At long last it is really, finally here! Today, as this post is going live, I am on my way to the Pearson VUE test center in Knoxville to take the Pharmacy College Admissions Test (PCAT) at noon! Please wish me the best of luck. I have worked so incredibly hard this summer getting ready for this and it’s kind of crazy that this chapter is coming to a close. However, there are still many chapters left to begin! For my next post, I’ll give you a play-by-play of what today was like, and then later this fall I’ll start diving into the other fun parts of pharmacy school admissions, like the PharmCAS and the interviews. But today, since I’ve pretty much spent the entire past week “getting in the zone”, as I’ve been telling my family, I thought I would share some DOs and DON’Ts of the final countdown to the PCAT.
1) DON’T cram. If you don’t know everything you need to know for this test by now, you’re not going to magically learn it all in just a matter of days. I’ve read in every single PCAT study book that the kind of information students are tested on involves years of retention, not memorization. They’re the kinds of things you needed to know to succeed in your pre-pharmacy classes in the first place, and you still need to know them now. And, if you’ve really been paying attention in class, you should have noticed that that stuff never really went away. You still needed the skills you learned in your general chemistry class for organic chemistry, and the topics you covered in general biology were just setting you up for success in anatomy and physiology. In the last week of your PCAT studying, I recommend just brushing up a little bit every day to keep things fresh in your mind; but if you sit in the corner with your nose to your microbiology book frantically trying to remember what disease Trichomonas causes and what all of its symptoms are, you’re only going to stress yourself out unnecessarily.
2) Have some fun! This applies to your overall study regimen, but especially in your last week of preparing, don’t just sit and study constantly. You’ll actually do much better on the test if you give your mind a rest break. Do something fun that has nothing to do at all with your PCAT, like going to a movie or an amusement park. Even staying at home and having a relaxing day away from your study books can be the perfect escape. I did take two full-length practice tests this week, but yesterday (the day before my test) I went shopping in Knoxville with my mom and my brother. There were absolutely no reference guides or mobile flashcard apps involved during the car ride there and back, and that was just what I needed!
3) No nerves! If you’ve really been studying like you should have, then you should have no reason to be anxious or restless this week. You know your stuff, and you’ve taken so many practice tests and quizzes that you know exactly what to expect on test day. So go out there and knock it out of the park!
4) DO a test run. This might sound a little odd, but try practicing for what you’ll be getting into on test day. It’s one thing to take a practice test, but it’s another to take it under the proper timed conditions and in a setting that imitates the testing room. For me, this process had to be done perfectly down to the last detail. I woke up early (which was very hard because I didn’t have a job this summer and 2 AM had become my natural bedtime), got dressed, and ate a late breakfast that I hoped would last me through the entire four hour exam. At 11:00 I sat at my “testing site” (my kitchen table) because that is when I would have been signing into the Pearson VUE center and led to my spot in the testing room. Then at noon, I started a full-length PCAT practice test, using the same guidelines and time limits that will be enforced today for the real thing. Maybe it sounds like I was being overly cautious and a little obsessive, but had I just gone into my test day cold turkey, I most likely would have been starving by the end of the chemistry section and trying desperately not to fall asleep during the math section, just like I was during my practice run. So during my second test run, I adjusted my bedtime a little to feel more rested and energetic, and I also ate breakfast a little closer to check-in time so I would feel full and satisfied throughout the whole test. Now today I feel the most prepared I could possibly be, and I’m ready to take on this exam and make it into pharmacy school!
The bottom line is that your last week of PCAT preparation should be about relaxing and getting into the proper mindset for the test. No cramming, no obsessive studying, and no nerves! This is how I’ve been getting into the zone this week, and I have a good feeling it’s all about to pay off. If you’re taking the PCAT today as well, I hope that you feel ready for it, too! If you’ve still got a while to go before your test day, I hope that you’ll take this advice and use the last few days of your countdown wisely. And if you need some more tips on studying for the test, you can check out my “Preparing for the PCAT” posts here and here. You can also find my entire “Journey to Pharmacy School” series in its own section at the top of this webpage. Lastly, if you’d like to stay up-to-date on all of my latest blog posts, go ahead and click on that “subscribe” button at the top of the page, and feel free to leave any comments or questions below!