PCAT Reading Comprehension Review Course

PCAT Reading Comprehension Practice Test
PCAT Study Guide
PCAT Flashcards

PCAT Critical Reading Test

Reading is the foundation of all learning. You have to be literate to perform just about any job in the professional world. Pharmacy schools around the country need candidates that can make sense of information and use it to deliver impeccable performances within the medical field. Because the ability to comprehend difficult and lengthy text is imperative in the pharmacy profession, schools want to assess a student’s capacity to do so successfully. The PCAT Critical Reading section presents science, humanities, and social science related passages for examinees to analyze, evaluate, and interpret.

What’s On the Critical Reading Test?

In this portion of the exam, students have 50 minutes to read several passages and answer 48 questions pertaining to them. As with the other parts of the test, 8 of the questions given do not receive a score, and instead gather data for future test administrations. The test is comprised of several informational passages, each with its own set of multiple choice questions. One of the biggest issues test takers face pertains to the time constraints placed on the PCAT. Examinees should use strategies to break down test questions and text. This streamlines testing and uses the allotted time wisely instead of allowing students to get bogged down in the details and run out of time. The PCAT Critical Reading Study Guide offers students the opportunity to practice putting their reading strategies to work, while the PCAT Critical Reading Practice Test familiarizes them with the passage/question set format. All questions can be sorted into three main categories.


These types of questions assess the student’s recognition and understanding of what they read. Words in Context: Pharmacists are exposed to complex and complicated scientific and medical text on a daily basis. Practice defining words based on the context in the passage around them. Often, chemistry and biology texts contain Latin or formidable vocabulary that force pharmacists to determine meaning based on the rest of the information given.

Main Idea:

When reading an article or informational passage, readers should be able to identify or infer the main idea using the text. Look for repetitive words and phrases, as well as ideas that are restated throughout the article.

Supporting Details:

Look for factual evidence that supports the main idea in the passage. These statements should give further information regarding the main idea or reasoning behind a thesis made.

Drawing Conclusions:

After reading a piece of information, a reader should be able to make reasonable, evidence-based inferences and have the ability to support the inference using the text.


This component of the exam requires students to demonstrate their inferencing and interpreting skills. Not only does a reader need to understand what he’s read, he needs to possess the ability to analyze the information and utilize it to draw further meaning from what’s given.

Relationships Between Ideas:

The world of pharmaceuticals and medicine constantly changes, and professionals in the field need to stay on top of contemporary information. This includes being able to read several articles and see connections between the different pieces of information and how it could come together to form new ideas.

Author’s Purpose: When reading, it is vital to use statements within the passage to make reasonable deductions regarding the author’s intention. Knowing whether the piece is written to inform or persuade can influence the manner in which the reader accepts it.
Author’s Tone:

Being able to distinguish an author’s tone gives a reader the knowledge of the attitude in which the piece is written and awareness of any influence the author is trying to have over its interpretation.

Fact and Opinion:

Especially in the medical and health industry, a person needs to possess the ability to determine whether a statement is factual or the expression of the writer’s opinion. Pharmacists employ an exact science when creating substances used in the treatment and prevention of illnesses. All work should be performed based on proven information, and not unfounded conjectures. Rehearse reading a variety of statements and sorting them into fact and opinion categories. Scan for words that flag sentences as expressions of judgment, such as should and probably.

Rhetorical Strategies:

These are tools such as anecdotes and analogies authors use for effect, persuasion, or to make a point. Using the PCAT Critical Reading Flashcards can help examinees recognize the different mechanisms as they read.


Being able to read and consider information using reasonable judgment shows the presence of common sense and logical thinking in someone’s personality. These important traits determine whether a pharmacy college candidate can use inference skills to make informed and fact-based decisions.

Bias: Being able to infer an assumption based on the author’s viewpoint, preferences, or positions from the entire passage or a specific statement helps readers to know whether the information seeks to manipulate opinions or elicit certain reactions. The reader can then evaluate the validity of the text and their response to it.

Support in an Argument:

Not only should a student possess the skill to create an argument and back it up with evidence, he should also be able to evaluate the author’s effectiveness in supporting the theories presented within the text.

Author’s Conclusion/Thesis:

Authors write articles and passages to present a point to their reading audience. Identifying this overall point, and evaluating how well the point is supported, shows the comprehension of the author’s intent and helps the reader make a rational judgment of the information presented.

Most of the skills assessed in this portion of the PCAT will seem familiar to students, as it resembles the reading comprehension tests seen on many standardized tests taken throughout their educational career. Good readers employ strategies that help break down questions and passages into understandable pieces as they attack each selection. The PCAT Critical Reading Study Guide demonstrates how to put each strategy to use, focusing on vital information and cutting valuable testing time. After reviewing with the study guide and the PCAT Critical Reading Flashcards, put the new skills to the test with the PCAT Critical Reading Practice Test. By taking a practice assessment and scoring it, testers can target weak areas and intensify their review of those topics and skills.

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Last updated: 10/20/2016
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