Supporting the Lifecycle of PAs

Supporting the Lifecycle of PAs

Supporting the Lifecycle of PAs

For over 15 years, Exam Master has supported Physician Assistant education, training, and certification. Preparing for education and training for a Physician Assistant career can be demanding and rigorous. As one of the fastest-growing professions in the world, Physician Assistant programs are tasked with producing large numbers of properly trained and competent PAs that can use their knowledge to understand and solve clinical challenges to promote the health and wellbeing of their patients. To show themselves competent, students must be able to apply the vast amounts of knowledge acquired to understand and solve clinical challenges. From acquiring initial knowledge and training to recertification, Exam Master provides resources to that help PAs navigate their journey.


Supporting All Phases of the PA Lifecycle

Beginning with the Pre-PA phase, Exam Master provides incoming PA students with resources to prepare for entering PA school. For programs, we have developed the Physician Assistant College Admissions Test (PA-CAT) to test applicant prerequisite knowledge as a component of the admissions process. We recognize the importance of readiness for PA school, so we developed a PA Academic Readiness Assessment for after the PA-CAT. This assessment helps programs and students further identify what areas they may need to focus on improving in order to be successful in the program. The readiness assessment and the PA-CAT are resources for students and programs that allow them to test their knowledge. After testing students and identifying important knowledge gaps, it is important to provide resources to remediate those gaps. Our PA Pre-Matriculation program provides students refresher courses in important prerequisite subjects for PA school. Students can review information and quiz themselves to prepare for the didactic year of their program. This Pre-Matriculation program can be used before students begin their didactic curriculum or in the first days of their program.


Resources to Assist the PA Journey

The Didactic/Clinical phase is typically 27 months of allocating student and educator time, energy, and resources. Exam Master provides resources for the didactic/clinical phase of their education such as remediation and self-study resources. These resources, plus our systems-based clinical question banks will allow students the opportunity to continue to remediate the knowledge gaps as they are learning in their classes and clinicals. While the resources help students during their education and during the study process for the PANCE, we also provide resources specifically dedicated to professional certification. Designed and updated based on the 2019 NCCPA blueprint, our PANCE/PANRE High-Yield question banks can be used to effectively study to pass the certification exams. We also provide special practice exams for both the PANCE and the PANRE, as well as a Common Medications Review.

Practicing PAs are often in search of resources to assist them with preparing for recertification exams and CME hours. Our practicing PA resources include academic support for PA educators and our partner products with Emory University. We partnered with Emory University to develop high-yield resources for practicing PAs. Our systems-based CME review and our Category I AAPA CME Self-Assessment provide practicing PAs with review information and 38+ CME hours. The Emory University products are regularly updated and provide practicing PAs with an efficient way to get their CME hours.

We were planning to attend various PA conferences around the country, but unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled many in-person events. In place of an in-person meeting, we have developed an informational video that reviews how we support the PA community with our resources. Click here to view our Lifecycle of a PA video! If you would like to further the conversation about Exam Master’s PA resources, contact us!

Related Topics: Physician Assistant | Pre-PA
Pre-Matriculation: Helping You Prepare for PA School

Pre-Matriculation: Helping You Prepare for PA School

Pre-Matriculation: Helping You Prepare for PA School

Physician assistant education and other graduate-level health professions education is designed to enroll students who are prepared for the rigors of the demanding health science curriculum. Many PA educators have expressed that their incoming students struggle with foundational subjects that are key to success in the didactic year of their program. Significant stressors impact PA program admissions departments when making admissions decisions, such as variability of GPA, variability in quality and content in previous courses, and the length of time since prerequisite courses were taken. As a partner of the PA community, Exam Master recognizes the importance of ensuring that students are ready for the didactic year of their programs. To mitigate this challenge, we have created the Physician Assistant Pre-Matriculation program to assist students as they prepare to enter PA school.

The Physician Assistant Pre-Matriculation program’s core focus is to prepare and refresh incoming PA students on these foundational subjects. PA educators often identify basic science subjects like Anatomy and Physiology as needing a level of remediation that they don’t have time to provide. Our PA Pre-Matriculation program provides a critical understanding of the basic prerequisite science subjects, emphasizing the minimization of knowledge gaps that could result in students falling behind in their early coursework.

Though the primary focus of the PA Pre-Matriculation program is preparation before matriculation, it can also be used during and after the didactic year, since knowledge gaps are usually identified after students have begun the curriculum. The PA Pre-Matriculation program is self-guided and online, so educators can prescribe the program to their students and monitor their progress through the subject learning modules without the need for direct guidance. For students who already know which subjects they struggle with, the self-guided nature of the PA Pre-Matriculation program allows them to take an active role to improve their performance. These students in particular have an opportunity to demonstrate their dedication to succeeding, and the educators can observe the whole process. 

Our PA Pre-Matriculation program is loaded with exercises and information that will help students succeed. Starting with a self-paced review, students can complete in-depth reviews of learning objectives that educators identify as most important. Students work at their own pace through the learning modules while educators and program administrators monitor their activity and results. Throughout the PA Pre-Matriculation program, students are given quizzes to review the information in the learning objective modules. The quizzes are embedded within the learning modules to provide a more interactive experience and help solidify learning. Students are also provided course-specific summative exams at the end of the Pre-Matriculation program designed to assess whether they have met the appropriate learning objectives.

For detailed information about the PA Pre-Matriculation program, click here.

Thank You Drexel University!

Thank You Drexel University!

Thank You Drexel University!

While developing Exam Master’s PA-CAT website, we thought it would be great to use images of actual PA students on the site. Drexel University is local to the Exam Master headquarters and was a participating school in the research phase of the PA-CAT. We were delighted to be invited to take pictures of their students and facilities.  

We walked through the halls of the College of Nursing and Health Professions building, stopping in classrooms and simulation rooms to photograph the learning environment. There were mannequins with bright eyes and tattoo sleeves laying in hospital beds in every room. Our photographer snapped pictures of simulation activity prompts, small examination rooms, and hospital-like hallways.

During our visit to Drexel, we met students who had just entered their didactic year of Physician Assistant school. When we mentioned the PA-CAT to the students, many of them acknowledged that they had taken the test during their first week of the program. The students had positive feedback about the development of an admissions test specifically for physician assistant programs and were excited to be a part of the research phase.

We were able to watch an educator demonstrate a level of patience and care while showing her students how to perform a patient evaluation of fine motor skills that was exceptional. Four students allowed us to capture the process of them evaluating each other under the close watch of their instructor. It was evident from our time at Drexel that the educators take great pride in the way that they prepare the future PA’s in their program. 

Exam Master would like to thank Drexel University for allowing us to visit their PA program to take pictures for our PA-CAT website. We understand that instruction time is valuable to both educators and students, and they were gracious enough to allow us to capture photos of that time. 

Take a look at some of the great pictures we took while at Drexel University!

First PA-CAT Webinar, A Big Success

First PA-CAT Webinar, A Big Success

First PA-CAT Webinar, A Big Success

Over the past few months, Exam Master has been increasingly engaged in conversations with PA educators regarding the 2020 launch of the Physician Assistant College Admissions Test (PA-CAT). With registration for the PA-CAT opening next month, we recognized the usefulness of bringing the PA education community together to discuss important updates and the commercial launch of the test. We decided to partner with the principal investigators of the PA-CAT project, Scott L. Massey, PhD, PA-C from Central Michigan University and Johnna Yealy, PhD, PA-C, from the University of Tampa to help plan our first informational webinar.

In preparation for the PA-CAT webinar, Dr. Massey and Dr. Yealy worked with Exam Master to decide what information would be most valuable to a program deciding to implement the PA-CAT into their admissions process. We knew it would be important to provide impactful and engaging information to participants of the webinar, such as the usefulness of the PA-CAT, the opening of PA-CAT registration this January, and the test becoming available for students to take in May.


The PA-CAT Webinar

On December 6th, we hosted the PA-CAT Webinar for PA educators, and it was a great success. The webinar was led by Dr. Massey and Dr. Yealy, and moderated by Exam Master’s President and CEO, Matt Bader. PA educators from programs across the country gathered together to learn about things like the launch of the PA-CAT, the details of the test, and how it will benefit their admissions process in the future.

Dr. Massey and Dr. Yealy provided a dynamic presentation that provided detailed information about the PA-CAT. The review of information was very well received by the participants of the webinar. The presentation covered the official score reporting process, assessment considerations, and the content of the test.

During the discussion, Dr. Massey and Dr. Yealy provided programs with three critical reasons to use the tool:

  1. PA-CAT scores can be used to help identify candidates suitable for interviews.
  2. PA-CAT scores can be used to help select among similarly qualified interview candidates
  3. PA-CAT scores can be used to identify candidates who meet overall admissions criteria but could benefit from a pre-matriculation program.

The PA-CAT webinar participants received tips on how to strategically plan for implementation. The tips for strategic planning included considering when the admissions cycle begins, providing notice to prospective candidates prior to the beginning of the admissions cycle, and more. It is also recommended that while trying to secure approval to implement the PA-CAT educators should meet with admissions to provide information, provide evidence regarding implementation, and determine if the graduate school mandates the GRE.


Q&A Session

At the end of the presentation, we were able to engage in Q&A session with participants of the webinar. It was our endeavor to answer as many questions in as much detail as possible. The questions asked were similar to the questions we have heard during many conversations with PA educators over the past few years. Check out a few of them here.

Q: What have you done to mitigate bias in the exam?

Scott L. Massey – We compare the populations to see if there’s any differences in the students’ outcomes, but it’s going to take time to be able to determine that. Through our psychometrician, for example, they’re trying to look at individual questions to see if there’s any significant difference between different ethnic groups in terms of the performance. [So] there’s no exact answer for that, it’s going to take time; but the efforts are there to try to achieve that. 


Q: In the event that we gain approval from leadership to use the PA-CAT in replacement of the GRE, would there be any fee or cost for the program, or would the cost be only on the candidate?

Matt Bader – So the way the program is set up is the fee for the exam is paid by the candidates. That’s fairly standard practice. There’s no particular cost to the program. Now since Exam Master has relationships with many PA programs, we are looking at some supplementary kinds of things that we can do around the PA-CAT like the pre-matriculation program, for example. So, if you had your candidates and you select from a group of candidates and you get that scoring feedback, we will have a program for any of those that may need additional help. Apart from that there is no cost to the program at all.


Q: If an applicant takes the PA-CAT and the program does not participate, can the applicant still have the results sent to the program?

Matt – Students, as we know, apply to multiple programs. Some of the programs they may be applying to don’t require the PA-CAT, some may recommend the PA-CAT, [and] some may not have an indication at all. Our understanding is [that] so long as the student wants to make that information available to any program, that they can do so. So, I don’t see any reason why that cannot happen.

Jim – For CASPA, the student will select the schools he/she wants to send the score reports to. Also, that score report will be attached to the student’s overall record so if a school is not participating with the PA-CAT, they still would receive that score report on that individual student and they would just disregard the score. 


The PA-CAT 2020

Exam Master is dedicated to supporting all PA programs during the process of implementing the PA-CAT into their admissions process. We are very excited for the launch of the commercial version of the PA-CAT in 2020. There are just a few weeks until the PA-CAT registration window opens in January. The test will then be available at over 5,000 Prometric testing centers in the United States in May 2020.  It is important to provide as much information to PA programs as possible. If you have any questions or would like to schedule a conversation about the PA-CAT, please schedule here.

Click here to watch the PA-CAT Webinar with Scott L. Massey, PhD, PA-C and Johnna Yealy, PhD, PA-C.

PA-CAT: The First Step to a Career as a Physician Assistant

PA-CAT: The First Step to a Career as a Physician Assistant

PA-CAT: The First Step to a Career as a Physician Assistant

Over the past five years, there has been a significant increase in the total number of applicants to PA schools. While this is partly a result of the tremendous increase in the number of accredited PA programs in the U.S., it means that a typical PA program must manage hundreds of applications. Many applicants are highly qualified, making the choice of filling the small incoming class for a typical PA program very difficult. Acceptance rates at PA programs hover around 33%, even lower for the most competitive programs.

Undergraduate GPA, undergraduate science GPA, prerequisite coursework, and prior work history are among the criteria that PA programs use to make their admissions decisions. Since there has never been an admissions assessment specifically designed for the PA curriculum, many PA educators have had to also rely on the GRE to help with admissions decisions. With difficulty in comparing GPAs from different undergraduate schools, variability in grading practices (e.g. grade inflation), and with a standardized exam that does not focus on the science subjects needed for success in PA school, PA educators have struggled to make the best admissions decisions from a large group of highly qualified applicants.

After conducting extensive research, including conversations with dozens of PA educators, it became clear to us at Exam Master that an admissions exam truly targeted to the PA profession was needed and wanted. Given the demands of the PA curriculum, PA educators felt it was paramount that applicants be assessed on their academic preparedness to ensure they could handle the rigor that awaited them —applicant familiarity with prerequisite science subjects upon admission would be fundamental to their success during the critical didactic year. 

Led by Johnna Yealy, PhD, PA-C and Scott Massey, PhD, PA-C, the research and development phase of the PA-CAT featured field testing with over 35 participating PA programs, involving over 1600 students and interview candidates. The 180-item PA-CAT research exam was developed to assess student comprehension of common basic science subjects required as prerequisites by most PA programs. Results from initial testing were tracked and correlated with subsequent student performance.

PA-CAT field testing benefitted from significant community involvement and feedback. The exam was challenging, but anecdotal feedback from students suggested that the material covered was relevant to what they learned in college. PA educator Sandra Keavey, PA-C reported  a “strong correlation between scores on the PA-CAT and academic performance.” The strongest students in her program’s current cohort performed well on the PA-CAT. Keavey sees this PA-CAT as a tool helpful for screening potential applicants and identifying incoming students who may be at risk for falling behind during their didactic training.

The commercial version of the PA-CAT is available for registration in January 2020, with the exam window opening in May of 2020. This exam features 240 items and covers the following subjects: 

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

Used as part of a holistic admissions process, the PA-CAT has been developed to help PA programs better predict which applicants are more likely to be successful in their demanding programs. There will be rich opportunities over the coming years to refine the exam, perfect it, and ensure that it meets the needs of the PA community and all of its stakeholders.

If you would like more information about the PA-CAT, visit us or contact us directly.