Studying medicine and healthcare courses is not a stroke of one-night luck. Contrary to this idea, it literally keeps you up past dawn—scanning through notes and mastering medical concepts. Fortunately, qualifying examinations like PCAT and MCAT guarantee you get into shape for the sleepless nights.
As an aspirant of both fields of specialization, perhaps you are dying to know the difference between PCAT vs. MCAT before taking it. To straightforwardly answer your question, the Pharmacy College Admission Test or PCAT centers on the practice of dispensing medicinal drugs. On the other hand, the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) is ideal for those who aspire to become medical specialists practicing disease prevention, diagnosis, and treatment.
Whether on an MCAT or a PCAT test preparation, this article contains all the necessary information you should bear in mind before entering into the warzone of the “beast” (as MCAT examinees call it).
What is the PCAT?
The shortest quip to this question is that PCAT examines the academic aptitude and scientific knowledge of pharmacy college applicants, necessary for the admission process leading to pharmaceutical education commencement. In other words, it is a requisite test before enrolling in any North American and Canadian pharmacy school that provides a route to a degree in pharmacy.
Now that you are finally aware of its definition, you might anxiously ask, how long is the PCAT? or is the PCAT hard? Assuredly, you can pass this examination with discipline and adequate preparation.
The PCAT exam comprises five (5) key disciplines, namely: Writing (30 minutes), Biological Processes (48 questions in 45 Minutes), Chemical Processes (48 questions in 45 minutes), Critical Reading ( 48 questions in 50 minutes), and Quantitative Reasoning (48 questions in 50 minutes). Hence, the examination takes approximately four hours to finish, including the in-between break.
In the Written section, you are expected to formulate solutions to scientific world problems, forwarding you to Anatomy & Physiology, Microbiology, and General Biology in the Biological Processes.
The most challenging unit would probably be Quantitative reasoning as you are expected to perform mathematical expertise: Basic Math, Algebra, Statistics & Probability, Precalculus, and Calculus. Meanwhile, the Chemical Process deals with General, Organic, and Biochemistry. Lastly, you will encounter six passages in the Critical Reading section with eight questions.
What comes next, then? The scoring system, of course. It is an essential detail that gives you a heads up on what points you should aim for.
PCAT Scoring System
Before anything else, note that different pharmacy colleges have different passing score standards. It would be best if you researched the admission score of your desired school before PCAT as your motivation and goal.
Going back, what is the passing score of PCAT?
It ranks students based on a unique scoring system that one might find confusing. Note that the exam is multiple choice, except for the Writing section, which is graded based on grammatical correctness and problem-solving ability.
You will receive your preliminary score that disclosed the percentile rank and scaled scores you got in every section after the exam. Nonetheless, your initial score is not the number that admission councils evaluate during the application process.
The committee will then convert the number of correct answers you got in the multiple choice into a scaled score which ranges from 200 being the lowest to 600 being the highest. In comparison, the essay is graded with the average score by two readers using a scale of 1-6.
Finally, the score that admission committees use is the composite percentile rank derived from scaled scores (200-600) and percentile rank (your performance compared to other takers). Thus, you may assume that the 90th rank got a scaled score of 400 and above.
Averagely, a scaled score of 400 is considered a good mark. Nonetheless, you must adhere your score to specific standards imposed by your school of choice. For example, the University of Pittsburgh accepts applicants with a percentile rank of 70th, while the University of Florida has a minimum percentile rank of 40th.
What Does MCAT Test For?
Like other competency examinations, MCAT measures examinees’ theoretical understanding and analytical ability—particularly in the medical profession. It is a critical examination administered by the American Association of Medical Colleges to gauge the preparedness of aspiring physicians for medical education, mainly in the United States and Canada.
You might wonder whether MCAT results are used in dentistry and ophthalmology admissions. There are no other results; they are not used for these branches.
Consider skimming through these content areas before designing your review model to understand what subjects you need to focus more on in your MCAT test preparation.
MCAT exam consists of four core subjects that are effective in measuring your competence in the medical discipline, particularly: Biological and Chemical Sciences of Living Things; Chemical and Physical Foundations of Biological Systems; Psychological, Social, and Biological Foundations of Behavior; and Critical Analysis and Reasoning Ability.
Since the structure of this test is aimed at deeper analysis, you need to have a cemented foundation in the critical areas because you will be answering passages that require higher thinking skills. In this case, the examination lasts until approximately 8 hours—it only shows how detailed it is despite having lesser critical areas than PCAT.
If you think you will survive by memorizing the concepts, you must change your learning style as soon as possible. Most questions revolve around the core subjects; however, they are based upon situations that test your analytical skills and critical understanding.
In addition to biology and mathematics, you should also expand your knowledge in physics, for most previous takers regard it as the most challenging part of the examination.
MCAT Scoring System
The scoring method of the MCAT is as simple as scaled analysis. The committee initially evaluates your score according to the number of correct answers you made. Afterward, it will distribute your mark into a scaled score remark to properly assess minor variations among examination takers.
The perfect score in each section is 138, and the lowest mark is 118, which makes the total score 528. It would help if you had an average of 125 individually to reach the 500-point quota to guarantee a passing spot.
MCAT percentile score implies your performance as compared to other takers. You will be ranked according to how you will keep up with the competence of the total population.
Admissions departments will look into your percentile rank to decide whether you are qualified to be admitted to medical school or not. The best step to take is knowing the passing score of your dream school to measure how much effort you need to invest.
Similarities and Differences Between the PCAT and MCAT
Although the exams focus on different angles, they overlap in some aspects that either highlight or tone down the difference between MCAT and PCAT. After all, knowing their similarities and distinctions is vital in deciding which one benefits your future career.
If you are looking for material to help you decide which test is perfect for your career path, read through this article explaining what is beyond their limiting lines.
Similarities Between MCAT and PCAT
When looking into the technicalities, you may find several variations between MCAT and PCAT. Nonetheless, there are angles that you can associate these two with each other.
The primary likeness that takers of MCAT and PCAT can agree upon is their examination mode, as both of them follow the computer-based setup with time limitations, corresponding sections, and formats.
In addition, both are aptitude examinations used to assess aspiring healthcare providers’ existing knowledge and capability before admission to medical or pharmacy school.
Moreover, they encompass similar areas in mathematics, biology, chemistry, and critical analysis (which is natural since both courses are under the same discipline).
You might think of them as two standardized exams aimed at varying areas but traversing the same path of purpose—to analyze the readiness of future healthcare practitioners in their preferred field of practice.
Moving forward, you must note that the likeness of these two is just general aspects. Read until the very bottom of this article to understand the in-depth technicalities of MCAT and PCAT (which one is better, which is more complicated, and the length, among others).
Differences Between MCAT and PCAT
On a technical scale, you would notice that MCAT and PCAT differ. MCAT is a systemized examination for future professionals in administering disease prevention, treatment, and illness diagnosis. Meanwhile, the PCAT is for those wishing to become pharmacists or professionals dealing with medical drug dispensing.
Regarding exam content, MCAT focuses more on critical analysis and higher thinking order because most items based on passages require thorough assessment. On the other hand, PCAT measures your scientific ability and background knowledge in mathematics and science.
Accordingly, PCAT questions mostly require specific answers that need memorization of concepts. Nonetheless, MCAT allows you to think outside the box as most passages are situational. Therefore, you must profoundly understand the best-applied concepts in the situation.
Regarding exam length and cost, MCAT is generally expensive financially and time-wise. MCAT lasts for more than 7 hours despite only focusing on four first sections for about $310, compared to PCAT, which you can finish in at least 3 hours with five key content areas for about $199.
Their scoring system also varies at some point. While both measures scaled percentile rank, PCAT releases initial marks in each section after the exam and provides more detailed reports weeks after. MCAT results, on the other hand, are released after a month.
The MCAT competition is more stiff and hectic regarding exam schedule and availability. It is only available 25 times all year round between January and September, which means that the slots fill up in a blink of an eye, so you better hurry up if you plan to take this year.
Although PCAT’s number of exam times is not mentioned explicitly, you need to know that it usually takes place in January, July, and September. Sometimes, different locations have different schedules since other states offer it in February, October, and November.
These exams have advantages and downsides, which we will learn more about in the next topic.
Which Test is Harder? PCAT or MCAT?
Suppose you think one of them is just a piece of cake, then sorry to burst your bubble, but they both require adequate preparation. PCAT and MCAT are both difficult in some aspects.
When you get overwhelmed with lengthy examinations, MCAT is not for you, as it needs more time and longer passages to read. If you are someone who finds motivation in time pressure, then PCAT might be easier for you.
According to some takers, the essay or written section derails most of them, while the physics part is considered the most challenging in the MCAT test.
Overall, both of them have strengths and weaknesses. However, MCAT is more challenging because of its format. It would help if you had an advanced understanding of the medical concepts to fully gauge the best possible answer in the analytical and tricky passages.
MCAT encompasses the medical field’s general theoretical and practical underpinnings, which tackles in-depth analysis. Hence, the majority consider it intense and frustrating.
PCAT vs. MCAT: Which Test Should You Take?
It depends on your purpose. If you wish to become an expert in the medical field, consider taking the MCAT because it deals with disease prevention, cure, and diagnosis. If you want to pursue pharmacy, then PCAT is substantial for your career plans, as it goes deeper into pharmaceutical expertise.
Another factor that you need to remember is its cost. MCAT is more financially demanding compared to PCAT. If money is your concern, then PCAT will work your way.
In other words, your career goals and financial capacity are the only answers to the questions.
Wrapping Things Up: Know the Difference Between PCAT vs. MCAT Before Taking It
MCAT and PCAT are similarly traversing the path of healthcare. Both of these standardized exams measure your readiness to pursue medicine and pharmacy.
To know the difference between PCAT vs. MCAT before taking it, you need to assess your plans. If you are planning to become a doctor, then go with MCAT. On the other hand, you need a PCAT to get admitted into pharmacy colleges.
The best thing you need to do as early as now is to decide which path you wish to pursue. Exam cost, difficulty, content, etc., are easily manageable if you have a clear image of what you want to do in the future. If you give yourself some time to organize your thoughts, it is when you can finally decide whether you wish to take the MCAT or PCAT.