accuracy and speed in pharmaceutical calculations

Accuracy and speed are extremely important when it comes to pharmaceutical calculations. Both are essential for doing well on exams and when you practice as a pharmacist. Therefore it is necessary to cultivate learning strategies that emphasize these two and make them a priority.


To develop accuracy one has to master pertinent concepts. It is the mastery not familiarity of concepts that ensures you always get a question right on the first attempt. Some may say “but it take a long time to master pharmaceutical calculations concepts; there is no possible way to gain mastery in few weeks”. A careful analysis of the bolts and nuts of any pharmaceutical calculations concept suggests the contrary. So how do you master pharmaceutical calculations concept expeditiously? Here are few things to keep in mind:

  1. Almost all pharmaceutical calculations can be solved with no more than eighth grade math.
  2. Most questions require no more than 3 major steps.

Let’s see an example of how you may master the concept of milliequivalents (mEq) calculations expeditiously.

Step 1: Understand what milliequivalents measures. Once you are consciously aware that it quantifies the chemical combining activity of an electrolyte in solution you gain a proper and deeper perspective of the topic.

Step 2: Know the governing equation: mEq = mmol x valence. This is the mathematically summary of the important elements involved in milliequivalent calculations.

Step 3: Master each term in the equation. For example, make sure you really know how to accurately determine the valence of compound or ion. know that mmol = mg/mw.

Step 4: Extrapolate the kinds of questions that can be asked beyond simply determining mEq. For instance, you may be asked to calculate the volume of a specified solution of a given concentration required to supply a given mEq to a patient when you know the recommended dose. This allows you to synthesize all the other relevant concepts which may be called upon in a milliequivalent calculation. At this point you are approaching mastery. So how do you speed up steps 1 through 4? You may use all the following video tutorials and solved questions to do so: .



Once you have mastered pharmaceutical calculations concepts you gain accuracy. While accuracy is good it is not enough unless it is accompanied with speed. You don’t have all day on an exam. Your patient does not have all day either. Speed is developed by careful and systematic timed practice. You must set a goal of solving questions within a time frame. Solving each pharmaceutical calculations question in under 90 seconds is a good target. Time yourself when you do your practice problem and aim to finish within that time frame. You may also use our timed quizzes.  Initially, you it may take longer than you want to finish a question or you may finish fast but get it wrong.  Keep at it until you can exhibit both accuracy and speed. Then for life you would always solve pharmaceutical calculations questions with accuracy and speed on the first attempt.


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