Last Updated On: April 2, 2021
I’ve got a confession. The GRE is comprehensive, difficult, and requires lots of time. (Time that could be better used on, say, practicing PA.)
I’m not the only one who noticed this. Some PA schools did too, so they don’t require the GRE anymore.
But what schools—and are they worth applying to? Let’s find out.
PA Schools That Don’t Require GRE Do Exist
The biggest students’ misconception: there’s only a handful of schools that don’t require the GRE—and they’re not the ones you want to graduate from. Lucky for you, that couldn’t be farther from the truth.
More and more PA programs have been ditching the GRE from their requirements list in recent years. In fact, as many as 153 PA schools currently don’t require the GRE.
These schools actually tend to be more competitive than the programs that still require the GRE. But more on that in a moment. Let’s first go through our list of PA programs that have no GRE requirements.
Students’ List: 20+ PA Schools That Don’t Require GRE
Is there any place where you can continue your physician assistant studies without taking the dreadful “standardized test”? Well, yes you can.
Here’s a list of 20+ such PA schools in the United States. Not one requires you to take the GRE:
|Physician Assistant Programs|
|AT Still University PA program|
|Augsburg University PA program|
|Bay Path University PA program|
|California State University - Monterey Bay|
|Colorado Mesa University|
|Concordia University - Ann Arbor|
|Concordia University of Wisconsin|
|Eastern Virginia Medical School|
|Franklin Pierce University|
|Mayo Clinic School of Health Sciences|
|New York Institute of Technology|
|Oregon Health & Science University Physician Assistant Program|
|Pacific University Physician Assistant Program|
|Sacred Heart University|
|The CUNY School of Medicine|
|University of Bridgeport|
|Westfield State University|
How Does a PA School Decide If You’re a Good Candidate Without the GRE?
What does a PA school use to assess your abilities if you don’t submit your GRE scores?
They’ll use the following factors:
1. Science GPA
Your science grade point average is the average grade you got in medical-related classes (biology, chemistry, physics…).
How to calculate it: Add the grade points from your all medical-related classes. Divide the total number of grade points by the number of classes.
Your cumulative GPA, or CGPA, is your average grade during your entire academic program (like high school).
How to calculate it: Add the credit hours and grade points for all semesters. Divide the total number of grade points by the credit hours.
3. Healthcare experience
Most schools are interested in your clinical experience only. This tells them you’ve worked under supervision and handled patients.
4. Research, volunteering, and work
Showcase your work or research done in the medical and healthcare field. This could help you compensate for your lack of clinical experience and demonstrate that you do understand the role of a physician assistant.
5. Personal statement
Your personal statement is an essay in which you try to convince schools that you have what it takes to be a physician assistant. You’ll have to submit it through CASPA or during your interview.
List all your wonderful personality traits and explain why you care about your admission.
Which Exams Should You Take to Get into PA School?
It depends. Some PA programs, like the ones above, don’t require GRE or any other entrance exam.
Others will require you to take either:
- PA-CAT - a recently-developed, specialized test for physician assistants that PA programs started to administer in spring 2020
For now, no school requires you to take the MCAT or PA-CAT explicitly but offer them as alternatives to the GRE.
What is a Good GRE Score for Applying to PA School?
A good GRE score is anything above or equal to the average GRE scores submitted by other applicants.
Before we jump to that, note that most PA programs don’t have special requirements for GRE scores. There's usually no minimum score you need to get.
Still worried? Then check out the average GRE scores that applicants submit when applying to PA school:
- Quantitative Reasoning - 152
- Verbal Reasoning - 152
- Analytical Writing - 3.9
To seal your admission, you should shoot for an above-average GRE score… but that might be tricky. The above scores aren’t an easy reach and require months of test prep.
On top of that, you might be competing with students who went through extensive undergraduate programs and will easily get a top GRE score.
If your graduate programs don’t require you to take the GRE, then maybe you should focus on other aspects of your application.
"Learning is like rowing upstream: not to advance is to drop back."
– Chinese proverb
What GPA Should You Have to Get into PA School?
In general, you should have a GPA score above 3.3. Let’s now compare the average GPA scores between students who were accepted and those who weren’t.
Average GPA: Accepted Students vs Rejected Students
While schools usually don’t have a required GPA score, comparing GPAs from applicants who were accepted and those who weren’t could provide a glimpse into how PA programs apply them:
|Students accepted to a physician assistant program||Students not accepted to a physician assistant program|
|Average cumulative GPA score||3.47||3.16|
|Average science GPA score||3.36||3.17|
Your GPA is one factor that will directly influence your admission.
A low score means that, even if your graduate schools don’t require the GRE, it might be a good idea to take it—just to try and boost your chances.
Is Applying to PA Schools That Don’t Require the GRE Worth It?
Or, in other words: are PA schools that don’t require the GRE any good?
Short answer: yes. In fact, 30% of the top 100 PA schools in the United States don’t require the GRE or require either GRE or MCAT .
Longer answer: yes, but these PA programs tend to be more competitive.
You’re not the only applicant who will want to dodge the GRE. There’s plenty of others that want to earn their degree, but not have to go through the torture they think the GRE is.
This makes schools that don’t require the GRE harder to get in simply because you’ll have more competitors.
Not taking the GRE also means that you’ll be assessed based on your overall academic performance, relevant work and research done, and other factors that we discussed above.
You should ensure you meet all of the requirements set by graduate schools because you can’t rely on test scores to make you stand out.
Should You Take the GRE—even if it isn’t required by any of your programs?
You should take the GRE if you’re in one of the following scenarios:
- You have a below-average application. The GRE is a standardized test, so you’ll get the same questions as everyone else. A high score could help you stand out from other applicants, even if your overall application is lacking.
- Your graduate school recommends the GRE. Rather than requiring the GRE, some of your programs only recommend it. That means it’s optional, right? Well, not exactly. If it comes down to you and a few similar applicants, the committee may use the GRE as a way to eliminate candidates. You don’t want to take your chances on obtaining a master’s degree.
3 Tips to Boost Your Chances of Getting Accepted by the Programs When You’re Not Taking the GRE
Most physician assistant programs are competitive. If you don’t believe me, here’s one piece of data that might convince you:
Out of 27,283 people who applied to PA school (2019/2020), only 8,802 were accepted. That means as many as 69% of all applicants were not accepted.
To ensure your application process goes smoothly (Lord knows you don’t need one more thing to worry about), follow our best tips for PA admissions.
1. Don’t get stuck on clinical experience: there’s more to being a physician assistant
In case you lack clinical experience, list other situations where you had to provide care.
Instances like providing first aid, taking care of a family member or close relation, or getting medical training without employment could all help you get into PA school.
2. Write a persuasive statement
Who cares about the GRE when you sound like you were born to be a physician assistant!? That’s what you want your dream graduate school to think after reading your essay.
Convince them you have the skills, knowledge, and personality needed for the role. A good rule to stick to here is show, don’t tell. Instead of telling the committee how caring you are, tell a story that demonstrates this.
Were you always picking up animals from the street and bringing them home as a child? Did you take care of a sick family member? Find your story and use it well.
3. Apply early, here’s why
Let’s jump to why straight on:
“Admissions at most P.A. schools are rolling. “Rolling admissions” means that a school will evaluate, interview, and admit applicants throughout the cycle (...) That means that those who apply earlier in the cycle are typically at an advantage, and sometimes a significant advantage because interview spots can fill up on the earlier side and as those spots become fewer, the remaining spots can be more competitive to get.”
- Dr. Carleen Eaton, founder of Prehealthadvising Admissions Consulting
The Bottom Line
If you’re after a degree in physician assistant studies, don’t risk your chances. These are highly competitive programs.
That means: apply to as many programs as you can, meet the requirements, and take the GRE even if it’s only recommended. PA schools that don’t require the GRE but encourage students to submit their GRE scores usually use them to compare similar applications.
In recent years, though, we’ve seen a trend in programs not caring about the GRE at all. Schools are growing disinterested in standardized testing. Instead, they put emphasis on your experience and personality—something you could use to your advantage.