Physician Assistant College Admissions Test (PA-CAT)

Evidence-based assessment of academic preparedness

“Our program participated in the research and testing of the PA-CAT because we see its potential. It will be good for applicants to identify and provide the opportunity to improve competence in specific subject areas between taking the exam and matriculating into a PA program.”

David C. Beck

Department Chair and PA Studies Program Director, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh

The PA-CAT

Exam Master’s Physician Assistant College Admission Test (PA-CAT) is a specialized discipline-specific exam that is designed to measure applicant knowledge and application in key prerequisite science subjects typically required for PA school. The PA-CAT measures general academic ability and scientific knowledge necessary for success in the demanding Physician Assistant curriculum. The PA-CAT has been developed specifically for use by PA educators and their admissions departments as part of a holistic admissions process.

Facts About the PA-CAT

  • PA-CAT Exam is a 240-item assessment covering 9 science subject areas
  • Field-tested with over 1700 examinees at 36 PA programs
  • Available at over 5,000 Prometric testing centers and at home through remote proctoring
  • Cost: $228 (includes the test center fee for standard administration)
  • Free PA-CAT Study Resources including:
    • Two 120-question PA-CAT practice exams
    • 30+ Hours of video subject learning modules, with practice questions and quizzes
    • 9 subject 3,200+ question bank for self-assessment quiz creation
    • 9 subject-specific practice exams

Why the PA-CAT

Over the last five years, applications to PA programs have risen dramatically. This is partly a result of the increase in the number of accredited PA programs in the U.S. The increase in applications also reflects the strong interest in the physician assistant profession for those looking to work as a healthcare provider. A typical PA program receives many hundreds of applications for only 36 to 48 available incoming seats.

PA educators have expressed a strong interest in having an admissions instrument that would help them better select from a large group of qualified applicants. Such an exam would save two of the biggest challenges facing PA admissions professionals:

Lack of Standardized Assessment for Admissions

Though applications to PA schools continue to increase, there has not been a standardized assessment dedicated to PA education admissions. Many PA programs have had to rely on the use of general admissions assessments that are not targeted to the graduate health professions, in general, or to the PA educational community. Such exams do not assess the type of prerequisite subject matter that is typically required by PA programs and most relevant to student success. The PA-CAT exam covers nine core prerequisite subjects that are required by most PA programs and imperative to student success.

Challenges with Use of Admissions Variables

PA educators rely on a variety of factors to determine which applicants are likely to succeed in their program. These include undergraduate GPA, undergraduate science GPA, prerequisite coursework, and work history to name a few. According to educators, comparing educational backgrounds among a diverse group of applicants coming from different colleges and universities is difficult and imprecise. The PA-CAT exam has been designed to offer current and objective data that reflect applicants’ academic preparedness at the time of their application on a level not achieved using other admissions variables.

What is Covered on The PA-CAT Exam?

  • 240 multiple-choice test items
  • 9 prerequisite science subjects presented randomly
  • 4.5-hour total exam window
  • Electronically administered by Prometric
  • Special Accommodations information

The PA-CAT was developed to assess common prerequisite basic science subjects and statistics consistent with what is typically required for admission by a majority of PA programs. Test items were developed and reviewed by both subject matter experts as well as PA educators.

Covered Subjects:

  • Anatomy
  • Physiology
  • General Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • General and Organic Chemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Behavioral Sciences
  • Genetics
  • Statistics

 

Sample Topics from Anatomy*

  • The Back
  • Spinal Cord and Spinal Nerves
  • The Anterior Abdominal Wall
  • The Large and Small Intestine
  • The Skull
  • The Cranial Nerves
  • The Hip and Thigh Areas
  • The Hip, Knee, and Ankle Joints
  • The Pelvis and Perineum
  • The Pelvic Viscera
  • The Thorax
  • The Lungs, Trachea, and Bronchi
  • The Upper Limb
  • The Arm and Forearm

 

Note: Topics vary by exam form and are subject to change.

The PA-CAT items are mapped to a variety of cognitive domains for deeper assessment.

Cognitive Domains Covered on the PA-CAT:

  • Knowledge
  • Comprehension
  • Application
  • Analysis

Additional Resources

PA-CAT Bulletin of Information

For comprehensive information on the PA-CAT, please refer to the latest copy of the PA-CAT Bulletin of Information.

PA-CAT Blueprint & Sample Test Items

For concise information on the PA-CAT content blueprint and sample test items.

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