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.”
The Physician Assistant College Admission Test (PA-CAT™) is a specialized test 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 admissions experts as part of a holistic admissions process.
Facts About the PA-CAT
- 240-item assessment covering 9 science subject areas
- Field-tested with over 1700 examinees at 36 PA programs
- Available May of 2020 at over 5,000 Prometric testing centers
- Cost: $228 (includes the test center fee for standard administration)
- Includes available free practice test
Why the PA-CAT
Over the last five years applications to PA school 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 profession for those looking to work as a health-care provider. A typical PA program receives many hundreds of applications for only 40-60 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 school continue to increase, there has not been a standardized assessment dedicated to PA education admissions. Many PA programs have had to rely on use of general admissions assessments that are not targeted to the graduate health professions, in general, or to the PA 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 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. 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 has been designed to offer current and objective data that reflects applicants’ academic preparedness at the time of their application on a level not achieved using other admissions variables.
What’s Covered on the PA-CAT?
- 9 subjects presented sequentially
- 240 multiple-choice test items
- 4.5-hour total exam window
- Electronically administered by Prometric
- Special Accommodations available
The PA-CAT was developed to assess common 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.
- General Biology
- General and Organic Chemistry
- Behavioral Sciences
Sample Topics from Biochemistry*
- Introduction to biochemistry concepts
- Integration of metabolism
- Specialized metabolism of tissues
- Cell membranes and cell communication
- Specific functions of proteins
- Nucleic Acids
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:
Exam Master has been supporting health professions education and training since 1994. From admissions readiness to pre-matriculation to board preparation, our goal is to support the students and their educators in professions critical to our healthcare system.
Exam Master would like to thank Julie Kinzel and the students at Drexel University's PA program for allowing us to capture their students in action, on their way to becoming PAs!
Pictures courtesy of Julie Kinzel and the students at Drexel University PA.