For CandidatesWelcome to the PA-CAT Candidate Hub
Dedicated to candidates applying to PA school, Exam Master has curated information to help pre-PA’s through the process of applying to PA school. We want to help you succeed! Using our PA-CAT Candidate Hub, we’ll help you prepare for the PA-CAT and strengthen your application to PA school.
Of PA programs have preferences for special student characteristics
Of PA programs require a supplemental application
Of PA programs offer preferences for underrepresented minorities
Tips for Successful Candidates
We want you to get accepted and to succeed! Our tips for successful candidates will help you on your way.
- Be sure to have studied the four subjects that are required prerequisites for admission to three-quarters of PA schools – Anatomy, Physiology, General Chemistry, and Biology.
- Direct patient care is the most important type of health care experience you can have for admissions to PA school. Volunteer direct patient care is a plus!
- Be prepared for a group and an individual interview, just in case you have to do both during your admissions process. Interpersonal and communication skills are very important during this process.
- Have conversations with current PA students about their admissions process and about their programs.
- 97% of PA programs require applicants to write a statement. It’s important to invest time and resources into that component of your application.
- Try to secure references from practicing physician assistants.
- Practice your writing skills! Most PA programs admissions will have a writing prompt for you to complete at your interview.
- Take the PA-CAT
Facts About the PA-CAT
- The PA-CAT costs $149, plus a $79 test center fee
- Available exclusively at Prometric Testing Centers in North America
- 240 test items covering 9 core science subjects
- 4.5-hour total test time
- Special accommodations available for eligible candidates
- Includes free study resources including 8 subject-specific practice exams and PA Pre-Matriculation Course
Candidate Advice from a PA Educator
by Scott L. Massey, PhD, PA-C, Central Michigan University
Interview Tips for PA Program Candidates
Interviews at PA programs can vary widely. For this purpose, we will present some general information from PA faculty who have nearly 3 decades of admissions experience. Here are some general recommendations that may be helpful.
Group Interviews – Act natural and be yourself.
Many programs require group interviews. This consists of specific vignettes in which you have to interact with other applicants. The key thing is to be yourself. Becoming overly aggressive or trying to grandstand never ends well. Pretend that you are interacting in a normal environment. Even if you are introverted, the key takeaway point is to be yourself. Be authentic at all times.
MMI Interviews – Advanced preparation is key.
Some programs have multiple interview stations. These involve different predetermined scenarios or questions. Because of the rapid-fire nature of the stations, it is important to be intellectually sharp. It is always a good idea to understand everything about the PA program in which you are interviewing. The mission statement and the focus of the program’s vision may become very important. Read everything available on the website of the program in which you are interviewing.
Essay – Reflect, organize, then write for better results.
Many programs require extemporaneous essays. Read the directions very carefully and answer the question to the best of your ability. Pay close attention to sentence structure and punctuation. Answer the essay using sound principles of composition paying attention to proper sentence structure.
Individual Interviews – Strive for authenticity and connection.
Each program will ask you a question in which to respond. Take your time and think carefully about how you want to present your case. I cannot emphasize enough the importance of being authentic. Avoid being overly polished and responding with cliché answers. Always be humble and cognizant of the honor of being considered for that individual PA program. Some programs use behavioral questions, which emphasize how you have reacted to situations in the past. Think about the best possible example from your personal experience.
“I consider the PA-CAT a valuable assessment tool, thoughtfully designed to serve two purposes. First, it will provide a way for students to quantify their understanding of PA-specific, foundational scientific knowledge required for admission to a PA program. Secondly, and more importantly, it will help matriculated students define their personalized learning path for future success and achievements during a rigorous PA curriculum.”
Dr. Massey’s Final Tips for PA Program Candidates
Attention to Detail
Come dressed appropriately. I have interviewed thousands of students for entrance to PA school. I can remember many students who presented to the interview dressed inappropriately. This can be a tipping point whether you are accepted or not. Dress etiquette for interview usually involves a dark business suit for both men and women. Avoid powerful colors such as red and green. Bring a business portfolio and a copy of your CV. Read virtually every word from the program website. You need to try to be an expert about that program.
Perfect Application Submission
,Before you submit your application on CASPA and the supplemental application to each specific PA program ensure that there are no typographical errors. If necessary, have an editor read through your application. Most likely, you have worked with the application for weeks. You are too close to the document to know whether there are some glaring errors. Personal statements on the application with multiple typographical errors result in denial.
Study Your Profession
Read widely about the PA profession. Know the roots and the history behind your chosen profession. You should be an expert on any documents on the AAPA website. In addition, go to your individual state medical board website and read the practice laws for PAs in that state. Some programs might ask questions about the profession in that respective state. When shadowing PA’s ask about their daily practice. Know the pros and cons of being the PA. No profession is perfect. Read workforce trends and healthcare policy. A well-informed applicant will impress the admissions board.
Tenacity and Belief in Your Dream
Only you know why your dream is to become a PA. Visualize yourself walking across the stage and getting your PA degree. Being tenacious is a very positive attribute for PA program admissions committees. Be honest with yourself about your weaknesses. Your attitude must be that if unsuccessful this year you will make yourself better and apply again next year. Applicants who rise above the odds have impressed me.
Do you have questions about the PA-CAT or applying to PA school?
Submit a question and we'll be in touch with an answer.
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.