The best way to do well on the PCAT is to be prepared for the exam. There are a variety of ways to prep and many will lead to success on test day; however, there are some things that are simply necessary. We have put together a list of five steps that will help you reach the score you need on the PCAT. From necessary prep work to helpful tips, these five steps will help you prepare for the exam:
Step 1 – Finish the suggested coursework
To do well on the exam, you’ll need to know the subjects being tested. It is recommended that prior to taking the official PCAT exam, you should complete the following:
- full year general biology course
- full year general chemistry course
- full year organic chemistry course
- 2 semesters calculus
- 1 semester anatomy and physiology (recommended)
You may be tempted to set your PCAT date early, but don’t set it so early that you don’t know all of the material being covered. Wait until you’ve finished the coursework before sitting for the exam. You may not be setting yourself up for failure, but you certainly won’t be setting yourself up for success if you don’t.
Step 2 – Don’t procrastinate
Familiarize yourself with the exam as early as possible so that you have a better understanding of what you’ll need to do to get prepared for test day. Check out our PCAT Guideline and our Section Breakdown posts to get started.
The coursework will give you the base content knowledge you need; understanding the exam will allow you to prepare for test day. Make sure you are familiar with the way the exam asks questions or structures answers. Get comfortable with the style of essay they’re looking for in the Writing section. Timing and endurance will be a factor in your success as well. Don’t put off your prep for so long that you don’t have the time to prepare before test day.
Step 3 – Take a diagnostic practice exam
Before you really begin preparing for the PCAT, take a diagnostic. This way, you can see how familiar you are with the tested content and how well you can handle the time constraints for each section. You’ll also be able to get an understanding of your strengths and weaknesses in terms of the exam. You can try one of our full-length PCAT practice exams free here.
As mentioned in the previous step, timing and endurance are big factors for success on test day. Taking a diagnostic practice exam before you set up your study plan and start preparing will help you gauge your knowledge of the exam and what’s being tested. It will help you identify your weaknesses and your strengths. In other words, it will let you know how to structure your prep so that it actually helps you.
Step 4 – Set a realistic prep timeline
Now that you know what needs work, you’ll need to figure out your prep timeline. Your timeline can vary based on how much time you have to dedicate to your prep and how much work you need. If you go to school full-time and work on weekends, expecting to spend two months prepping part-time isn’t likely going to end successfully.
How was your overall score on the diagnostic? Did you score in an average range? Were you above average or below? Was there a particular section you really struggled with? All of this is important when building your timeline. Give yourself enough time to build up your knowledge in the weakest content areas while strengthening the ones you already do well with. If your diagnostic score was below average, you may want to consider a longer prep timeline to make sure that you have the time to really build up your foundation. We discuss how to structure your prep in this post. We also discuss timing on the PCAT in this post.
Make sure that you are giving yourself enough time to prepare. Base your timeline on your needs, not your perceived deadline. This is one of the reasons it is so important to start your preparations early. If you need a longer time to prepare, you’ll still be able to do so before your program deadlines.
Step 5 – Make sure you’re actually prepared
Thanks to the diagnostic practice exam, you now know what content you need to study. This will help you when choosing your PCAT prep books. If you really struggled with one or more sections or your score was well below what you were hoping, self-study may not be your best option.
Make sure that you are taking practice exams during your prep. You can get the official PCAT practice tests here, or you can purchase our bundle of 5 PCAT practice exams here. These exams will not only help you build your endurance, they will help you gauge your improvement. If your scores are not improving, you may want to consider changing up your study plan. Don’t let yourself flounder because you think you can do it all on your own.
If you’re someone who can self-study successfully, then go for it. If you need some kind of outside help, then get it. There are plenty of options when it comes to PCAT prep. You can join a study group, take a PCAT class, or get a private tutor.
If you feel you need outside help, or maybe you’re just not sure what you need, you can set up a free consultation with one of our Academic Managers. Even if you choose not to work with us, you will have a better understanding of your prep needs. Click here to set up a consultation. If you’re interested in our one-on-one PCAT tutoring, you can learn more here.
Good luck with your PCAT prep! Remember, we are always here to help. Questions about the PCAT? Let us know at [email protected].