Purpose: Physician Assistant (PA) programs often set minimum GPA and graduate record examination (GRE) requirements for admission, citing that candidates with higher admission scores will perform better in the PA program. However, to date, there are limited published studies with inconsistent results that have investigated the validity of using these preadmission characteristics to predict performance in PA programs or on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE). The development of a physician assistant college admission test (PA-CAT) that has predictive validity to determine PANCE success would give PA admissions committees an additional resource to make decisions. This study was conducted to determine the strength of the relationship between PA-CAT and undergraduate cumulative and science GPA. Methods: The PA-CAT is comprised of 180 questions covering 12 subject areas based on research identifying the relative importance of that subject to success in the PA curriculum. The exam was administered through a secured computer-based testing to 479 newly admitted PA students across the United States. Regression analysis was conducted with Rasch scale scores as the dependent variable and two independent variables (undergraduate GPA and undergraduate science GPA). Results: The PA-CAT Rasch scale scores are positively correlated with undergraduate GPA (r=0.16) and undergraduate science GPA (r=0.22). Although these correlation coefficients are statistically significant (pConclusion:Early results from this research study demonstrates there is a statistically significant relationship between the PA-CAT and undergraduate science GPA in newly admitted PA students. Limitations of the study include the fact that students voluntarily took this exam without consequence. Further study is needed to determine if the exam can be generalized to the entire PA applicant pool thereby providing a valid instrument for admissions decisions.

Author Bio(s)

Scott Massey PhD PA-C is the director of the Central Michigan University physician Assistant program. Dr. Massey has 27 years of PA educational experience. He has published numerous research articles and has presented dozens of national and international presentations. He is also been involved with several international projects promoting the training of health workers

Rajat Chadha, PhD is a Measurement Specialist at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. He has extensive experience working as a psychometrician and statistician on international projects for organizations such as Howard Hughes Medical Institute, UNICEF, OECD, International Baccalaureate, and the Governments of Australia, Bangladesh and India.

David C. Beck MPAS, PA-C, DFAAPA is the Director of the University of Pittsburgh Physician Assistant Studies Program. He has been involved in several research projects throughout his career, and he is particularly interested in improving social justice, equity, and data-driven decision making into PA admissions processes.

Johnna Yealy PhD PA-C is the chair of the UTampa PA program. She has twice served as the president of the Tennessee Academy of PAs. She has presented at the AAPA, AAMC and PAEA national conferences and authored numerous peer reviewed journal articles as well as a textbook chapter.



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