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What am I doing wrong on PCAT?

Discussion in 'Pre-Pharmacy' started by MIMIJONAS, Jan 7, 2018.



    Jan 7, 2018
    Hi everyone, I'm currently a senior chem major at my University and have applied to pharmacy school in october. I also took my pcat oct 2017 in the middle of my semester. However, I took about 4 practice exams and bought the Kaplan book. I didn't score high on the practice exams, however, every time I took the test my score drastically improved. My last practice exam I scored in the high 50th percentile, so I just assumed if I kept studying the way I was, on the actual test I'd score in the 60th.

    On the day of the test, every section I have about 10-15 mins of extra time to go back over my answers. Which is why I believe my timing on the test was great.

    Last week I found out that I need to retake the Pcat for my dream school and I have 5 weeks to prepare. I honestly don't know how to study for this test and do better. I've been spending about 1-2 hours everyday since the day I found out going through sections in Kaplan but I don't feel like I'm retaining any information.

    I won't lie and say I'm the greatest at taking standardized tests, however, I am far from a horrible student. I do not believe I get test anxiety and I believe I spaced my time out pretty well the first time on the pcat. However, my score was below the 40th percentile. My GPA is about 3.2 but I have a lot of experience in the field working as a technician in the states as well as abroad.

    My question is how can I improve my score? What else could I be doing better?
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  3. DailyDaisies

    DailyDaisies Current Applicant of 2018 Pharmacy Cycle

    Apr 5, 2017
    I used the 2015 Dr.Collins study guide for the 2017 PCAT and scored well enough on my first try to receive interview invites for all of my schools. However, I felt like Dr. Collins helped a lot with only the chemistry and math section, though I may be biased since those are my favorite subjects. For the biology and English section, I used the Kaplan books but I feel like it didn't help my score as well as I'd hope for. Honestly, if I had to retake the PCAT again, I would use Kaplan's online PCAT course for the former two subjects since a colleague of mine scored high marks with it.

    If you feel like you're not retaining any information perhaps you're accidentally memorizing the concepts instead of understanding it? Either way, you should make a cheat sheet to outline the key topics you're having problems with. In the past, I have utilized youtube and ".edu" websites to understand difficult concepts, but since you're still a student at your university, I would reach out to your chemistry professors for additional help!

    FYI, I also studied about 3-4 hrs every day, about 1 month before I took the PCAT.

    Hope this helps!
    MIMIJONAS and Bareitashvilli like this.
  4. Bareitashvilli

    Bareitashvilli Applicant of 2018 Cycle

    Apr 22, 2017
    In my opinion I think you should aim to do better on your practice exams. Dr Collins packets tests are very helpful for the chemistry section. It helped me for bio too even if it was a little generalish.
    For me if I were to take the exam again for math I would take a live tutoring because it is not my strong suite.

    Anyways study for many hours 5 days a week and take the practice exam each 5th day.
    Vary your study methods so you don't get bored: (Videos one day, reading the other day etc) index cards really helped me. Just going through them which took me about 45 minutes to an hour on each subject helped loads. I was doing this for many months and on the last month I got the Pearson practice exams and I started doing them. Then for the mistakes I'd write the correction in an index card and keep studying and then take the next test so on...

    I did not do hot on math (51)
    Especially not reading. (37)
    But I rocked Bio and Chem 85 and 78 respectively.
    I felt proud that I did better than ok on those sections.
    Like my hard work and time separated from humanity paid off for something. Anyways those are my suggestions.

    Oh and the days you study focus on one section each day until practice test day comes. Remember to take time off and enjoy life too, that is important. Even if it means to look at the ceiling.
    And before the test day comes literally it's "cramming" time (not really cramming since you have been studying for so long) but you study as if you didn't study at all and you try to cram. Overall my score was brought down because of those two sections but my attitude sure brought me very far
    MIMIJONAS likes this.
  5. Hey @MIMIJONAS - have you made a study plan for the next 5 weeks? I know that's a tight timeline, but maybe you can take a recent practice test, go over the results, and choose 2-3 really hard topics from each section that you'll study this week. Then after your next practice test, see if you improve in those areas, and then choose 2-3 really hard topics from each section to study next week.

    I also find it really helpful to adopt more "active" learning techniques for retention (there are so many times I've read something over and over again and it didn't stick). This can take some time but can be effective for learning challenging subjects. For example, you could read a page and then try to take notes from memory, or take notes in the form of questions and then fill in the answers next week to test your retention. Even better, you could try to "teach back" a difficult topic to a friend, or to yourself out loud. Usually this helps me identify what I don't know I don't know.


    Aug 9, 2016
    The honest answer is you have to put in way more time. Honest time. What do I mean by that? You have to be very critical of the quality of your learning. Just going over things doesn't mean you learned it. You have to get creative. Buying Dr. Collins and Kaplan doesn't guarantee you'll do better. If you bomb the PCAT again. Go into over drive and push your limits.
  7. lalaland33


    Sep 20, 2017
    I would suggest not studying over long periods of time and get your studying done within a month. I took the Jan 2017 PCAT and studied the month before
    2-3 hours a day of honest (like BRIGGSQUAD said) studying:

    This includes:
    Reading 1-3 sections from the Kaplan Biology section
    Reading the Chemistry packet from Dr. Collins (Kaplan is fine too but it's too detailed)
    Taking 2-3 exams from Dr. Collins (any subject)
    Review the exam questions and try to learn concepts of any question I was confused about.
    Then two weeks before the exam, I took one full-length Kaplan exam per week.

    Also, if you have a hard time concentrating by yourself/studying by yourself, I would suggest doing one of those live-online or in-class PCAT classes. They're a bit costly but I'm sure they're helpful if you commit :)
    BRIGGSQUAD and MIMIJONAS like this.


    Jan 7, 2018
    Thanks everyone that has given me advice.

    Since I only have Kaplan (accidentally shipped my other books to school grr) I've been doing about 1-4 sections everyday from the book and doing the practice problems. Just finished the bio section today and was planning on just moving through the book. Most of the bio section I've been watching Crash on Youtube on sections that I needed more explanation on. I was planning on reviewing my past practice exams this weekend, but I think I'll start incorporating those now.

    I have about 2 practice exams lefts and I was going to do mock exams the closer to my test date. Honest study time for me is 1-2 hours, I just legitimately cannot focus after about 2 hours, and going back to do another 2 hour session after a break doesn't work for me. I'm still 4 weeks off, so I'll change up my studying for my remaining sections.

    Finally, "becoming creative" with my studying is very limiting to me since all of my resources are at school right now. Once I get back to school I'll have way more resources that I plan on using. At the very least I want to score better the first time I took this exam even if it's just by 1 point. Thank you again for everyone that pitched an idea, I am taking them all into consideration as I am studying!
    BRIGGSQUAD and Bareitashvilli like this.

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