Currently, the “standardized” test for PA schools is the GRE (and I say “standardized” because not every program requires it, or has minimum requirements). The GRE is not the best test for PA school and pretty much everyone at this point admits it. Subjects on the GRE include quantitative (math) and qualitative (English), plus a writing subjects. Yet, are these actually the subjects that most pre-PA students are taking? No.
So recently, two PhDs/program directors began research into a new sort of exam to test readiness for entrance into PA programs – the PA-CAT (Physician Assistant College Admissions Test). Together with Exam Master, this exam will test applicants on subjects that *hopefully* give better insight into how these students will ultimately do in PA school. Currently, the best indicator is GPA, which as we all know can have a ton of variables.
This year, the exam is being piloted at several programs across the nation either during interviews or in orientation week. It is currently a 180 question exam comprised of topics from 12 science categories – Anatomy, Physiology, General Biology, Microbiology, General Chemistry, Organic Chemistry, Biochemistry, Statistics, Medical Terminology, and Genetics. Ideally, these 12 categories make up the most consistently required prerequisite courses.
What does this mean for you as an applicant?
Right now, nothing! This is not something that you need to study for and your performance will not factor into whether or not you get in to that PA school (at least from what I’ve seen from the websites of schools that are piloting it). Really, schools just want to be able to take this data and use it for future classes!
What do I think of this?
Realistically, my opinion does not matter lol. But I am super intrigued by this and cannot wait to see where it goes from here! I don’t think that the GRE is the best test for pre-PA students, and I also don’t think that making the change to the MCAT would be beneficial either. Ideally, I would love to see for this to be implemented so that there is a more objective, standardized way of judging an applicants knowledge (of prerequisites and base science). I would also love to see this make positive changes to the prerequisite requirements, and ideally make things a little more even across the board. I think that with the sheer number of PA programs that are popping up, we need to continue to remain rigorous in our expectations and requirements of applications.
If you would like to read more about this program, I encourage you to check out the links below! I would also love to hear about your experience/thoughts with it if you are a future PA who has taken this exam.
This is a link to the research proposal: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329403023_PA-CAT-Research-Protocol-v12_11_15_18
This is a link to the Exam Master website with more basic information: https://www.exammaster.org/pa-admissions/
Disclaimer: please remember that all views discussed in this post are my own and do not represent those of my program or employer or anyone else associated with me! These views are complied from the research that I have done and I encourage you to do your own research and formulate your own opinion.