Entrance exams and PA school: What to expect

December 4, 2014

Article by Global Pre-Meds
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Students with one of the doctors in Tanzania The application process for physician assistant school involves a personal statement, transcripts, verification of healthcare experience hours and letters of recommendation. In addition, individuals who plan to apply to a physician assistant program may also have to take an admission exam.

Physician assistant schools may vary when it comes to which exam they require. For example, some schools require the Graduate Record Examination (GRE), which is also often required for various types of master’s degree programs. Other schools will accept the Medical School Admissions Exam (MCAT) instead of the GRE.

Additionally, some PA programs require the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). In some cases, none of the above entrance exams are required.


The Medical School Admissions Exam is required for applicants applying to med school. Most PA schools do not require the test as part of their admissions process, but some will accept the MCAT instead of the GRE. The MCAT is a multiple-choice test, which is divided into sections including physical science, biological science and verbal reasoning. Starting in 2015, questions involving psychology and sociology will also be included.


The Graduate Record Examination is used by schools to assess an applicant’s aptitude for graduate programs. It is also required by some physician assistant programs. In the United States, the test can be administered through a paper and pencil test. But it is much more common to be administered using computer adaptive testing. The GRE is divided into three categories including analytical writing, verbal reasoning and quantitative reasoning.


The TOEFL is an English language fluency test and it measures a person’s ability to understand written and spoken English. It also measures how efficiently you combine, speaking, listening, and reading in order to perform academic tasks. Not all physician assistant programs require the TOEFL.

Tips for PA admission tests

Make sure you know which exam is required for which school

Schools vary on the admission requirements. Your application will get rejected if you do not take the required exams. For instance, you would hate to assume the MCAT is accepted when it is not.

Give yourself plenty of time to prepare

Even if you have good grades, taking standardized tests can be different. Trying to study the week before a big exam, such as the GRE, is not the best move. Cramming can be stressful, and you may not retain the needed information.

Consider taking a prep class

Different companies offer preparation classes for the MCAT and the GRE. Classes may help you get an idea about the style of the test questions. As you become more familiar with the exam, it may help you answer the questions easier.

Take practice exams

Practice exams are offered through test preparation classes, study guides and online. For the MCAT, practice tests can be found through the Association of American Medical Colleges.

Get a study buddy

Studying with a classmate or friend can help you prepare for whichever exam you need. Not only can a study buddy help you understand concepts you may not, it gives you accountability. For example, if you are meeting a friend to study, you may be more likely to stick to your study schedule.