A better measure of the academic preparedness of PA applicants.
Selecting qualified applicants from a large applicant pool is a daunting task for most PA programs. For years, PA educators and admissions professionals have had to rely on imperfect indicators for selecting their most promising applicants. Collectively, the GRE, prior GPA, science GPA, work history, and other attributes may still fail to accurately measure the true academic preparedness of the individuals applying to their program. Many factors determine whether a candidate is a good fit for a career as a PA professional, but the rigorous PA curriculum invariably requires new students to have a solid grounding in the biomedical and related sciences to succeed.
The Physician Assistant College Admissions Test (PA-CAT) has been developed specifically to meet this challenge by providing admissions committees with an objective, normed assessment of what their applicants do and do not know in the foundational science subjects key to success in the PA curriculum.
Covers The Most Important Pre-Requisite Subjects
Prerequisite subjects can vary among PA program admission requirements, but there is a core set of subjects common to many. The subjects covered on the PA-CAT have been carefully selected because of their relevance and importance, particularly in ensuring that they represent a foundation for student success during the demanding didactic portion of their education and training.
Extensive Field Testing
The development of the PA-CAT admissions exam has benefitted from the collaboration of many PA programs and their incoming students. Volunteer cohorts of new PA students helped to stress test early versions of the PA-CAT—more than 800 examinees participated across 23 pilot programs! This field testing helped us identify underperforming test items and begin to build out a scaled scoring model for subsequent versions of the exam.
Specialized Learning Objectives Relevant to PA School
The PA-CAT focuses not only on the important pre-requisite subjects, it also focuses on the topics and concepts within those subject domains deemed by a panel of experts to be most relevant to what new PA students will be learning. This particularized approach makes the PA-CAT more relevant and meaningful to the needs of PA programs specifically.
This important research project has been the vision of the project’s two principal investigators: Johnna Yealy, Ph.D., PA-C (Univ. of Tampa) and Scott Massey, Ph.D., PA-C (Central Michigan Univ.). The support from our advisory committee members, researchers, item writers and reviewers, and the many involved PA program directors, administrators, and faculty has also been valuable. This truly community-based project has been informed by the collective thoughts, ideas, and experience of many who serve and work in the PA educational community.
While it will take several years to measure the long-term impact and utility of the PA-CAT as an admissions tool, we can already observe connections between examinee performance on the PA-CAT and other admissions variables. Because the PA-CAT has been tested on new students—not general applicants—these results will have to be confirmed over time. This year, the project researchers are closely examining relationships between PA-CAT results and didactic GPA of those examinees.
2021 PA-CAT Program Update
The 2021 updated PA-CAT brochure has all of the latest information on the PA-CAT program including details about the content of the exam, sample PA-CAT outcomes reporting, PA-CAT implementation for programs, and a summary of recent PA-CAT research and validation studies. Additional information is provided about Exam Master’s Pre-Matriculation program for new PA students.