Correlation of Admission Variables and a Standardized PA Admission Exam


  • David Beck MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA University of Pittsburgh
  • P. Daniel Patterson PhD, MPH, MS, NRP1
  • Emily Murphy MPAS, PA-C
  • Mary Allias MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA
  • Jason Hare MPAS, PA-C
  • Jamie Hammond MS, MPAS, PA-C
  • Rosa Fannie MPA, PA-C
  • Christine Rodgers MPH, MPAS, PA-C



physician assistant, admissions, admissions exam, college admission test


PURPOSE: Candidate selection for physician assistant (PA) education and training is challenged by a lack of standards or guidance.1,2  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.  The aim of this exploratory study was to determine the correlation between demographics, undergraduate academic performance metrics, and the PA College Admission Test (PA-CAT), a standardized exam under development for PA admissions.

MATERIALS / METHODS: We used a cross-sectional study design and analysis of multiple administrative databases after IRB approval. The dependent variable of interest was overall performance on PA-CAT (Version 2.0), a standardized, 180-question exam that covers 12 subject areas that are commonly required by programs as preadmission coursework and supported by other research. Newly-matriculated PA students for the 2019 Spring Term academic semester completed the PA-CAT.  Independent variables of interest included undergraduate GPA, scores on the GRE Verbal Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning measures, and demographic factors.  We used descriptive statistics (e.g., means, STD, frequencies) and linear regression to examine associations between dependent and independent variables.



RESULTS: Complete data was available from 36 PA trainees (77% female) with a mean age of 24.5 years (SD 4.2). The mean PA-CAT score was 107.1 (SD 13.2) out of 180. Higher undergraduate GPA and higher scores on the Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning components of the GRE were associated with higher PA-CAT scores (p<0.05). For every one unit (whole number) increase in GPA, the PA-CAT score increased by 31.5 points (p<0.05). Mean PA-CAT scores did not differ by age, gender, or by the number of patient care hours completed prior to PA program matriculation (p>0.05).

DISCUSSION: The correlations identified in this study identify that the PA-CAT may have some promise as a variable for future admissions decisions.  Further study is necessary to generalize these results to a larger population and to continue to add to the literature regarding predictors of PA student success.


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. Ddoi:10.1016/j.hpe.2018.06.003
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
Physician Assistant Education Association. By the numbers: program report 33: data from the 2017 program survey. Washington, DC: 2018. doi: 10.17538/PR33.2018


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How to Cite

Beck, D., Patterson, P. D., Murphy, E., Allias, M., Hare, J., Hammond, J., Fannie, R., & Rodgers, C. (2019). Correlation of Admission Variables and a Standardized PA Admission Exam. The Journal of Canada’s Physician Assistants, 1(3), Annex 2.