Test Prep 101

MCAT. PCAT. GMAT. DAT. LSAT. It seems like every professional faculty has a requirement for interested applicants to write a standardized test which aims to assess the skills, knowledge and aptitude of the individual in relation to the profession. Many of these tests require immense preparation and studying in order to maximize performance on the test. For many faculties, scores from these standardized tests are an important factor in determining admittance. For instance, many law schools in Canada will consider applicants as “competitive” if they rank in the 80th percentile on the LSAT.

I remember when I found out that UofT’s pharmacy program required applicants to write the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT), this task felt daunting. These standardized test carry a surmountable weight in determining whether or not you will be accepted into the program.

So how does one rise to the challenge in tackling these standardized tests?

My first piece of advice is to manage your time wisely! These tests are not easy. Cramming and pulling an all-nighter will likely not cut it. Many people spend around 6 months studying for this test – as in at least 8 hours each day for 6 months prior to the test. Thus, if you have other commitments such as work or school, this may prompt you to start even earlier. You have to be honest with yourself in how much you can study and for how long. Devise a study schedule that best suits your life.


Test prep books are a good source to get you started in preparing for standardized tests! Source:

My next piece of advice is to master the test! The test administration association will have instructions and disclose topics that will be included in the test. It is imperative to be a master in these topics. Review, review, review! And practice, practice, practice! Many people may resort to test prep courses such as Princeton or Kaplan which helps guide studying the topics that will be covered on this test. Although, I did not take any of these courses I have heard from fellow classmates that it is important to go beyond what you learn in these sessions and also do some self-learning on your own. Another tool to help you with studying is to get practice tests. Many test administration associations will allow you to purchase practice tests. I recommend you try a test “cold turkey” which can provide an initial benchmark of your strengths and weaknesses. Then do another test when you have studied the material and see how you have progressed. Here, you will be able to see what still needs to be worked on and you can adjust your studying accordingly leading up to the actual test. In the last week leading up to the test, I would suggest simulating the actual test experience. Use any remaining practice tests to re-enact an actual exam day. This could require waking up early, as if it was the test day, along with starting and ending the test at the exact same time as the actual test. This will help make you feel more at ease on the actual test day.

I think it’s also important to be confident in your abilities and really let that show when you write the test. These tests are hard, but they’re not impossible! My last piece of advice is to give it your all!