Physician Assistant – Prepare

Prepare for Physician Assistant School

Due to COVID-19 most courses will be offered online. If you are a new student to distance learning or struggled with distance learning please click on this webpage for more advice

Most importantly, remember that requirements vary from school to school! You must research to create a list of all the prerequisites you will need to apply to the programs you are interested in attending.

More than 25% of the programs in this field require the following UHM courses for admission:

BIOL 171/171L and 172/172LIntroduction to Biology I and II8 cr.
BIOC 241 or CHEM 272*Biochemistry or Organic Chemistry I3 cr.
CHEM 161/161L and 162/162LGeneral Chemistry I and II**8 cr.
MICR 130/140L***
(or MICR 351/351L****)
General Microbiology
(or Biology of Microorganisms)
5 cr.
PHYL 141/141L and 142/142L***
(or PHYL 301/301L and 302/302L)
Human Anatomy and Physiology I and II8 or 10 cr.
BIOL/BOT 220 or PSY/SOCS 225 or ECON 321Statistics3 cr.
ENG 100 and higherComposition I and higher6 cr.
MATH 134 or higherPrecalculus or higher**3 cr.

It is recommended that non-science majors take additional upper-division or advanced science electives beyond the prerequisites listed above.

CHEM 171/171L might not be accepted by PA programs in place of CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L. Students should double check with the programs they are interested in if the programs would accept CHEM 171/171L in place of CHEM 161/161L and 162/162L.

*Please contact the specific schools that you are interested in applying to concerning these courses. Some schools may require the higher level biochemistry or the lab portion of the course to apply to their Physician Assistant program.

**If you are planning on taking a chemistry or math course for the first time, please make sure to fulfill the placement exam requirement prior to registration. Information on the chemistry placement exam can be found here, and information on the math placement exam can be found here.

***Please contact the specific schools that you are interested in applying to concerning these courses. Some schools may require the higher level course to apply to their Physician Assistant program.

****Please note that the prerequisites for MICR 351/L are BIOL 171 and CHEM 272/L. BIOL 275/L are recommended for MICR 351.

Please note that if you are retaking courses because PA schools may not accept Advanced Placement (AP), online, or community college credit, your financial aid and/or scholarship status may be affected.

GPA Statistics for Physician Assistant School Matriculants from UH Mānoa for the 2017-2018 Admissions Cycle:

3.3 – 3.89
Undergrad GPA
3.1 – 3.92


GPA Statistics for Physician Assistant School Matriculants from UH Mānoa for the 2016-2017 Admissions Cycle:

2.97 – 4.0
Undergrad GPA
3.19 – 3.99

*BCPM GPA is your GPA only pertaining to any Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Mathematics courses taken.

Click here for a four-year sample plan #1.

Click here for four-year sample plan #2. 


EBSCO PrepSTEP: If you are a UH student, you have free access to EBSCO PrepSTEP, which provides tips on improving your organizational skills and skills to succeed in the classroom.

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If you’re looking for experience that can be done online during the COVID-19 pandemic, please view this page

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Field Experience: 

Most programs require substantial health care experience: 6-12 months of full-time, clinical, “hands on,” direct patient care* (1000-2000 hours). Consequently, the majority of applicants to PA programs come from those already in health care.

Experience can be divided into two categories:

  • Direct patient contact (as a nurse aide, certified nursing assistant, medical assistant, emergency medical technician, medic, military corpsman, etc.). Browse the different health programs offered by Kapiolani Community College.
  • Healthcare-related experience (as a lifeguard, ski patrol personnel, first aid personnel, laboratory or research staff, etc.). Browse the different volunteer opportunities available at hospitals, nursing homes, senior centers, shelters, rehabilitation facilities, etc.

Successful applicants log their health care experience in terms of months or years, not hours.

  • Shadowing
  • Volunteer
  • Jobs
  • Internships/Fellowships
  • Schools may also request that one of your letters of recommendation come from a physician assistant or physician. Shadowing or working under a physician assistant or physician can be a great way to build a relationship to get a strong letter of recommendation. Click here for a list of letter of recommendation requirements.

Other Experiences:

  • Research: To ensure that you will be prepared for the research that will be included in the health professional school/program curriculum.
  • Community Service: To demonstrate your genuine interest in helping others and the larger communities.
  • Enrichment: To be more well rounded and gain experience communicating with others from different backgrounds.
  • Jobs (does not have to be related to your field of interest): Another way to be well rounded and grow personally and professionally.

Personal Development: 

It is not enough for admissions committees to see that you have completed experiences. You also need to share with admissions committees what you gave and got out of the experiences.

Gave = What and how did you contribute to the organization and/or the people through the organization? How did you make an impact?

Got = What did you get out of the experience? What skills did you gain or establish? What knowledge did you gain?

Admission committees seek students who demonstrate certain qualities that will make them strong practitioners, such as empathy, compassion, a commitment to public service, high ethical and moral standards, a conscientious work ethic, and maturity. These qualities should be demonstrated through the previous experiences mentioned. If this is not the case, then find other experiences from which you can grow.


Networking with peers and professionals enables you to meet people with similar interests. You can find a mentor to help lead you in the right direction, or find a study buddy for your prerequisites and entrance exam! 

  • UH Connect: If you are a UH student or alumni,  you can find a professional mentor through the UH Connect website. You can use different search and matching tools to find UH alumni who are working in a field that you are interested in within the site.
  • Clubs and Organizations

Experience Log: 

When applying for professional school, you will be asked to list and describe the experiences you have gained in preparation for the profession of your interest. Rather than having to recall from memory all your experiences, having an experience log will allow you to fill out your application with more ease. Students can use their C.V. as a record of these experiences. However, an experience log can include additional beneficial information, such as your employer’s contact information and a reflection portion of what you learned. You may choose to make a personalized experience log or download our sample by clicking here.

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Most PA programs require applicants to take a standardized test called the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). However, some schools also accept the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT) in place of the GRE.


Preparation: Your most important preparation for the GRE or MCAT is your undergraduate courses, many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills.  Remember that the verbal sections are not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do in PA school, but also the most difficult scores to improve.

GRE Summary: The GRE assesses your knowledge and skills in Verbal Reasoning, Analytical Writing, and Quantitative Reasoning. The test requires approximately 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete. The GRE is offered in computer-based and paper-based formats, and is offered year-round for computer-based administrations and up to three times per year for paper-based administrations.

Registration for the GRE General Test can be found here

GRE Scoring: The Verbal and Quantitative sections each receive a score between 130 and 170, in 1-point increments. The Analytical Writing section is scored on a scale of 0 to 6, in half-point increments. GRE scores are often reported as percentiles, with the median score (50th percentile) among examinees being 150 for the Verbal and Quantitative sections and 3.5 for the Analytical Writing section. Average GRE scores for students accepted into Physician Assistant school are: Verbal 62nd percentile, Quantitative 53rd percentile, and Analytical 61st percentile. However, competitive scores do vary from school to school, so it is good to check with individual schools regarding their competitive GRE scores.

GRE Statistics for Physician Assistant School Matriculants from UH Mānoa for the 2017-2018 Admissions Cycle

GRE SectionAverageRangePercentile AveragePercentile Range

GRE Statistics for Physician Assistant School Matriculants from UH Mānoa for the 2016-2017 Admissions Cycle

GRE Section Average Range Percentile Average Percentile Range

Official Test Preparation Material

  • GRE Overview
  • Prepare for the GRE General Test, on the ETS website
    • Includes links to both free and for-purchase preparation materials such as:
      • Two free computer-based practice tests
      • One free paper-based practice test
      • The Official Guide to the GRE General Test
    • Khan Academy
      • Relevant topics for quantitative reasoning section
  • EBSCO PrepSTEP For UH Students, you have free access to a practice test that will familiarize you with the sections you will encounter on the GRE. They will also provide detailed explanations for the answers and instant diagnostic scoring.

Commercial Test Preparation Companies


Preparation:  Your most important preparation for the MCAT is your undergraduate courses (not only the prerequisites for PA school), many of which sharpen your writing and verbal reasoning skills. Remember that your Verbal Reasoning score is not only the most accurate predictor of how well you will do in PA school, but also the most difficult score to improve. Click here for more information on creating an MCAT study plan. Click here to see when you should consider taking the MCAT.

MCAT Summary:  The MCAT assesses your knowledge and skills in Biological Sciences, Physical Sciences, Psychological/Sociological Sciences, and Verbal Reasoning. There is also an optional trial section, which examinees can complete to receive a $30 Amazon gift card. The test requires ~7.5 hours to complete, and entails ~230 multiple choice questions. The MCAT is administered in a computer-based format, and is offered in the months of January and April through September. Registration for January, April and May test days begin late-October and registration for June to September test days begin mid-February.

Registration for the MCAT exam can be found here

MCAT Scoring:  Each of the four scored sections receives a score from a low of 118 and a high of 132, with a midpoint of 125. Scores for the four sections will be combined to create a total score, ranging from 472 to 528, with a midpoint of 500. The trial section is unscored. The mean or competitive score among examinees is yet to be determined.

The 2019 MCAT Testing Calendar is now posted online! All MCAT exams begin at 8 am. Registration starts in late October 2018.  For a complete list of the dates, please visit this link.

Official Test Preparation Material

Commercial Test Preparation Companies

UH Mānoa students ONLY: To borrow test preparation material for free, check out our Lending Library.

Funding Opportunities for Entrance Exam

To get an idea of the experience and hear from those who have taken the MCAT, click here.
Here is more information on how to prepare for an entrance exam.

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There are currently about 195 accredited PA programs in the US, each unique in its mission, philosophy, criteria, and strengths. Applicants can research schools using the PA Programs Directory on the Physician Assistant Education Association (PAEA) website.

Although there are resources that “rank” schools, the rankings are rarely pertinent for individual applicants. More important is whether there is a good match between applicant and school. To find schools that are good a fit for you (PAC peer advisors can help with this process):

  1. Assess your individual strengths and weaknesses, your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
  2. Start by considering all schools, which usually includes all 195+ schools;
  3. Create your “Long List” by omitting the schools that do not match your professional interests, learning style, and personality;
  4. Create your “Short List”. The short list includes the schools to which you will most likely apply. You will need your entrance exam scores and/or current cumulative GPA to narrow and sort your school choices. We strongly recommend that you apply to schools for which your entrance exam score and/or current cumulative GPA are within the ranges of those who were accepted into that program. Ideally, you will apply to schools for which both your entrance exam score and cumulative GPA fall within the ranges of accepted applicants. 
  5. You can also consider other factors when categorizing your schools like prerequisites, pass rate on boards/ licensing exams, areas of specialization, and cost/ aid. When deciding how many schools to apply to, consider how many schools to which you can afford to apply. Finally, consider if you really want to attend the school if/when accepted even if it is the only school to which you have been accepted.

Here is more information on researching and selecting schools to apply for. If possible, visit the schools to see their facilities, talk to Admissions Directors, and chat with students.

2017-2018 Admission Cycle Matriculation Statistics 

 ApplicantsMatriculantsPercentage of Applicants
that Matriculate
National Applicants26,0007,80030%
UH Mānoa Applicants491530.6%

Based on data acquired by the National Association of Academic Advisors for Health Professions (NAAHP).

Schools UHM Students Matriculated into for 2018

 Franklin Pierce University
 George Washington University
 High Point University
 Kettering College
 Long Island University
 Oregon Health and Science University
 Pacific University
 Samuel Merritt University
 Stanford University
 Touro University 
 University of Alabama at Birmingham
 University of Southern California – Los Angeles
 University of Texas – Rio Grande Valley

Top 10 Schools UHM Students Applied to for 2018

1. Pacific University

2. Oregon Health and Science University

3. Arizona School of Health Sciences

3. University of Washington

4. Samuel Merritt University

4. Stanford University

4. Touro University – California

4. University of California – Davis

4. Western University of Health Science 

5. Duke University Medical Center

We recognize that applying to PA schools can be an arduous task. Every school has different eligibility requirements, strengths, and weaknesses for your specific situation. The Duke Physician Assistant Program’s admissions staff always recommends creating a spreadsheet to keep everything organized. To help, they have created templates to get you started.

Please make sure to also check each program about their letters of recommendation requirements. The spreadsheet provided by the Duke Physician Assistant Program does not include a letters of recommendation section. To help, we have provided a list of specific letters of recommendation types for Physician Assistant Schools here.

Please click here for a printable version of the spreadsheet from the Duke PA Program.

Please click here for a more in-depth downloadable version that you can modify to meet your needs from the Duke PA Program.

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