Physician Assistant programs have required the GRE as a standardized test for admission consideration for many years. Beginning in spring 2020 some of them will start requiring or preferring that applicants take the newly-developed Physician Assistant College Admission Test (PA-CAT). The PA-CAT has been developed by Exam Master with input from PA program administrators to help them determine applicants' academic preparation for PA school in the core prerequisite subjects.
What is on the PA-CAT
The PA-CAT is a science-based assessment covering the major prerequisite subjects required for admissions to most PA schools.
- 9 subjects presented sequentially
- 240 multiple-choice test items
- 4.5-hour total exam window
- Electronically administered by Prometric
- Special Accommodations available
Below is a list of the overall blueprint of the exam with sample test items provided by Exam Master.
The PA-CAT was developed to assess common basic science subjects and statistics consistent with what is typically required for admission by a majority of PA programs. Test items were developed and reviewed by both subject matter experts as well as PA educators.
- General Biology
- General and Organic Chemistry
- Behavioral Sciences
Cognitive Domains Covered on the PA-CAT:
The PA-CAT items are mapped to a variety of cognitive domains for deeper assessment.
Exam Master shares that The PA-CAT has been subjected to extensive field testing involving approximately 40 PA programs and over 2,000 examinees. Below is a list of the programs that were involved in the testing of the PA-CAT over the past year and a half. Exam Master reports that additional data collection and analysis is ongoing.
Because this is the first year of the program, Exam Master expects that the adoption of the PA-CAT by PA programs will be comparatively small this year, larger next year and much larger by 2022 as PA programs seek to replace the GRE as their standard admissions exam. Exam Master does expect that early adopters for 2020 will likely come from the programs participating in the research phase, so do check the admissions requirements for these programs with particular attention.
As of February 2020 Central Michigan University and Pfeiffer University do require applicants to take the PA-CAT for admissions consideration in the upcoming application cycle. Other programs, such as UT Rio Grande, will likely "recommend" that applicants take the PA-CAT this year as they transition over to use of the PA-CAT next year.
Registration for the PA-CAT is now open. The fee is $149 for the exam plus $79 for the test center fee for a total of $228. Once registered, starting in March, students will be able to make arrangements for scheduling their exam with Prometric Testing Centers. The actual exam window for taking the PA-CAT opens May 1, 2020 and will be open continuously after that. Exam Master will be developing a fee waiver/fee reduction program later in the year.
Exam Master has provided a range of prepartaion materials including a test guide, and practice test questions. You can access them on the pa-cat.com website under
Exam Master reports that the following materials will be available to PA-CAT candidates at no additional cost:
- 120-item online practice exam which includes explanations and references - available now
- Study guide, sample items and blueprint - available now
- Eight online subject practice exams including explanations and references - available in mid-February
- Online pre-matriculation course covering Anatomy, Physiology, Microbiology, Critical Thinking and Time Management - available mid-March.