The Pharmacy Curriculum Outcomes Assessment® (PCOA®) is a comprehensive tool developed by NABP to provide an independent, objective, and external measure of student performance in United States pharmacy curricula.
The PCOA is suitable for students in all professional years and provides data to the schools and colleges that may facilitate review of an individual student’s performance and progress from year to year in relation to the curriculum. The PCOA also provides data on national results for comparison. As part of the schools and colleges of pharmacy commitment to continuous improvement, the PCOA may help evaluate if a school’s curriculum is meeting the desired outcomes of its doctor of pharmacy program.
The PCOA is now required for all individuals nearing the completion of their didactic curriculum to meet Standard 24: Assessment Elements of the ACPE Accreditation Standards and Key Elements for the Professional Program in Pharmacy Leading to the Doctor of Pharmacy Degree (Standards 2016).
Administration and Format
The PCOA is administered in a computer-based format. The schools provide the test location and facilities needed to assist NABP in securely administering the PCOA to students. Detailed guidance is provided in the PCOA Information for Administrators section. Students can find instructions for registering and other information in the PCOA Information for Students section. Check our Help section if you have more questions.
For an overview of the schedule of events for PCOA administration, watch this video.
PCOA Content Areas
The PCOA Content Areas and subtopics for the current academic year are based upon outcomes from the US Schools and Colleges of Pharmacy Curricula Survey that was completed in 2015. The 225-question assessment is composed of four content areas that are broken down into 28 subtopic areas. A white paper, The 2015 United States Schools and Colleges of Pharmacy Curricular Survey – Summary Report, provides an overview of the process for conducting the 2015 curricula survey and analyzing the survey results.
The content areas of the PCOA are as follows:
- Area 1: basic biomedical sciences (10% of the assessment)
- Area 2: pharmaceutical sciences (33% of the assessment)
- Area 3: social, behavioral, and administrative sciences (22% of the assessment)
- Area 4: clinical sciences (35% of the assessment)
For a representative sample of the item types, download PCOA Sample Items. In addition, students will receive a link to the PCOA practice test 14 days before test administration. This will help students become more familiar with the types of questions and the format of the test.
Each participating school selects a date (Monday through Friday) within the assessment windows to administer the PCOA and designates the site(s) where the assessment will be provided.
Registration Deadlines for Administrators Versus Students
Administrators and students have separate registration deadlines within each window.
- Administrators can see their registration deadlines on the PCOA Information for Administrators page.
- Students can see their registration deadlines on the PCOA Information for Students page.
The administration windows for 2020 are:
- January 13, 2020 – February 15, 2020
- April 6, 2020 – May 16, 2020
- June 15, 2020 – June 27, 2020
- August 17, 2020 – September 12, 2020
- November 9, 2020 – December 12, 2020
The administration windows for 2021 are:
- January 11, 2021 – February 19, 2021
- March 29, 2021 – May 21, 2021
- June 14, 2021 – June 25, 2021
- August 16, 2021 – September 10, 2021
- November 8, 2021 – December 10, 2021