Responding to the need for an assessment tool to assist with curriculum development and review as recommended by the United States Department of Education, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE), and some US schools and colleges of pharmacy, NABP has worked closely with key stakeholders to develop the Pharmacy Curriculum Outcomes Assessment (PCOA).  

The PCOA is a comprehensive tool for schools and colleges of pharmacy to use as they assess student performance in the curricula. Suitable for students in all professional years, the PCOA provides data to the schools and colleges to facilitate a review of an individual student’s performance and progress from year to year in relation to the curriculum. The PCOA also supplies schools and colleges of pharmacy with data on national results.     

As part of a school’s and college’s commitment to continuous quality improvement, the PCOA may be used to help evaluate if its curriculum is meeting the desired outcomes of its doctor of pharmacy program. 

Why Use the PCOA?

  • The PCOA measures performance and provides a comparison to national samples.
  • The assessment provides data on students’ knowledge in four major content areas (as recognized by ACPE) and 28 subtopic areas.
  • Score reports supply the schools and colleges with a tool to provide constructive feedback in  relation to the examination outcomes
  • Reports allow the schools and colleges to track student scores from year to year and document their growth over time.  
  • The PCOA serves as a component of an evaluation plan, as suggested by ACPE Guidelines, that:
    • Has formative and summative measures
    • Provides for collective analyses of findings
    • Evaluates trends over time
    • Includes standardized instruments and data
  • The PCOA can provide documentation of improvement in student performance after a curriculum has been modified or updated.
  • The assessment imparts score data that can be used in research and correlational studies with existing assessments such as the National Pharmacy College Admission Test, academic proficiency, and future North American Pharmacist Licensure Examination (NAPLEX) scores.

PCOA Administration and Format

The PCOA is administered in a computer-based format. Technical requirements can be found under question 7 in the Frequently Asked Questions document.

The 225-question assessment may be administered to students in all four professional years. Content on the assessment follows a blueprint that reflects curriculum hours established through a national sample of doctor of pharmacy programs in the US.

Questions on the PCOA are broken down into four content areas:

  • Basic biomedical sciences (16% of the assessment)
  • Pharmaceutical sciences (30% of the assessment)
  • Social, behavioral, and administrative sciences (22% of the assessment)
  • Clinical sciences (32% of the assessment)

PCOA Administration

Currently, colleges and schools have the option to administer the assessment in the computer-based or paper-based format. Only one format may be utilized on an assessment date.

Effective January 2015, the PCOA will only be delivered in the computer-based format. 

Assessment Dates

The PCOA is administered three times each year. Each participating school selects dates within the four-week assessment windows to administer the PCOA and designates the site(s) where the assessment will be provided. The administration windows for 2015 are:

2015 PCOA Administration

  • January 12, 2015 – February 6, 2015
    • Registration and testing windows are closed
  • March 30, 2015 –  April 24, 2015
    • Registration and testing windows are closed
  • August 24, 2015 – September 18, 2015
    • Registration window is closed