PCAT Chemistry Study Guide


PCAT Chemistry Practice Test
PCAT Study Guide
PCAT Flashcards


PCAT Chemistry Test

General and organic chemistry are essential sciences to the pharmaceutical field. All medications begin with a basic chemical process. The chemistry portion of the Pharmacy College Admission Test assesses the knowledge, both factual and practical, of pharmacy college candidates. Students have thirty minutes to answer 48 multiple choice questions dealing with the study of the elements and their physical and chemical properties. Of these 48 questions, 8 are experimental field questions given to help gather data for future testing administrations and are not scored. The other 40 cover a wide range of topics, which can be overwhelming when trying to prepare for the exam. Using our PCAT Chemistry Study Guide helps narrow the focus on just the essential information, making study time more productive and less time consuming.


What’s On the PCAT Chemistry Test?

We call the study of elements, the foundational building blocks of all chemical processes, chemistry. Chemistry deals with the physical and chemical properties of matter. Pharmacists work with these basic components making substances for the treatment and prevention of illnesses every day, and must be well-versed in this science in order to be a competent part of the health service industry. The chemistry part of the PCAT exam can be broken into three categories.


General Chemistry

Examinees need to demonstrate proficient knowledge of the elements and their properties. The PCAT Chemistry Flashcards make the memorization needed for this part of the test a breeze.


  • Atomic Theory– Students should thoroughly review atoms and their functions in the creation of the various elements.
    1. Structure: Know the parts of the atom, including proton, neutron, and electrons. Review their functions within the atom and in the creation of the elements.
    2. Ions: Have an understanding of the definition of an ion and how they differ from a stable element.
    3. Periodicity: The periodic table groups and classifies elements by atomic number. Knowing the key groups and the elements within them, as well as their characteristics and their position on the table, is vital.
  • Chemical Bonding– A chemical bond occurs when two atoms share a mutual attraction and combine to form a molecule. This usually means that there is a redistribution of electrons that generates a force that holds the two atoms together.
    1. Nomenclature/Formulas: The exam will test students on their understanding of the terms used in describing bonds and the rules they follow when forming.
    2. Bonding: Students should know the differences between ionic, covalent, and hydrogen bonds and how they are created.
  • Reactions and Reaction Mechanisms– When mixing chemical substances, pharmacists must have a good comprehension of how materials react and how to manufacture the reactions they desire.
    1. Types of Reactions: Pharmacy students need to understand synthesis, decomposition, single displacement, double displacement, acid-base reaction, and combustion.
    2. Balancing Equations: Chemical equations are a representation of the reactions scientists see. Use our PCAT Chemistry Flashcards to help recognize and remember the symbols, parts, and rules used to balance the equation. Not only should students know the definitions of the rules, but they should have a basic comprehension of the reasons behind them.
    3. Equilibrium: Learn the definition of equilibrium and reversibility.
    4. Stoichiometry: Practice calculating the quantitative measure of the materials involved in a chemical reaction.
  • Kinetic Theory– This basic theory of matter uses the motion of atoms and molecules to describe physical properties. Review the formula for the kinetic energy of a gas and the formula used to relate changes in temperature, volume, and pressure of a gas.
    1. States of Matter: Review the four states of matter and their differences.
    2. Gas Laws: Be familiar with Boyles Law, Charles Law, Avagadros Law, and the Combined Gas Law. Study the Ideal Gas Law Equation. Students should be able to complete calculations using these formulas.
    3. Causes and Effects of Change in States: Review the four Laws of Thermodynamics and how energy is transferred. Be able to describe how the transfer of different types of energy create changes in the states of matter.
  • Solutions– A solution is a mixture made of two or more substances. In this mixture, one substance is dissolved in another.
    1. Concentration (pH): All substances can be classified as either an acid or a base. The pH scale is an internationally accepted uniform scale of measurement to rate the acidity of substances. Students should review acids and alkalines and how they are formed, as well as the pH of water and how other substances are measured in comparison.
    2. Solubility: Here’s another definition that PCAT Chemistry Flashcards can help students commit to memory.
    3. Acid-Base Theories: Be able to describe the three acid base theories: The Arrhenius, Bronsted-Lowry, and Lewis theories.
  • Nuclear Chemistry: Radioisotopes– Nuclear chemistry is a category of chemistry dealing with the changes in the nucleus of an atom. Students should understand what radioisotopes are, how they are created, and how they are used in medicine.

Organic Chemistry

This subcategory of chemistry deals only with the structure, properties, reactions, and preparation of compounds containing carbon. 40% of the PCAT will contain questions pertaining to this type of science. Using the PCAT Chemistry Practice Test to quiz yourself over these formulas and properties.


Structure and Properties

  • Structure Formulas and Bonding: Representations of compounds using the element symbols are called structural formulas. Students should be able to recognize formulas created by single, double, and triple bonding. Also, they should understand the relationship between covalent bonds and stability in organic compounds.
  • Properties of Organic Compounds: There are several types of structural features in that are recurring in organic compounds that help scientists classify them into functional groups. Review the definitions and formulas that represent alkenes, alkynes, carbonyl compounds, alcohols, amines, and nitriles.

Reactions of Organic Compounds

Study the mechanisms for Sn1, Sn2, E1, and E2 reactions. Review the different mechanisms that create the various reactions. Using the PCAT Chemistry Study Guide is very useful when reviewing the many different formulas and mechanisms involved in organic reactions.


  • Oxidation-Reduction Reactions: Oxidation occurs when a carbon atom gains bonds to more electronegative elements, most commonly oxygen. When a carbon atom gains bonds to less electronegative elements, usually hydrogen, it is called reduction. Study the formula charts representing the oxidation and reduction of carbon atoms.
  • Hydration and Dehydration: Hydration reaction occurs when a substance combines with water. These are usually alkene or alkyne. Study the difference between the two, as well as the compounds they are used to produce. Dehydration is defined as a reaction in which a compound loses a water molecule. They are a type of condensation reaction. Make sure you recognize the formulas for these reactions, and know the most common dehydration agents.
  • Hydrolysis: This occurs when an organic compound reacts with water. When practicing for the test, review the hydrolysis of a primary amide, a secondary amide, ester, and a halogenoalkane.
  • Addition/Substitution/Elimination: Know the definitions of these reactions and be able to give and recognize examples.

Basic Biochemical Processes

This portion of the exam makes up 10 to 20% of the PCAT exam. Sometimes called biological chemistry, this science studies the chemical processes relating to living organisms.


  • DNA and RNA: These are nucleic acids within living organisms. Examinees need to know the difference between these macromolecules and be able to describe the processes of translation and transcription.
  • Lipids: Lipids in biological systems include fats, sterols, fat soluble vitamins, phospholipids, and triglycerides. Know the importance of these within biological molecules and the various functions they perform.
  • Proteins: Use the PCAT Chemistry Flashcards to commit the various functions of proteins within living things. Students should know the definition, the structure, and how these macromolecules interact with each other and with other biological molecules.

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Last updated: 12/05/2017
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