PA-CAT Research Abstracts

Providing PA program directors, faculty, and admissions directors with the most current research information regarding the PA-CAT.

PA-CAT Research Abstract Synopsis

This research abstract synopsis provides the completed research to date regarding the efficacy of the PA-CAT in predicting student performance in a PA program. These abstracts are based upon the research pilot phase of the PA-CAT prior to commercial release, and additional program-based research.

The PA-CAT research abstract synopsis will be updated on an ongoing basis by the principal investigators Scott Massey PhD PA-C and Johnna Yealy PhD PA-C as a service to the PA community to ensure transparency and report the most up-to-date research data and developments.

The principal investigators Scott Massey PhD PA-C and Johnna Yealy PhD PA-C  are embarking upon a multiprogram study involving PA programs who have adopted the PA-CAT as an admissions instrument. The results of this study will also be released on this website and to the PA educational community as they become available. 

The abstract research briefs below provide a summary of the purpose behind the research and a simplified conclusion of the findings. This is accompanied by the scientific abstract for PA faculty who wish to read the scientific explanation of the results. These research briefs include both published article and peer-reviewed research presentations at the PAEA conference between 2019-2021. 

Purpose: This research synopsis summarizes four parts of the relationship between the Physician Assistant School Admissions Exam (PA-CAT) and traditional PA school admissions variables:

The Relationship Between the PA-CAT and The Following Physician Assistant School Admittance Variables:

Part 1: Undergraduate Performance Measured by Science GPA & Cumulative GPA in March 2020

Part 2: Clinical GPA and PANCE completed in July 2021. Presented at PAEA in October 2021

Part 3: Didactic Year GPA and PACKRAT presented at PAEA in October 2020

Part 4: Physician Assistant School Anatomy and Medical Science Course Grades presented at PAEA in October 2019

Preliminary Findings: Physician assistant (PA) educational programs are challenged by the increased demand for physician assistants, the pressure to select highly qualified applicants, and the lack of standards for school admittance. Preliminary results show that a standardized exam, the Physician Assistant School Admissions Exam(PA-CAT), demonstrates potential as a viable tool for estimating a PA candidate’s success during a PA program.

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RESEARCH ABSTRACT

The Relationship Between: The Physician Assistant College Admissions Exam (PA-CAT Exam) to Clinical GPA and PANCE

Johnna Yealy (1), PhD, PA-C, Scott Massey (2) PhD, PA-C, Rajat Chadha, PhD, David Beck (2), EdD, MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA, Deanna L. Denault (3) PhD, MA, MEd

(1) The University of Tampa, (2) University of Pittsburgh, (3) Assumption University

Date: October 2021

SUMMARY

Researchers administered the Physician Assistant College Admissions Exam (PA- CAT) to 181 PA candidates and recently matriculated students from 12 PA programs. The researchers ran a multivariant multiple regression analysis to identify statistically significant associations between the PA-CAT scaled scores and the PA Program clinical year GPA and PANCE exam scores from the same subjects.

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Researchers found that there was a moderately statistically significant positive relationship between the PA-CAT and both the PA program clinical year GPA and PANCE scores. These early results suggest that the PA-CAT scaled score and comparison percentile could provide a stronger understanding of a PA candidate’s basic science knowledge than using the candidate’s cumulative GPA, science GPA or their GRE score.

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RESEARCH ABSTRACT

Data Analysis Report: Exam Master PA-CAT, PANCE, Clinical GPA, & PACKRAT 2 Data Analysis Report

Chadha R Psychometrician for PA-CAT
Examinees who were administered versions 1. 0, 1. 1, 1. 2 & 2.0  of PA-CAT

Date: Data Received July 2021

FORMAL ABSTRACT/EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This study aims to investigate the value of Physician Assistant College Admission Test (PA-CAT) in predicting PA program’s clinical performance, PANCE scores, and PACKRAT 2 scores. PA-CAT was administered to 542 PA program students from multiple programs across the United States.

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PA-CAT scaled scores have a medium or close to medium statistically significant (p<0.01) positive correlation with clinical GPA (r=0.29), PANCE scores (r=0.38), and PACKRAT 2 scores (r=0.30).

PA-CAT scaled scores explain about 8.3% of the variance in clinical GPA. Undergraduate GPA and undergraduate science GPA do not add much value to the prediction of clinical GPA beyond PA-CAT scaled scores. The three predictor variables together explain about 9.0% of the variance in Clinical GPA.

PA-CAT scaled scores explain about 14.8% of the variance in PANCE scores. Undergraduate GPA and undergraduate science GPA add some value to the prediction of PANCE scores beyond PA-CAT scaled scores. The three predictor variables together explain about 21.8% of the variance in PANCE scores.

PA-CAT scaled scores explain about 9.0% of the variance in PACKRAT 2 scores. Undergraduate GPA and undergraduate science GPA do not add much value to the prediction of clinical GPA beyond PA-CAT scaled scores. The three predictor variables together explain about 11.7% of the variance in PACKRAT 2 scores.

This research study demonstrates the potential value of PA-CAT scores in predicting PA program’s clinical performance, PANCE scores, and PACKRAT 2 scores. The study will be updated when additional data becomes available in the future.

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RESEARCH ABSTRACT

The Relationship Between: Exam (PA-CAT) and PA Program Didactic Year GPA and PACKRAT

Scott Massey (1) PhD, PA-C, Johnna Yearly (2), PhD, PA-C, Rajat Chadha, PhD, David Beck (1), EdD, PA-C, DFAAPA, Deanna L. Denault (3), PhD, MA, MEd

(1) University of Pittsburgh, (2) The University of Tampa, (3) Assumption University

Date: October 2020

SUMMARY

Researchers sought to compare the Physician Assistant College Admissions Exam (PA-CAT) scores of first semester PA students with key performance markers; the students didactic year GPA and didactic year mock certifying exam scores.

Researchers scaled the PA-CAT scores of 408 students and performed multivariant multiple regression analysis to identify statistically significant associations from the same subjects.

The results showed that there was a moderate correlation to PACKRAT, which is known to be predictive of PANCE success. These correlation results prove to be a stronger than prerequisite science and undergraduate GPA when selecting students for PA programs.

These results are still early, and further study is needed.

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FORMAL ABSTRACT

The tremendous increased interest in the Physician Assistant (PA) profession over the past several years has resulted in a significant increase the number of applications to PA programs and placed a greater burden on PA programs to identify individuals capable of successfully completing the rigorous training. PA programs have traditionally utilized a variety of objective, cognitive measures including undergraduate grade point averages (GPA), science pre-requisite scores, and the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) score as the cognitive variables to assess an applicant. The use of the GRE score, however as an entrance exam, has steadily decreased over the last decade due to conflicting data regarding its usefulness as a predictor of graduate success on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE). GPA scores are not necessarily comparable across institutions, leaving admissions committees without a standard measure against which to evaluate applicants’ likelihood for success. A PA-specific admissions examination that measures basic science knowledge would offer admission committees a standardized measure to objectively compare applicants.

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RESEARCH ABSTRACT

The Relationship Between: Exam (PA-CAT) and PA School Anatomy and Medical Science Course Grades

Johnna Yealy, PhD, PA-C, Dept. Chair/Program Director; Fraser Houston, PhD, Principal Faculty; Kimberly Dobrinski, PhD, Principal Faculty

The University of Tampa, Dept. of Physician Assistant Medicine, Tampa, FL

Date: October 2020

SUMMARY

Researchers administered the Physician Assistant College Admissions Exam (PA- CAT) to forty-eight matriculated students during their orientation week at PA school. The students’ PA-CAT scores were compared to their final course grades in their Anatomy and Physiology and Medical Sciences classes.

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The researchers ran a regression analysis on the PA-CAT percent score (independent variable) on the A&P course grade and medical science course grade (dependent variables). Both courses showed a moderate positive correlation with PA-CAT scale scores, which A&P being slightly higher.

These early results show that PA-CAT test scores may be useful in identifying students who may struggle in the basic science courses (A&P and Medical Sciences) and who may benefit from a study program prior to starting the PA program.

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RESEARCH ABSTRACT

The Relationship Between: Physician Assistant School Admissions Exam (PA-CAT) and Undergraduate Performance Measured by Science GPA & Cumulative GPA

Massey S, Yealy J, Chadha R, Beck D.  The Relationship Between Physician Assistant School Admissions Exam (PA-CAT) and Undergraduate Performance Measured by Science GPA and Cumulative GPA”. The Internet Journal of Allied Health Sciences and Practice. 

Date: 2020 Mar 17;18(2)

SUMMARY

This study aims to understand if the Physician Assistant School Admissions Exam (PA-CAT) is predictive of PA student success in their PA training, as measured by the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). The study uses probabilistic model, The Rasch Model, in this retrospective study. The study looks at the PA-CAT scores of 479 students entering PA schools during the 2018-2019 school year.

Initial research from this study suggests that the PA-CAT is a viable instrument for determining PA school admittance. For instance, researchers found that a PA-CAT examinee with an undergraduate science GPA that was one point higher was expected to score 17.39 scale points higher on the PA- CAT. Though more testing is needed, preliminary results show that the PA-CAT may be a valid admissions tool for PA school.

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FORMAL ABSTRACT

Physician Assistant (PA) programs often set minimum GPA and graduate record examination (GRE) requirements for admission, citing that candidate with higher admission scores will perform better in the PA program. However, to date, there are limited published studies with inconsistent results that have investigated the validity of using these preadmission characteristics to predict performance in PA programs or on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE).  The development of a physician assistant college admission test (PA-CAT) that has predictive validity to determine PANCE success would give PA admissions committees an additional resource to make decisions. This study was conducted to determine the strength of the relationship between PA-CAT and undergraduate cumulative and science GPA.

Methods: The PA-CAT is comprised of 180 questions covering twelve subject areas based on research identifying the relative importance of that subject to success in the PA curriculum. The exam was administered through a secured computer-based testing to 479 newly admitted PA students across the United States. Regression analysis was conducted with Rasch scale scores as the dependent variable and two independent variables (undergraduate GPA and undergraduate science GPA).

Results: The PA-CAT Rasch scale scores are positively correlated with undergraduate GPA (r=0.16) and undergraduate science GPA (r=0.22). Although these correlation coefficients are statistically significant (Conclusion: Early results from this research study demonstrates there is a statistically significant relationship between the PA-CAT and undergraduate science GPA in newly admitted PA students.

Limitations of the study include the fact that students voluntarily took this exam without consequence. Further study is needed to determine if the exam can be generalized to the entire PA applicant pool thereby providing a valid instrument for admissions decisions.

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RESEARCH ABSTRACT

The Relationship Between: The Physician Assistant College Admissions Exam (PA-CAT) and Admissions Variables

David Beck MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA (1); P. Daniel Patterson PhD, MPH, MS, NRP (2); Emily Murphy MPAS, PA-C1; Mary Allias MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA (1); Jason Hare MPAS, PA-C1; Jamie Hammond MPAS, MS, PA- C (1); Rosa Fannie MPA, PA-C (1); Christine Rodgers MPAS, MPH, PA-C (1)

(1)Department of Physician Assistant Studies, School of Health and Rehabilitation Science (2)Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences

Date: October 2019

SUMMARY

The Physician Assistant College Admissions Exam (PA-CAT) may be a reliable PA school admissions variable, though more testing is needed. There was promise between the correlation of undergraduate GPA and the graduate school entrance exam (and commonly required) GRE test.

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FORMAL ABSTRACT/BACKGROUND

Candidate selection processes for physician assistant (PA) education admissions is heterogeneous and challenged by a lack of standards or guidance. (1,2)

In the academic and professional literature, there is a dearth of controlled studies, multi-center analyses, or studies of large populations; further, the published studies are small and offer inconsistent results. (1)

A standardized exam for PA applicants may guide admissions decisions and predict student success in achieving the necessary competencies during the program and upon completion.

This study sought to determine the correlation between demographics, undergraduate academic performance, and the PA College Admission Test (PA-CAT), a standardized exam developed by Exam Master® Corporation for use in PA admissions.

  1. Moore S, Clark C, Haught A, et al. Factors associated with academic performance in physician assistant graduate programs and national certification examination scores: a literature review. Health Professions Education. 2018. doi: 10.1016/j.hpe.2018.06.003

2. Honda T, Patel-Junankar D, Baginski R, Scott R. Admissions variables: predictors of physician assistant student success. J Physician Assist Educ. 2018;29(3):167-172. doi:10.1097/JPA.0000000000000212

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