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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. chemguy79

    chemguy79 New Member Moderator Emeritus

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    Have you taken all of the pre-reqs? Your scores are quite poor and frankly, if you haven't taken all of the pre-reqs, I don't know what study guides will help you learn the material that you haven't been taught yet.
  2. harmonidrum

    harmonidrum

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    Maybe next time you should do your research instead of relying on populist anecdotes to make important decisions.
  3. xNeenax

    xNeenax Delano's Minion

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    If I can get a Dr.Collins book for a cheap price, do you think it will help me especially with the Bio II? I know the OP said to stick with Kaplan when studying Bio, but I haven't taken Bio II and I'm completely lost in how I can memorize all the systems in a month.
    I haven't finished studying Chem and QA that's why my scores are so low. RC can be higher only with practice, lots of practice.
    Verbal and Bio is what I'm worried about most.
  4. MacyRenee

    MacyRenee

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    I had a question about standard deviation, normal distribution, and z- comparrision test. Should I really try and get these concepts or are these the type of questions that are rare and is I see one I'll be ok to skip it?


    and I love all the tips and help! Thanks so much for taking the time and writing out how you succeeded!
  5. harmonidrum

    harmonidrum

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    There will be a decent amount of stats. You should know those topics.
  6. mmacary

    mmacary

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    Congratulations.
    I have been studying for the PCAT from Kaplan book but I have not taken any exams. Can you send me the link for exams (that I can buy). I need to practice ?
    Thanks
  7. harmonidrum

    harmonidrum

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    http://lmgtfy.com/?q=pearson pcat practice exams
  8. Kansas Pharmer

    Kansas Pharmer

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    What exactly is the big bio book? I only ask because my weakest area by far is bio.

    I have always liked Chem and math so no problems there. I have a fairly good vocabulary so again, no problems. But, I have always had problems with bio so any other hints would also be appreciated.
  9. chemguy79

    chemguy79 New Member Moderator Emeritus

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    I think that it can help, definitely. However, the bigger (wider scale) concern that I have is that in the chance that you don't see a certain topic, you may be confused.

    Have you taken Organic and Gen Chem?
  10. xNeenax

    xNeenax Delano's Minion

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    Yes I have taken Organic and Gen Chem. The only thing I haven't taken is Bio II, so I don't know any systems or plant structures. I heard that Bio is what most people get the highest score on, so I know it's going to be tough.
  11. terk

    terk

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    It's not the Big Bio Book, it's the Bio section in the Kaplan PCAT book. They have pretty good review there. http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/16..._m=ATVPDKIKX0DER&pf_rd_r=0RMQRQRXPYK4FQHE5Y4D
  12. Kansas Pharmer

    Kansas Pharmer

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    :thumbup:

    Thank you. I was misunderstanding everyone then. I do have that book but I saw at the bookstore that Kaplan had the MCAT broken into sections and wasnt sure if the PCAT was the same.
  13. pyaari83

    pyaari83

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    I wanted to know what your thoughts were. I want to take the pcat in Sept. I haven't taken calc yet and I haven't take the second part of general bio (evolution, etc). Should I prepare for the test myself (and how many hours should I spend) or should I take a test prep course such as kaplan with a tutor?
  14. flyerschickxox

    flyerschickxox

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    Did anyone use any MCAT books for the chem or bio sections? I took the PCAT in July using only PCAT study guides. This time I think Im going to try a different approach to study the topics in general so I was wondering if MCAT books are helpful.
  15. klj5269

    klj5269

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    Most important thing to know about stats:
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/68-95-99.7_rule
  16. Malay

    Malay

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    wanting to take the the last pcat offered this september. will start studying tmr night... enough time? (studying during the wkends as well)

    thanks!
  17. rjosh33

    rjosh33

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    I've had some questions regarding how I prepared/studied for the PCAT, so I thought I'd go ahead and post the strategies and resources I used to excel on the exam. Keep in mind you and I might have a completely different academic background. Some sections I studied relatively little for, and/or didn't use any review materials. Others I studied quite extensively and utilized several different sources. This is merely a summary (with hopefully helpful pointers) of what worked for me. Only you can decide what study method will work for you.

    To try to keep this post from being TL/DR (even though it definitely still is), I'll break it up into sections. But before I get into that, I want to state the single most important thing you can do to achieve an elite score on the PCAT: mastering your schoolwork. Study hard and study often in your classes. The information the PCAT is testing doesn't come from some magical review book, it comes from the coursework you've covered in the 2ish years you've spent completing the pre-reqs. And don't just study the subjects to get an A and move on. Study the material in an attempt to master it. Learn it so well you could teach it someone else (in fact, it'd be a good idea to teach it to someone else -- research suggests that's the best way to retain information in your long-term memory). Not only will your review sessions become much easier and your PCAT score higher, you'll kick ass in school too, earning the sparkling GPA that has pharmacy schools drooling.

    Anyway, onto the good stuff:

    Biology:

    For this, I used a few different review books. One of which was Examkrackers' MCAT Biology review book. This one goes into depth in human anatomy and physiology, as well as some microbiology and cellular physiology. There's a LOT to cover. The PCAT will certainly not go into anywhere near the depth EK's review book does, but it so overprepares you on the topics that you'll be able to nail the anatomy and phys. questions you're going to be asked. Unfortunately, this book doesn't deal at all with ecology, botany, evolution and the other areas of biology you'll be asked (note: it does cover genetics and populations), so by itself it's incomplete.

    I also used Kaplan's book for Bio review. This book has been mentioned elsewhere so I won't elaborate, but I would like to concur with the OP - if you know everything in there, you're virtually guaranteed a 99 on the Bio section. But a word of advice - don't get bogged down in the details. Make sure to learn and know the terms and concepts that sound familiar from your coursework. The rest is good to know, but most likely unnecessary.

    The last book I used was Examkrackers' 1001 MCAT Biology Questions. These were very challenging and of a different presentation than you'll see on the PCAT -- most questions come after reading a difficult passage. However, it's really good practice and information as they give full answers and explanations in the back of the book. I think I made the most progress and learned the most biology from working through these problems.

    Chemistry:

    Gen Chem and Orgo. The slobberknockers. Because these are arguably the most difficult subjects, if you know these two well you can really make hay against the rest of the field, further boosting the all-important composite score. So how did I do it? Well, I will tell you.

    First there was the assiduous hard work while taking the Chemistry and Organic Chemistry series at my college. Mastering the material the first time through was remarkably helpful. Of course, I realize those reading this probably don't have the luxury of just now starting their chemistry curriculum, so I'll mention how I reviewed. I highly recommend getting both the General Chemistry and Organic Chemistry ACS Study Guides. They can be purchased at: http://chemexams.chem.iastate.edu/guides/index.cfm, with each book costing under $25. Each book goes through the main topics Chemistry students are expected to have covered during their courses. At the end of each section are roughly 30 questions of the type you could expect to see on the actual ACS National Exam. You could even go so far as to request your school order an actual exam for you to take (students are prohibited from ordering the tests themselves), and then have it scored. The actual score isn't important, but you'll find the whole review process and testing experience to be invaluable. Also, some of the questions are rather difficult, further preparing you for the PCAT.

    A couple notes about Organic Chemistry. It's a subject best learned through understanding, and not memorization. Memorizing your way through Orgo is a sure way to forget what you actually do "learn", forcing you to later re-learn the material rather than reviewing it as you prepare for the PCAT. Understand the mechanisms, as these explain not just how reactions work, but more importantly, why they work. And lastly, I know it's boring and tedious, but make sure you know the nomenclature. It will be tested.

    Quantitative:

    This section is tough. 48 math problems in 40 minutes is difficult for pretty much everybody. Not only do you need to know what you're doing, but you need to do it fast. The only PCAT review book I have is Kaplan, and as others have alluded, its quantitative section is laughable. I mean, what they do have in there is legit and helpful. But it's so far from complete that it actually made me wonder what in the hell the Kaplan editors were thinking.

    So how did I cover all of it? Well first I completed the three Pearson practice tests and saw what quantitative problems I could expect to see. Those that I didn't know or were unfamiliar with (and there were many), I made sure to note. I then went to my boy Patrick's website. Truth be told, Patrick and I have never met, but he taught me so much about math in such a short amount of time (for free!), I'm forever grateful. His website is http://patrickjmt.com/, and he's got literally 1,500+ videos uploaded, covering every topic from adding decimals to multivariable calculus. His clips are short (anywhere from 3-10 minutes), and he explains the concepts really well with good example problems. I highly recommend him for not only PCAT preparations, but coursework as well.

    My advice while taking this section is to quickly but carefully read through the problem, and immediately try to set up your solution. If in the first 5 seconds you're either unsure of how to solve it or completely lost, "flag" it and skip it. Don't re-read the question 2 more times and then spend another couple of minutes (or longer) trying to figure it out. It's why you hear about students who had to blindly guess on the last 8 or so questions. Stewing over a single problem is a time-killer and just doing this a few times could completely throw off what could be an otherwise solid score. Simply skip each one you're not comfortable with, and answer all of the ones you do know, thereby maximizing your points. Of course, the idea is to come back to the skipped problems at the end (ideally with ample time remaining) and work them out as best you can. If you're really pressed for time, narrow it down to 2 choices (this can usually be done just by recognizing what the problem is asking) and then guess from there. 50/50 is better than 1/4.

    Reading Comprehension:

    I saved everybody's favorite for last: reading comprehension (Verbal doesn't count). This section drives a lot of students nuts (myself included). As many of us are science majors, we're used to answers either being right or wrong. Naming an aldehyde can't "kinda" be right. The integral of 7x + 4 has one right answer, and I know it's right when I see it. But reading comprehension has the added dimensions of subjectivity and ambiguity thrown in. Sometimes all answer choices can be right, but one is the "most right". Other instances require judgement calls on value statements, discerning what the author's inferred intent is as well as his tone. It is for these reasons that you can't go to a kick ass website like Patrick's and learn Reading Comprehension. It must be practiced extensively by the individual to understand the correct thought process required to consistently arrive at the correct answer.

    Of course, test writers (especially those of the PCAT) have tendencies. I am unable to get into specifics, but I believe scrupulously reviewing the RC sections of the 3 Pearson practice tests begins to reveal those tendencies. I will say this, however: I found the key to scoring well on this section is to select the answer that can be completely justified by evidence and/or statements from the passage. That might sound obvious, but all too often students (again, myself included) choose the answer that sounds the most right, or seems the most right after a cursory examination of the question. Unfortunately, many times (though not all the time) these answers that sound right are very wrong. It's why when going through score threads you see so many students shocked at their low RC score, stating they thought they did much better. Each answer you select must be logically sound based on the passage content.

    As for a review book, I purchased Examkrackers' 101 Verbal Passages in MCAT Verbal Reasoning. As the name states, it's designed for the MCAT, so the passages and questions are going to be more difficult than those of the PCAT. However, I found that it's still really good practice for making logical connections while simultaneously training yourself for the challenging task of 6 passages and 48 questions in 50 minutes (MCAT does 7 passages, 40 questions in 60 minutes). Be warned, EK's questions can get very tricky, and your scores might very well be discouraging (I about ran out of red ink when grading mine). But looking at it as simply good practice can keep you in a good frame of mind.

    Verbal Ability:

    Believe it or not, I didn't study for this section. Given that they can choose from literally tens of thousands of words, I didn't feel like it was an efficient use of my time memorizing a sh*t ton of word lists that almost certainly won't be tested. Besides, I felt the sentence completion portion utilizes just as much logical deduction skills as it does vocabulary knowledge. But if it makes you feel better, do a google search on high frequency SAT words, or something like that.

    Summary:

    I know I've said a whole bunch in this post. I don't expect most people to read all (or even most) of it. And like I said, I can only speak to what has helped me; these strategies may or may not be the right plan for you. But hopefully this helps out those who otherwise don't have a plan of attack.

    The PCAT is important, but as numerous others have stated, it's only a piece of the puzzle. Do well in school. Volunteer at the local hospital pharmacy. Join a club. Start a club. Play in an intramural sport. There's a lot more to the college experience than just video games and beer pong. Being a well-rounded student/leader is paramount to being an attractive candidate, and that certainly involves a lot more than just your PCAT score.

    Good luck everyone,

    Josh
    Last edited: Sep 21, 2011
  18. frankdahtank

    frankdahtank

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    Well said my brother!!
  19. DH1987

    DH1987

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    Spot on, rjosh33. I wish I had took more classes a little more seriously in my earlier years of college - it definitely would have made PCAT preparation much easier.

    I do have a question regarding ExamKrackers Verbal prep, though. I'm taking the PCAT on September 28, which gives me 11 more days of study. My RC scores according to the Pearson Practice Tests are mediocre, looks like it's between 50-75. I plan on using 7 of those days strictly for RC preparation. Would you think that would be enough time to make significant progress if I spend 4-6 hours of concentrated effort each day, using ExamKrackers?

    For now, I'll just study the Pearson tests and see what I can find...
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2011
  20. frankdahtank

    frankdahtank

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    Did you not read anything I wrote about the EK verbal in the reading comprehension thread that you also posted in yesterday?
  21. rjosh33

    rjosh33

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    Well I would certainly give it a shot. Reading Comp. is inherently subjective, and there is really no one strategy that works for everybody. What worked for me might not work for the next guy (then again, maybe it will). The key is to figure out what works for you, and that can only come from practice.

    Try different things as you're studying the EK passages. Read the questions before the text, highlight certain sentences if you need to, focus on the author's tone/overall point, key in on the first and last paragraphs as these generally contain said overall point, etc. The one constant I found through practice was that each answer MUST be completely justified by the passage. There will be traps along the way, as some answers will be partially justified yet are still wrong. Having a strong strategy during this section will allow you to decipher theses traps, and better recognize the correct answer.
  22. DH1987

    DH1987

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    I actually did. You said, however, that you used EK for a few weeks, and you did not specify how much time you spent on it in hours. I plan on using it for one week, 4-6 hours per day. You also said that your scores improved after reviewing the Pearson PCAT practice tests, but you didn't get the 80-99 percentile until after using EK for a few weeks. While I value your opinion, it does not apply directly to my current situation, or rather, as directly as I would like it.

    Furthermore, I'd like to have as many opinions as reasonably possible, that I can most closely relate to given my current situation.

    Thanks for your input, rjosh33. I do agree with your advice that each answer has to be almost completely justified by the passage or the sentence in question. It appears that I have a habit of extrapolating the information too far. This is actually a case where it is best to stay "inside the box", and don't let anything take you out of that box.
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2011
  23. frankdahtank

    frankdahtank

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    You are cute but nice try. Did you also forget to search the forum and see the other thread titled "EXAMKRACKERS 101 VERBAL REASONING?" I was going to write examples of how it would help but I'll save it. Go get the book, download it online, do whatever you have to do to get it and I PROMISE you will score higher on the test. Make sure to understand WHY you got answers wrong and how to fix that in the future.
  24. DH1987

    DH1987

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    Lol, now you're just nitpicking. You're still trying to justify your sarcastic tone in your other post so you don't look or feel bad. I'll rephrase it just for your sake: "I'd like to have as many opinions as reasonably possible, that I can most closely relate to given my current situation." Better? I even changed it for you above. I don't want any ego battles. In fact, I feel like I've already carried this too far, and I will just stop talking about this.

    Anyway, I'll go ahead and get the book, because you, rjosh, and many others do seem to recommend it. THANK YOU. :)
    Last edited: Sep 17, 2011
  25. ShSa

    ShSa

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    I need to improve my quant section as well, I think solving problems is best, do u recommend/used a specific text book for more practice other than collins stuff?
  26. stoichiometrist

    stoichiometrist

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    Verbal - 86
    Biology - 99
    RC - 94
    QA - 85
    Chemistry - 93
    Composite - 99

    I relied primarily on Dr. Collins and the Pearson tests. Starting August, I would go through one or two sections of a practice test every day and review the the problems that I missed thoroughly. The week before the test, I went through all the missed problems again. The key is to start early, and do a little at a time. Do not cram - trust me. I did that first time I took the test with Kaplan and REA and I ended up with a 64 composite score.

    I learned most of the biology and chemistry stuff in my refresher courses which I have taken recently. And yes, I've taken most of my prerequisite courses at least twice.
  27. Pharmop

    Pharmop

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    I'm worried about the QA and Chem section. What's the best way of studying these sections? There's so many formulas for both sections and you're given a short time to do them in :scared:
  28. rjosh33

    rjosh33

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    Great score, stoichiometrist, and welcome to the fold. Any ideas on where you're applying?
  29. stoichiometrist

    stoichiometrist

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    Thanks! Glad to join you guys.

    I applied to a ton of schools all around the United States (will compile a list later on). I'm hoping that my score will balance out my abysmal GPA and help me get in somewhere. :laugh:
  30. harmonidrum

    harmonidrum

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    I'm calling nannies on this one. Those scores don't even come close to what I've seen for 99ths.
  31. DH1987

    DH1987

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    No, it's very possible. You're only seeing the Percentile Rankings. The PR's are determined by Scaled Scores. For most sections, there is a cutoff point where anything above that Scaled Score is a 99 PR. Your composite PR is determined by averaging all of the Scaled Scores and then comparing it to the scores of whatever test group they're using.
  32. harmonidrum

    harmonidrum

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    I don't see how you could get a 99 with such mediocre scores across the board. I understand full well how the scaled score translates to percentile.
    Not that the scores are bad, and maybe mediocre isn't the right word to use, I am just saying the person seems to have just enough points to be a 98 or 97.
  33. DH1987

    DH1987

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    Maybe that 99 in Biology was a really high 99. I believe the scale goes from 200-600? Maybe he scored 500+ in that to make up for his other subtests.
  34. Kansas Pharmer

    Kansas Pharmer

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    From what little I understand from a supervisor at Pearson, you are correct. The SS that correlates to a 99% is usually a little over 450. If a test taker scored over 500 on any subsection, it would still be very possible to get a 99 composite.

    In my case, my scores were:

    RC - 72
    Bio - 75
    QA - 88
    Chem - 96
    Verbal - 99
    And my composite was a 97. So I think it is very possible for stoichiometrist to get a 99 since his subscores were better than mine.
  35. harmonidrum

    harmonidrum

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    My scores were

    RC-97
    Bio-96
    Chem-98
    VA-99
    QA-84

    And I had 99. Mind you I only had one score under a 90. He only had one subtest that was higher than mine, and it wasn't by much. I'm thinking he probably scored 97/98.
  36. R2pharmD2

    R2pharmD2 Moderator Emeritus

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    Geez, let it go. Even if he/she did lie about their scores (which I doubt), why do you care? And more importantly, why call someone out based on pure speculation?
  37. Kansas Pharmer

    Kansas Pharmer

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    OK... How about you got a 99+ and he got a 99-. Feel better now? Did I stroke your ego enough or do I need to send over a stripper too? :eyebrow:
  38. KiKi1989

    KiKi1989

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    Ok guys, i am so confused and dont know what to do ( retake or not retake) when i look at my preliminary scores:
    This is what i got yesterday:
    Chem: 99
    Bio: 99
    Math: 99
    Verbal: 63
    and Reading: 34
    Composite: 99.

    Yes, a composite score with a 34 on reading! This is my first time taking the test so i focused mainly on sciences, and def underestimated the difficulty of the english sections.English is not my first language so i am not surprised if my verbal and reading is not high, but i got 66-86 on reading on every Pearson practice test that i did so a 34 was still a shock. I guessed the fact that i freaked out at the length of the real passages in RC did give bad impact.
    Given all these, i am still proud of my scores, ( i'll be more than happy to share my experiences in studying Pcat if anyone asks).
    Still, how do you think schools will think when they look at my scores? I hate to retake it and i don't think i will, but if it substantially affect my chance to get into pharmacy school... then maybe i will. I appreciate any opinions
  39. rjosh33

    rjosh33

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    My initial thought is that you should definitely keep your scores. That is unless, of course, the school(s) you want to apply to have a minimum subsection score that must be met (e.g., 50th percentile). You nailed the important subsections, and maxed out your composite, which is the most important number anyway. I'm not sure it'd be worth retaking and risk lowering your composite as a result.

    Just out of curiosity, what were your scaled scores for each subsection?
    Last edited: Sep 29, 2011
  40. KiKi1989

    KiKi1989

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    Thanks for your opinion, i have the same thought as yours. Unfortunately, my top school explicitly says on their website that they "prefer" the score 75 for each subtest (which i think too hard for most of people). I am trying to contact and ask them directly, but having opinion from some accepted pharmacy students are important to me too.
    Here are my scores:
    Verbal: 409/63
    Bio: 484/99
    RC: 393/34<------ still feel hurt
    QA: 474/ 99 <----- i have been tutoring math for 3 years and i was shocked at the amount of work they ask us to do in this section.
    Chem: 484/99
    Composite: 449/99.
  41. stoichiometrist

    stoichiometrist

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    :laugh:

    Seriously though, I doubt that a 98, 97, or even 95 are much different than a 99 when it comes to acceptance rates.
  42. 831Daniel

    831Daniel

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2011
    Messages:
    12
    Having just joined the 99th percentile club yesterday, I'll share what I did.

    I "borrowed" a copy of Mcgraw-Hill from "friends" on the internet. I got Kaplan from the library. I bought two books off amazon (REA practice book, and Barrons) which were moderately helpful just because they gave me lots of questions to practice with. Altogether I spent about $20. Mostly I just practiced answering questions over and over again.

    By far, the most important thing was the three official practice tests with Pearson! ($80, but worth it). First off, they give you a sense of how quickly you will have to work in each section in order to finish on time. (For me, math was the slowest section, so I knew to work fast when in the real test.) The other practice tests often skewed in one direction or another. For some study guides, it seemed like chemistry would take a long time because of all the calculations. Barrons has horribly easy reading comprehension. Pearson doesn't do involved chem calculation questions, but does lay it on thick with the reading comp. But, still the study guides are good questions just to practice the concepts.

    The most useful tip is to just understand the subject material. This can't be over-rated. It's not rocket science, it's just basic college level math, english and science. Just learn the stuff, because it's good to know it anyway. Take your vitamins!

    Final tip: If it's really that tough for you, why not consider another career? There's lots of fun things to do with life, so why not play to your strengths.
  43. Kansas Pharmer

    Kansas Pharmer

    Joined:
    Jun 20, 2011
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    Oz
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    You are probably correct. I never thought I would even get into the 90s. Life happened and I got a couple less weeks of studying than I wanted. Of course I wanted a 99 but I am not going to retake and risk my 97.
  44. harmonidrum

    harmonidrum

    Joined:
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    :thumbup::thumbup:

    This is very true. I personally have seen kids I know use Collins and score mediocre/shabby on the PCAT. Collins and other study aids can only help so much, you need to have a good working knowledge of the pre-requisite course material to be able to score high 90s, period. I do attribute my 99th to Collins, but think I would easily have scored over a 90 even not using his packet.
  45. DH1987

    DH1987

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    SDN 2+ Year Member
    I will also vouch for that advice. Even while having spent 2 months doing almost nothing with my time except studying and working, I was only able to get a 92. I am not downplaying that at all, I think a 92 is an awesome score. But if you want to get a 99, I think you have to have a good idea of all of the subject material before you even begin studying for it. It was that much harder for me because I was a mediocre student in my earlier days of college, when I barely passed everything I took with a C. Furthermore, it has been 2-3 years since I took a lot of those classes that I barely passed.

    So my word of advice to ANYONE who wants to do the absolute best they can on the PCAT is to not only pass your classes, but MASTER them. When test day begins to approach, review will go much smoother for you. And if you still suck at vocabulary/reading comprehension, you have that much more time to work on it.
  46. 831Daniel

    831Daniel

    Joined:
    Jun 23, 2011
    Messages:
    12
    Yes, I agree. Very important.
    Last edited: Oct 11, 2011
  47. stoichiometrist

    stoichiometrist

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    SDN 2+ Year Member
    .
    Last edited: May 23, 2012
  48. rjosh33

    rjosh33

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    Pre-Medical
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    Holy Moses. How much does it cost to apply to all those schools?
  49. stoichiometrist

    stoichiometrist

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    SDN 2+ Year Member
    I've spent about $2200-2500 so far. I applied to many schools because despite my 99 composite score and 80+ in all subsections, my GPA will likely remain a major hindrance. :scared:
  50. xNeenax

    xNeenax Delano's Minion

    Joined:
    Apr 19, 2011
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    1,021
    Location:
    Chicago, MI
    SDN 2+ Year Member
    rich people :shifty:

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