If you're planning on becoming a pharmacist, you already know that it will take a lot of work – over the next few years, you will spend many hours studying, attending lectures, writing essays, reading books, poring over research, and taking tests. But before you can even begin, you must clear one very important hurdle: You must successfully pass the Pharmacy College Admission Test (PCAT). As is the case with most graduate fields, this entrance exam serves as a gateway to the pharmacy profession, putting you on the path toward achieving your goal.
Because the PCAT is so important and serves to establish a base of knowledge for you and other pharmacy students, there are numerous safeguards in place to ensure nobody cheats on this exam. However, sometimes students are unfairly accused of cheating or misconduct on the PCAT, and in these cases, it can be difficult to effectively argue your case and rescue your dreams of becoming a pharmacist. You might feel overwhelmed and unsure where to start, particularly if you've never faced any kind of misconduct charges before.
Here's the good news: If you've been accused of misconduct on the PCAT and are facing consequences that could be detrimental to your future, the Lento Law Firm can help. Before getting started on your defense, however, it's important to understand what you're up against. First, let's take a look at the specifics of the PCAT exam, possible types of misconduct and other irregularities that may arise, the possible consequences you may face – and finally, what you should do next to keep your promising future on track.
What Is the Pharmacy College Admission Test?
The Pharmacy College Admission Test is a specialized exam that helps determine whether an applicant is qualified for admittance to pharmacy school. The test measures general academic skills and specific scientific knowledge necessary to begin a pharmaceutical education, and it has been designed specifically for colleges of pharmacy.
More than 85 percent of pharmacy schools across the country require a PCAT score for admission, so if you hope to further your education and become a pharmacist, odds are successfully passing the PCAT will be part of that process. To be competitive, you'll want to score above the 50th percentile – however, many of the top schools will only consider students who have scored in the 70th percentile or above. It's fair to say that the pressure is on – and for many students, so is the temptation to cheat, which is why the testing administrators are so stringent with their rules.
Because this test is so competitive and so vital to your pharmacy school application, the stakes are high. That's why this exam, like other similar standardized tests, has such strict and numerous guidelines and regulations for its administration. As a result, test takers often suffer from a great deal of stress that comes from being asked to perform in a closely monitored, high-pressure environment, which can lead to a number of issues and concerns.
Typical Types of PCAT Misconduct
Because the PCAT can be cutthroat and may determine whether you can get into the pharmacy school of your choice, there are many guidelines and regulations in place – almost all of which are intended to prevent students from cheating. One common issue seen with the PCAT and other standardized tests is incorrect information on testing applications. It's entirely possible that these discrepancies may have been a simple mistake – everyone messes up sometimes, especially when they're under pressure.
But in the pressurized PCAT environment, academic honesty and personal integrity are paramount. When checking in at the testing facility, you will need a government-issued identification that exactly matches the information provided on your testing application – and any mismatched information could prevent you from being allowed to take the test at all. What may seem to you like a small error on your application could signal to administrators that something dishonest is going on, such as someone being paid to take an exam for someone else (this happens more often than you might think).
If you have made a simple and honest mistake on your application, it can be frustrating to learn that what you thought was no big deal – such as using a nickname instead of your given name or incorrectly identifying your school – may actually be grounds for canceling your PCAT score altogether or more serious consequences. But even if you make it to the testing facility and check in successfully, a number of other issues could arise during your exam.
Possible Issues During PCAT Administration
Before going to the testing facility, be sure to double-check the list of items that are not allowed inside, as violating these guidelines can be grounds for your dismissal from the exam and the cancellation of your scores. For the PCAT, this list of prohibited items includes but is not limited to:
- Food, snacks, or beverages
- Books, papers, or other types of notes
- Highlighters, rulers, or calculators
- Cell phones, recording devices, cameras, or watches
- Earplugs or headphones
- Any other electronic devices or reference materials
- Any hat with a bill or brim that is not worn for a religious or medical reason
- Any article of clothing, jewelry, or accessory that may contain information related to the exam
Any exceptions to these guidelines must be pre-approved by the administrators prior to the exam. Additionally, test takers will not have access to purses or backpacks during the test – and if a cell phone is even turned on during the testing session (including during breaks), scores will be invalidated, and fees will not be refunded. Test takers in violation of these guidelines will also be prohibited from transferring to a different window to take the test again, meaning their chances of getting into pharmacy school are extremely slim.
For the PCAT, certain specific guidelines also determine what you can and cannot do while taking the test and violating these rules could be grounds for immediate dismissal from the exam and cancellation of your scores. It is important to remember that a proctor will be watching you for the duration of the exam, and all sessions will be recorded. Prohibited activities include but are not limited to:
- Failing to precisely follow all instructions as indicated in the exam.
- Cheating or attempting to take the test for someone else.
- Using prohibited outside materials such as watches or calculators in the testing room or taking materials from the testing room.
- Accessing your phone at any time during your exam, even on breaks.
- Talking to other people taking the test or sharing information about the test.
- Leaving the building during the test or failing to return to the exam room before your scheduled break has ended.
- Asking questions about the test after it has already begun.
Some of these violations are straightforward – for example, if you are cheating or taking the test for someone else, you are obviously breaking the rules. However, many of these rules can be broken accidentally due to confusion or simple misunderstandings, especially because the guidelines are so numerous and onerous. Unfortunately, if you have been accused of any of these types of misconduct while taking the PCAT, it can be difficult to prove you are innocent.
How PCAT Misconduct Is Investigated and Adjudicated
When taking the PCAT, the testing administrators reserve the right to cancel scores if any irregularity occurs. An irregularity might include a disruption to the exam, cheating, or something else that compromises the integrity of the test. Unfortunately, students often have little say in this matter – and their point of view is rarely considered prior to scores being canceled. The goal of the authorities, in this case, is simply to crack down on cheating and ensure the integrity of the exam, and they likely will not be interested in hearing your side of the story.
It's important to remember that the testing administrators will invalidate any scores for anything that even somewhat resembles cheating, plagiarism, or non-compliance with their policies – though sometimes factors outside of anyone's control may come into play, such as an evacuation due to a fire, a natural disaster, or a power outage. In these cases, the student will not be considered at fault.
Typically, the reason for a cancellation is only disclosed to the candidate who is taking the test, and if the student is not found to be responsible for the reason behind the cancellation, fees may be refunded, and the student may be allowed to retake the test. However, if scores are canceled due to alleged cheating or misconduct, the consequences will likely be more severe and decided by the testing administrators on a case-by-case basis.
If an investigation takes place, it may include the following:
- Collection of evidence, such as test materials, witness statements, and video and audio recordings
- Review by the testing administrators
- An official notice of decisions that are submitted to the candidate
- An opportunity for the candidate to appeal any decisions within a specified window of time
- The possibility for the candidate to either retake the test or have their scores canceled
Keep in mind that it can be extremely difficult to predict at the outset what your outcome may be – for instance, depending on the circumstances, it is possible you may be allowed to retake the exam, or you may be barred from taking the exam ever again. Because the possible consequences are so varied and unpredictable, it can help to have an attorney-advisor who knows the ropes on your side.
Possible Consequences for PCAT Misconduct
When any kind of irregularity occurs during an exam, administrators will take a closer look at what happened and determine what types of actions or consequences come next, which may include not scoring the exam or canceling existing scores. After canceling a score, the administrators will notify the student and provide an opportunity for them to submit a written explanation. After receiving the notification from the administrators, the student has 60 days to respond. Then the administrators will review the information the student has submitted and make a final decision on the appeal within 30 days.
If you're appealing the cancellation of your PCAT scores, here's where things can get complicated. It can be difficult to know what types of information are relevant when trying to prove your innocence – or even how to gather the appropriate evidence in the first place. For instance, how can you prove that a certain action was innocuous or that you did not intentionally violate the testing center's regulations? A skilled attorney-advisor who knows the ins and outs of the system can help you craft a compelling and convincing defense that will give you the best shot at a favorable outcome in your case.
Accused of PCAT Misconduct? Here's What You Can Do Next
If you have been accused of misconduct while taking the PCAT, you need an experienced attorney-advisor on your side who can help prove your innocence. You've spent a lot of time and money preparing and studying for this test. You want to do your best so you can take the first step toward becoming a pharmacist. Don't let unfair accusations stand in the way of you and your promising future – instead, let the Lento Law Firm help you find a way forward.
As we've said before, when facing these types of PCAT misconduct accusations, it can be difficult to prove that you are innocent – but attorney-advisor Joseph D. Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm practice education law and student defense. They have helped hundreds of students across the country overcome obstacles so they can continue their education and achieve their goals. Don't let unwarranted accusations stand in the way of your dreams. Get in touch with the Lento Law Firm today. Call 888.535.3686 or contact us online to get started.