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PCAT study tips from "the 99%ile club"

Discussion in 'PCAT Discussions' started by wmw, Aug 5, 2010.

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  1. wmw

    wmw

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    SDN Members don't see this ad. (About Ads)
    sorry about the lame title..
    anyway I scored well on the PCAT, and I want to pass on my advice to as many as possible :)

    verbal 437/92%
    bio 430/88%
    reading 435/90%
    quant 455/97%
    chem 505/99%

    comp 451/99%


    Sure, it helps for me to know if you are a first time taker, what your goal score range is give or take, and what areas you are struggling with, but here is what i generally did:

    Dr. Collin's with Kaplan exclusively (self-studying, no class) + the 3 pearson practice tests

    I began about ~30 days out and spent roughly an hour of medium-intense prep per day every day, taking one timed section (bio, chem etc..) per study session, so one timed section per day, which I scored and reviewed also. This is HUGE, I attribute my score to finishing EVERY section with over 10 minutes to spare everytime. all the time. this gives you time ro review marked questions what were more difficult. and the speed comes with practice taking timed sections, one at a time, dont worry about full length tests untill about 15 days out.
    I also studied one section of material each day from either Dr. Collins/Kaplan big book. Def purchase the Dr. Collins materials now now now! if you havent already and go to barnes&noble and pick up a kaplan book

    Verbal - studied collins word lists/some of kaplans - this is section that is hard to 'improve on' persay unless it is your priority, simply bc most of our vocabularies are 'set' at least 90% by now. The chance of finding and remembering one little word from studies on the real PCAT are low, and for this reason I probably spent the least time preparing for this section, however! do prepare for this section, as it can be finished very quickly with practice and provide you much time to review your verbal answers. so i high score is likely for the reason of it not taking as long. the sentence completion aspects were more challenging than the analogies for me, but with practice working many problems, they become easier.

    bio-the big kaplan book has an unbelievable amount of bio info, if you knew all of it, you would get 99% on bio everytime, and probably get an honorary bio Ph.D. from a prestigious university haha... point is, there is wayy more info that is necessary to study i.e. intense details on plant vasculature.... so dont get sucked in to this massive tome of information/intimidated by it either. Dr. collins does have all the necessary information but in slightly different presentation. *important* spend time with both collins and kaplan bio info and see what presentation suits you the best. I examined one section of the kaplan bio big book every day in addition to me daily timed section, this allowed me to at least be exposed to all of the material in the kaplan big book, also it helps to review the post section quizzes in the kaplan big book. for collins bio, aim for one section every few days, bc the sections are far more dense and long.

    reading comp - this is another one of those where practice taking times sections will get you the farthest. i improved alot after my first 3 or so timed sections. dr collins rc questions are too easy compared to the real PCAT by FAR. but they are good to begin studying with. Kaplans are slightly more realistic, the best are the ones in the three pearson practice tests. on the real PCAT i was blown away by the difficulty of the rc passages/questions compared to collins, which i had spent most of my time prepping with. dont do that, rely more on the kaplan rc passages and pearons practice exams

    quant- collins collins collins, wouldnt mess with kaplan here, their calc prep was insufficient. i realllllly needed calc help coming in and with the collins calc, although pretty intense to get a grip on, i became a calc legend haha... maybe.. point is if you can perform well on the collins calc, then you are in good shape, id check out kaplan to but dont rely on it or feel as safe if you are scoring well on it but not collins quant sections. every once and a while there will be a integrative calc/trig word problem that would just blow my face off, but other than that this prep method helped me (97%)

    chem- alot to say here. this is prob the most importnt section on the exam. based on my statistical analysis of 21 full scores ive analyzed, this is the section with the most scaled score points per percentile rank (SS/PR) what does this mean? it means there is the biggest spread in the distribution here, meaning it makes/breaks alot of ppl bc the scaled score from here typically affects the comp % a little more bc of the higher range (ppl making sub 400s to above 500). so focus on thie section, also bc it is maybe the most important for consideration by schools. its huge, and its hard. Gen chem is tested about 75% to ochem at about 25%, so first off know gen chem. collins is the best in my opinion for chem, their practice sections were excellent prep, the best prep of kaplan/collins for any discipline on the PCAT in my opinion, if anything get collins just for chem (and kaplan for bio)
    i was scoring in the high 90s consistently (this is raw percentile as in 46/48 q's correct) on the collins practice tests and i beat the cutoff for the 99%ile on real PCAT chem by more than 50 points (highest scaled score ive ever seen :)) so it def works and can get you there. also as an aside, beating a 99%ile cutoff for a section helps out your composite score with those extra points i.e. i had an 88%ile in bio but my comp was still 99%.... back to chem, most important gen chem concepts: thermochemistry, periodic table trends, orbital shapes/configurations, GAS LAWS!! mult. questions always!, and nuclear isotopes. these are the topics i would stress. use collins, go over a new section of material in it each day so you cover it a few times total in its entirety, take all the practice timed sections and you will be at your max im confident. for organic chemistry, you will have to know reactions, and this scares the **** out of ppl i know. but you need to. every practice section/exam ive ever seen had at least one organic reaction. know naming as well, as well as functional groups. collins does a great job with this, kaplans organic chem is insufficient when it comes to reactions, and collins is a little bit also, ive yet to come across a great PCAT organic chem reactions prep system. I was helped by the fact that ive been an ochem tutor for 2 years now, so i honestly probably cannot accurately judge how well collins/kaplan prepare one for organic chem. but the collins naming stuff looked the easiest to grasp as far as presentation style.

    essay: zero prep. but collins has awesome prompts that seemed right in line with what i saw on the real PCAT.

    overall: dont kill yourself, i was studying for max 1.5 hours a day, sometimes less, usually less but did so consistantly, HARD, every single day for about ~30 days.

    everyday:
    - ~30 pages in kaplan bio big book ~15 minutes
    - 1 collins timed practice section, scored, reviewed, alternated topics each day to stay fresh ~45minutes
    - ~2-3 various sections in the collins packets as review ~20minutes

    last ~15 days or so:
    -I took a pearson practice PCAT every 5 days
    -stressed lingering doubts i had on specific subjects (calc for me)
    -finished off all the collins timed sections until I had done all of them
    -finished the kaplan big bio book
    -finished all collins materials

    after the real PCAT: i thought id severely bungled rc, and verbal, done not great on bio, decent on quant and ok on chem. dont be discouraged if you thought the test was savage. i did and came out fine.

    please post any other questions, I will try my best to reply as soon as possible
  2. aznhomieboi1689

    aznhomieboi1689

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    Woah...so how do you take pearson practice tests more than once? I didn't realize you can do that.
  3. wmw

    wmw

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    there are three separate practice tests you can purchase, once you purchase a pearson practice exam you can take/review it as many times as you want I believe.
  4. Thomas6

    Thomas6

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    Thank you very much for this post.:)

    Could you please elaborate on the amount of calculation-based questions for the chemistry section? Like, will we need to set up ICE tables? And how about buffers? What kind of equations should we have memorized?
  5. wmw

    wmw

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    Ive never seen any ICE table questions on anything... takes to much time I think thats why. Know the gas law pv=nrt backwards and forwards etc.. also p1v1=p2v2 and vol1conc1=vol2=conc2 stuff, and % composition questions. Maybe a conceptual question on buffers but no acid base titration questions that Ive seen anywhere. prepare for a fair amot of calculation based questions however from the concepts above
  6. aznhomieboi1689

    aznhomieboi1689

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    Oh yeah I did buy the three tests. But when I submitted my answers for the first time I took the first test it said that once I submit the answers, I can't change them or submit them again, so I assumed I couldn't "retake" the test. I'll try to see if I can.

    BTW did taking the tests more than once help you? Maybe in terms of pacing and stuff? Wouldn't you know the answers if you went over the test after you took it?
  7. wmw

    wmw

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    taking the collins problem sets is what I was referring to retaking in the long post. I only took the pearson exams to see where I was after my studies. I didnt really recognize problems bc there are 9 or so practice exams for each section in the collins stuff
  8. aznhomieboi1689

    aznhomieboi1689

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    Oh ok, in the post you said you took "pearson practice tests for 5 days" or something. I thought you meant retaking it and stuff. Thanks.

    I really hope I am prepared because I didn't get to buy Dr. Collins >.< And I don't know if I should just sign up for an October one bc the scores won't be out in time by the deadline...
  9. wmw

    wmw

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    I took a pearson test every five days in the last 15 days
    I wouldnt take it just with kaplan stuff, I would really invest in the collins stuff what are you using to study?
  10. aznhomieboi1689

    aznhomieboi1689

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    But there's only three of the preason tests...I don't understand?

    I'm studying with Kaplan, Pearson, my old textbooks, and videos and notes from SDN community. (for science sections)

    GRE for verbal
  11. wmw

    wmw

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    yes. 3 tests/15days = 1 test/5days, one test every 5 days, i was spacing them out
    sounds like youve got good stuff, the problem is never having enough material, its studying the right parts
  12. aznhomieboi1689

    aznhomieboi1689

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    Oh ok lol sorry, yeah I have nine practice tests total and Im trying tolearn from my mistakes on them.
  13. mchang521

    mchang521

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    how would you compare the difficulty levels between Collins chem and the real PCAT? were the questions similar or was it the concepts covered by collins similar to the real PCAT? I'm taking the PCAT for the 2nd time in august, don't really remember what the questions were like on the real PCAT. but I think collin's chem questions were shorter compared to the real PCAT?
  14. wmw

    wmw

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    on collins chem problem sets, i was scoring ~46/48 problems right every time, so raw score ~97% Kaplans chem was slightly easier; less realistic. The pearson practice exams were comparable to the real PCAT. Nothing is going to be exactly like it, they change it up often. But collins is the best prep as far as how involved calculation based problems usually are, as well as the general topics covered. The PCAT will have some time wasting type questions, but if you can finish collins sets with ~10minutes to spare, then you will have ~5 minutes to spare on the real PCAT
  15. aznhomieboi1689

    aznhomieboi1689

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    Do you think pearson tests are sufficient enough? I don't know what else I should study? I can't get collins and if I did..itd be too late bc the pcat is on aug 21
  16. PD11

    PD11

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    I second this. I always have about 10 minutes to spare when I did the Dr. Collin's practice test. You want to make sure to practice to get to this pace because in the real test, I almost ran out of time.
  17. OptimistPrime

    OptimistPrime

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    thanks for the great advice op.

    I just have one question, what were you scoring on the dr collins bio, math, and verbal sections?
  18. mchang521

    mchang521

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    another quick question...how much microbio and biochem were on the bio section? and for orgo, was it mainly naming and reactions?
  19. Sitagliptin

    Sitagliptin

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    I wouldn't waste the money on Dr. Collins. I'm a member of this so-called "99th Percentile" club, and I didn't use them. Read my blog post. (Shameless bump, I know, but I don't want you all to waste your money).
  20. CutaneousRabbit

    CutaneousRabbit

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    I'm a member of the club, too, and I used three things only:
    1. Kaplan's book
    2. An hour's worth of o-chem nomenclature lessons from my partner
    3. Two official practice tests
    I scored in the 93rd percentile in the chemistry section even without having taken o-chem. For verbal, all I can suggest is that you read for pleasure: I'm an avid reader and I scored in the 99th percentile. Reading comprehension, on the other hand, is definitely more of a science than an art (as I saw someone write on here). You have to learn the way that the test-makers think and the way they want you to answer the questions. Don't over-think their questions and you'll be fine.
  21. AJbara

    AJbara

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    Thanks! I am taking the test in October. I have MCAT flashcards for biology and chem. When I went to half price books, I ran across a book titled "Master The PCAT" by Thomson & Peterson's as well as CliffsTestPrep. It is a PCAT book composed of 5 practice Tests. What do you guys think?
  22. chemguy79

    chemguy79 New Member Moderator Emeritus

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    I'm a member of the 99th percentile PCAT club (Class of January 2010, :laugh:) and I swear by Dr. Collins study guide because I felt that it showed me the topics that I needed to focus on before the exam. (The fact that 15-25% of the questions on the actual exam were questions that I had seen previously from his study guide.) IMO, some people seem to use the guide and expect it to each you the material. It will NOT do that; However, you will get the feel of the examination, you will see certain degrees of repetition in the questions/concepts and hopefully, you'll be in a good place when you take the exam.

    I think that they key to doing well on the exam is to understanding your weaknesses before the exam. If you're struggling with a certain concept, find texts/notes/websites to straighten them out before the exam. I took both Pearson Practice exams, saw that I was struggling with certain concepts and hit them incredibly hard before the exam. I scored 99th percentile on Quantitative solely because I saw that I didn't remember logarithms incredibly well and I focused more on studying those concepts. You can make huge strides with Chemistry, Biology, and Quantitative if you know your weaknesses early enough and try to clear out the cobwebs on those concepts.
  23. wmw

    wmw

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    It is probably too late to buy dr collins, in your situation I would use the Kaplan book and use the pearson exam as much as possible
  24. wmw

    wmw

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    for raw %age scores:
    bio ~90%
    math~90%
    verbal~88%
  25. wmw

    wmw

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    no biochem, a decent amt of micro, ochem not so much naming, more reactions
  26. wmw

    wmw

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    exactly. collins is even less of a 'teaching' supplement than the kaplan book, I think this is why some ppl dont take to it well, bc they expect the material to be taught to them, similar to how it was in classes.. this is not the case, scoring well on the PCAT is hard and takes intense prep, to really maximize the collins materials you must have an understanding going into it. collins mainly helped me 'feel out' the exam and know what to expect
  27. UyenRita

    UyenRita working to be better...

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    OMG i just want to say thank you all so much for this topic (and maybe this "club") :love:
  28. wmw

    wmw

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    haha.. your welcome. maybe we should make t-shirts... haha
  29. shimme

    shimme

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    there are a lot of equations for chem!
    should we just learn the basic concepts or just pick and choose (esp the sections you recommended)
    your pointers really helped!
    i'm just overwhelmed by the kaplan chem section :confused::eek:
    thanks!
  30. OptimistPrime

    OptimistPrime

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    wmw, one more question: do the organic questions on the dr collins practice chem tests resemble the amount and difficulty of organic questions on the real pcat?
  31. wmw

    wmw

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    Kaplan has alot of gen chem but almost nothing relevant for ochem, I seriosuly worry about ppl who only use kaplan for chem.... you need to know ochem functional groups, and basic reactions, and nomenclature, and some basic conceptual stuff, collins is way better, but maybe ochem class notes would be the best in this case. for gen chem equations, just focus on pv=nrt and other gas law stuff, I have never come across anything insane as far as equations go
  32. wmw

    wmw

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    collins ochem questions are similar in difficulty, in fact on my real pcat, the ochem questions were wayy easier, but i can only speak for maybe 12 questions on one 'real exam', prepare well.

    put it this way, if you could consider yourself prepared for an exam in a gen chem, ochem, or bio COURSE at university, you will be fine for the pcat, as the material is simplified slightly, and more general conceptual questions are asked... etc..
  33. CutaneousRabbit

    CutaneousRabbit

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    I thought the practice tests were easier than the real thing. When I took the PCAT, I felt unprepared for the o-chem questions.
    Last edited: Aug 8, 2010
  34. wmw

    wmw

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    The practice exams didnt have much serious ochem. true.
  35. BH07

    BH07

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    Hey wmw, if you have taken the pearson practice tests before did you feel those had the type of ochem questions you saw on the actual PCAT. Also, what section you felt like was the "most rushed" to you. If I am well prepared on the math, bio and chem on the knowledge of material, is it possible to have spare time on those sections?
  36. wmw

    wmw

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    It is most difficult to finish the quant then section, followed by reading comp, with practice I was able to spare about 7 minutes on each sections to review my answers
  37. BH07

    BH07

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    thanks wmw, did u feel the pearson practice tests material on organic chem was around the same material on the actual PCAT you took?

    Plus what was on quantitative that kept you from finishing faster?
  38. wmw

    wmw

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    the practice exams didnt really feature much ochem comparable to the real pcat.

    quant problems just take longer, mainly 'by hand' calculation multiplication or long division when necessary, also some calc word problems take a second to get a hold, same with all word problems really. just time consuming problems, but speed can be built. i improved most in this section ( from ~60s to 97%)
  39. BH07

    BH07

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    Thanks for the input. Damn I was really hoping the practice exams would be like the ones on the actual PCAT. what type of organic chemistry did you see on there. was the ochem much more in-depth or just conceptual

    What books/study guides you use to study the quantitative and chemistry section?
  40. fortunegookie

    fortunegookie

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    May I have the detailed information of the Dr. Collins' outline/self-book that everyone is talking about?? What's the exact title, price range, etc.?? How does the Kaplan math section compare with the SAT?
  41. UyenRita

    UyenRita working to be better...

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    I think you should read (if you have not) or re-read (if you did) the first long post of wmw. He did mention what he used for every section there.

    Good luck!
  42. Ji the Captain

    Ji the Captain The Unbreakable

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    haha don't even mention the SATs

    SAT = high school material

    PCAT = College curriculum.

    relevance = 0
  43. wmw

    wmw

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    Dr Collin's materials are $325
    find them at pcatprepclass.com
  44. BH07

    BH07

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    I cant afford the Dr Collins PCAT prep. Besides Kaplan and the Pearson Tests, are there any books you would recommend?
  45. Ji the Captain

    Ji the Captain The Unbreakable

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    im using kaplan, Pearson PTs, my brain, and A LOT of cliffnotes and old college textbooks, they really nail the basics for you
  46. BH07

    BH07

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    Haha i guess i can include my brain as a study reference as well.

    what cliffnotes books and college textbooks are you using?
  47. Ji the Captain

    Ji the Captain The Unbreakable

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    Currently using Cliffnotes microbiology, organic chemistry one, and calculus. These are all cliffs quick reviews are are lifesavers. They really cut to the chase. I am using my old organic chemistry textbook to relearn the basics of nomenclature and such.
  48. PharmaMaya

    PharmaMaya Pre-Pharmacy Student

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    Maybe its just me..but to all of you out there that say you can't afford Dr. Collins materials, this is possibly one of the most important tests you'll take next to the NAPLEX. You're already going to spend $100k-200k on pharmacy school, not to mention several hundred, if not thousands, of dollars applying and going to interviews. To me, the $325 was very worth it if it even has the chance of making me a more competitive applicant. I'm not saying that money is no object or anything, but relative to everything else, isn't $325 an acceptable cost compared to the probable rewards?
  49. Ji the Captain

    Ji the Captain The Unbreakable

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    haha good point but to be honest some people like me, Literally don't have the money. I cant submit my application for the fall 2011 until i start working my job this fall and receive my paycheck. I have 4 cents in my bank account bro.
  50. Rubisco

    Rubisco

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    SDN 2+ Year Member
    I had the same type of improvement as the OP in Quantitative. I started out getting around 50-60% but then i improved and got a 90% on my actual. I just ended up skipping questions that would look even remotely time-consuming and came back. Basically, I was on question 48 when 20(or 25?) mins rolled around (probably finished 60-70% of the questions) and ended up going back to do the time consuming ones/ones i didnt know. Not sure if other ppl would be comfortable skipping that many questions for the first run-through though...

    On my chem, i always finished with 10 minutes to spare, including on the collins (missed an avg of 4-5 questions on each practice set), pearson (estimated 85-95%) and actual exam June 19th (99%)

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