I just want to start out this week’s post by saying a HUGE “Thank you!” to everyone who sent good thoughts my way during my PCAT exam. It went much better than I could have expected and I am very pleased with my final result. I’ve worked really hard the last few years preparing for it and it has all finally paid off. So thank you all so much for following me in this leg of the journey and stay tuned for more pharmacy school application excitement in the coming weeks. Now, onto this week’s new topic! As I promised you all last time, here is a recap of my PCAT test day.
One of the things I did during my last week of study time was take a few test runs to see how tired and hungry I might be at the end of the test. The actual test day started out more or less like my test runs. I woke up early, put on a comfortable outfit that met all of Pearson VUE’s dress code requirements (no writing, nothing that could potentially give away hints, etc.), and ate a decent breakfast at Hardee’s (best chicken biscuit I’ve had in my life, though the anticipation of the test may have had something to do with that 🙂 ). Once I arrived at the test center, though, I quickly realized that I had probably carried out the test-taking portion of my test run a little too carefully. I figured it would be like other standardized tests I’d taken, where everyone started and ended at the same time and took the same rest break in between. Surprisingly, it was actually much more lenient. Some of the things I was unaware of during my test run:
- Even though everyone in the room is taking the exact same test, it’s pretty much a solo experience. The test comes from a computer program that is automatically loaded with your personal information at the top of the page, and once the test proctor clicks the start button, the seconds start counting down and you automatically begin writing your essay for the first section. There’s no waiting for everyone to start at the same time because each person takes the test when he or she is ready. Add in the noise-canceling headphones and the panels between each computer and you start to feel like you’re the only one in the testing room! This really helped me to feel calmer during the test because it completely eliminated any potential distractions and helped me stay focused.
- You can start as soon as you arrive at the test center if there is a seat available. The testing room that I was in had around fifteen computer stations available, and one of them just happened to be open when I walked in an hour early. So I went right on in! I was ecstatic about the idea of getting the test done much earlier, and I was feeling pretty confident. So I went ahead and completed all the check-in procedures, including my ID verification and infrared palm scan, and then the test coordinators led me over to my testing spot.
- You actually don’t have to use the whole test time. Each section of the test has a set time limit, from 25 minutes for the verbal ability to 50 minutes for the reading comprehension. You can’t have more time than you’re allowed, but if you finish one part ten minutes early and you’re feeling pretty good about your answers, you can go ahead and skip to the next section. I found myself doing that on a few of the sections, even after I had double checked the questions I wasn’t sure about, and it was nice to move on ahead rather than staring into space uncomfortably until time was up.
- You don’t even have to take your fifteen-minute rest break. When you complete the chemistry section, which marks the halfway point in the test, you can raise your hand and the test proctor will come over to let you leave the room to stretch and go to the restroom. Some students find it more helpful to just keep going and begin the reading section without a break, but I took advantage of this time. After completing the first four sections in a row without stopping, I was grateful to get up and just walk around! I felt much more refreshed going back in at the end of my break, and I think it really made a difference in the outcome of the last two sections of the test.
After starting an hour earlier than I was scheduled to and finishing a few of the sections with plenty of time to spare, I ended up leaving the test center almost two hours earlier than I had anticipated. While this made me extremely happy, it was also a tad embarrassing when I had to wait outside the test center for my mother who was out shopping. 🙂 Fortunately, I didn’t have to wait very long for her, and in the meantime, I had an unofficial print-out of my scores to marvel over. I’m still waiting for my essay portion to graded and for the official score report to be posted on the PCAT website, but I left the test center knowing which percentile I had scored in on all the multiple choice sections. What a relief to see those numbers after a very long summer of studying!
So what’s next for me in my Journey to Pharmacy School? Well, the biggest thing right now is filling out the Pharmacy College Application Service (PharmCAS), which will automatically send my PCAT scores and my academic profile to all of my pharmacy school choices. I’ve already filled in a few of the blanks on it, and once I get a little closer to submitting it, I’ll have a post for you all about what that was like. And, of course, there’s also senior year at LMU coming up in a few weeks! I’ve got a lot of big plans for my last year here, which will most likely make for some really exciting posts in the future. So be sure and check back often for my latest posts, and if you’d even like to automatically receive an alert about each new post, be sure to subscribe at the top of the page.