple full length practice tests.

For top flashcard pick, we recommend PCAT Flashcard Study System. It’s got over 650 highly relevant cards covering all topics from the exam.

Whatever your circumstance, supplemental study and review materials are a key part of ensuring success on the exam. We’ve listed some of the best PCAT resources available. Good luck, and study hard!

Sources and Further Reading

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