Standardized Tests for PA School: A Complete Guide

PA School • May 25, 2023

Whether you’re just starting to think about going to PA school or you’re already in the application process, you’ve probably heard of the standardized tests you need to take.

In this video, we’ll go over what tests for PA school you need to take and how to prepare for them.

A Guide to Standardized Tests for PA School

Standardized tests for PA school play a crucial role in the application process. While not all programs require these exams, it’s essential to familiarize yourself with the different types of tests in case your chosen program mandates them. In this guide, we will break down the three most common standardized tests for PA school and provide valuable information to help you prepare and know what to expect.

The GRE (Graduate Record Examination)

The GRE is arguably one of the most well-known standardized tests for PA school, serving as a graduate entrance exam for various programs. It consists of three sections: quantitative, verbal, and analytical writing. The cost of the exam is approximately $220, and the duration is around three hours and 45 minutes, including breaks between the six blocks. Many test prep materials are available to help you prepare for this exam, similar to SAT preparation resources.

To be competitive for a PA program, aim to achieve a score around the 50th percentile in both the verbal and quantitative sections, roughly 150. Additionally, a score between four and five is considered competitive for the analytical writing section. If you are not satisfied with your GRE score, you can retake the exam, but keep in mind that there is a waiting period of 21 to 28 days between attempts. It’s crucial to plan your test dates carefully to ensure you can submit the scores in time for programs that require the GRE. Remember, if your program does not require the GRE, it’s generally not recommended to take it.

The CASPA Exam (Central Application Service for Physician Assistants)

The CASPA exam is a situational judgment exam, completely different from the GRE. It typically lasts between 90 and 110 minutes and costs around $85. The CASPA exam assesses skills such as collaboration, community, communication, empathy, equity, professionalism, resilience, self-awareness, and ethics. It consists of two sections with 14 different scenarios. It’s important to note that preparing extensively for this exam may not necessarily result in higher performance or better scoring.

However, conducting some research on YouTube or other platforms for tips on preparing for the CASPA exam can be beneficial. After taking the exam, your scores are sent directly to your selected programs within two weeks. It’s worth mentioning that you can only take the CASPA exam once per cycle. If you need to retake the exam, wait until the next cycle opens. Make sure to check your program requirements to determine if the CASPA exam is necessary.

The PA-CAT (Physician Assistant College Admission Test)

The PA-CAT is a newer exam that currently has limited program requirements. As of 2023, there aren’t many programs across the country that require the PA-CAT. However, some programs are starting to recommend it as they gather more data on its effectiveness in selecting high-performing applicants. The PA-CAT is a comprehensive exam, lasting almost four hours, consisting of 240 questions that cover nine subjects, including prerequisites like biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, anatomy and physiology, statistics, and genetics.

The cost of the PA-CAT is $228, and scores are reported to programs within eight weeks. These scores are accessible to programs for up to two years. Although resources for studying for the PA-CAT are limited, the PA-CAT website offers free study materials. Check their website for available resources. It’s important to note that the PA-CAT may become a more widely required exam in the future, but as of now, its necessity varies among programs. Consider the requirements of your dream program before deciding to take the PA-CAT.


In summary, understanding the standardized tests required for PA school is crucial for your application process. The GRE, CASPA exam, and PA-CAT are the three main exams you may encounter. Only take an exam if it is required by your program to save time, effort, and money.

While the GRE has abundant resources for preparation, the CASPA exam focuses on situational judgment skills, and the PA-CAT assesses prerequisite knowledge. Plan your exam dates carefully, utilize available prep materials, and strive to perform at a competitive level. Good luck on your journey to PA school!

Also read: 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Applying to PA School

About me:

I’m Michele Neskey, aka The Posh PA. Welcome to my YouTube channel! My mission is to provide personalized guidance, education, and motivation to build confidence and promote wellness for aspiring physician assistants and beyond.   

Having been a PA for 17+ years and helped hundreds of students gain acceptance into PA school,  I understand the admissions process. I know what they are looking for, and I can help you tailor every component to make you shine, giving you the BEST chance of getting accepted to a program.  But it doesn’t end there. I create personalized plans for PA students and practicing PAs including test-taking strategy for the PANCE, contract negotiations, and tools to overcome and prevent provider burnout. 

My goal is to get you into a physician assistant (PA) school & survive the rigorous program, help you prevent burnout as a practicing PA, and help you take care of yourself so you can be the best version of YOU for your patients, family, and most importantly YOU!