PACKRAT®: Content

The PAEA PACKRAT (Physician Assistant Clinical Knowledge Rating and Assessment Tool) exam is an objective, comprehensive self-assessment tool for student and curricular evaluation.

These resources are used by Exam Development Board members to guide the creation of exam content, and by the Exam Development staff when constructing exam forms. They will be useful to students when studying for the exam.

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Questions on the exam are considered only a sample of all that might be included in PA education and may not reflect all content identified in the topic list.


The  PACKRAT Topic List, Blueprint, and Core Tasks and Objectives are resources used by PAEA to guide the development of exam content and construction of each exam version. Questions on the exam are considered only a  sample of all that might be included in PA education and may not reflect all  content identified in the Topic List.  These resources may be useful to students when studying for the exam; however the Topic List is not a comprehensive list of all the exam question topics. PAEA’s goal is not to provide a list of all the topics that might be on the exam, but rather to provide students with a resource when preparing for the exam. PAEA recommends that students review the Topic List, Blueprint, and Core Tasks and Objectives in conjunction when preparing for the exam.

Guiding Principles

Several cross-cutting criteria guide the development and delivery of the PACKRAT exam. The goal of these criteria is to assist the Exam Development team in ensuring that the exam, to the extent a multiple-choice exam can, evaluates a wide breadth of dimensions critical to a PA student’s preparation.

  • The PACKRAT blueprint is two-dimensional, meaning that it is organized by task and content area. Each PACKRAT exam is built to blueprint and topic list specifications. Questions included on the exam are considered only a sample and may not reflect all content topics identified in the topic lists.
  • Questions developed for PACKRAT reflect the needs of a broad diversity of patients whom PAs will be called upon to treat.
  • PACKRAT is intended to mark important transition times for PA students, most commonly at the end of the didactic phase and at the end of the clinical phase of training.

  • Questions are typically presented in vignette format so the exam can assess problem-solving and critical thinking.
  • PACKRAT is a 225-question multiple-choice exam written every year, and every question is scored. The national average is first published after 300 administrations and updates on a rolling basis as more students take the exam throughout the year.
  • PACKRAT contains three 75-question sections.
  • There are two versions of PACKRAT available at a time. Students are automatically assigned to the most recent version that they have not already taken.

  • PACKRAT is a self-assessment and is not intended to be used for grading purposes.
  • PACKRAT exams are delivered in the PAEA Assessment Center.
  • Items are randomized to ensure exam security.
  • PACKRAT may be delivered proctored, unproctored, or with  a third-party remote proctoring service, with a set time of 3 hours, 45 minutes with a 10-minute break between sections.
  • Student score reports allow students and programs to see where individual students fall compared to other PA students taking the same standardized exam nationwide. The report provides formative feedback, which can be used to develop targeted remediation and study plans.
  • Detailed program reports are designed to help programs evaluate trends in knowledge, strengths, and deficits across entire classes of students and may be used along with other data points to inform program-level curricular decision-making.

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