Physician Assistant school interviews are extremely challenging.
Here is a comprehensive list of 46 high-frequency pa school interview questions that you are likely to encounter.
This list of the "Top 46 Physician Assistant Applicant Interview Questions" is adapted from Andrew Rodican's excellent book "The Ultimate Guide to Getting Into Physician Assistant School", Christina's helpful video post from PrePARC (which is no longer available), actual physician assistant applicants, and my PA school interview. Have an answer ready for each of these questions, and you will ace your PA school interview!
46 Physician Assistant Applicant Interview Questions
- Question: What is a PA?
- Question: Why do you want to be a PA?
- Question: What is the difference between a PA and an NP?
- Question: Are you familiar with any national or state level regulations for PAs?
- Question: How many hours a week do you plan on studying?
- Question: Tell me what your typical day looks like?
- Question: How many tests and quizzes do expect to take a week and what can you handle
- Question: Do you have a car, where do you live, what is your social support and are they close?
- Question: How do you plan to pay for your education?
- Question: What kind of stress do you see associated with the PA profession?
- Question: Have you applied to other programs?
- Question: What have you done to prepare yourself for this profession?
- Question: Have you done anything to increase your chances of being accepted to the PA program?
- Question: What makes you stand out from the person sitting next to you this morning?
- Question: What is your understanding of what PAs do?
- Question: Tell us about the role you see the PA playing in the health care system.
- Question: How do you feel about taking call or working 60 or more hours per week as a second-year student?
- Question: Describe an interaction you have had with a patient that made an impact on you.
- Question: What do you think is the most difficult situation described in the interview scenarios that you completed earlier today? Why?
- Question: Describe the most stressful work or academic situation you have been in, and tell us how you dealt with it.
- Question: How do you usually deal with stress?
- Question: What kind of personal stress do you see associated with our PA program?
- Question: Describe the history of the PA profession.
- Question: What do you do outside of work or academic studies?
- Question: Please discuss your answer to question #__ on the interview questionnaire. Or, What did you mean by __ on your essay?
- Question: Your file indicates that you have had difficulty with __(e.g., time management or science coursework). Would you like to explain this?
- Question: What accommodations, if any, do you need to successfully complete this program?
- Question: So, tell us a little about yourself. In other words: Why are you here?
- Question: You have had several jobs in the past; how do we know you will finish the program if we accept you?
- Question: Why do you think Duke turned you down?
- Question: What are your strengths as an applicant?
- Question: What are your biggest weaknesses as an applicant, and what do you plan to do to correct them?
- Question: Do you manage your time well?
- Question: Do you prefer to work with others or by yourself?
- Question: Your supervising MD tells you to do something that you know is dead wrong; what do you do?
- Question: What interests you most about our school?
- Question: What would be your ideal job as a PA?
- Question: What did you learn from your overseas internship/experience?
- Question: What do you want to be doing five years from now?
- Question: Have you ever seen anyone die?
- Question: How are you today?
- Question: Did you have any trouble finding us?
- Question: What was the last movie you saw?
- Question: What was the most difficult question they asked you at Bowman Gray?
- Question: What will you do if you don’t get in this year?
- Question: Do you have any questions for us?
Bonus Question 47: Why did you choose PA school over medical school?
JD says: "Although it may seem silly, many of my friends were asked this question and it can really trip people up. You definitely don’t want someone answering with “I want to become a physician later” or “I didn't get in” or even “I have applied to medical schools as well.” None of these answers give people the impression you are passionate about becoming a PA!"
Bonus Question 48: If we have only one position left to fill why should we pick you?
Bonus questions collected from the blogosphere (some may be variations of the above, but it is helpful to see the differences)
- Tell us about yourself.
- What makes you sure you want to become a PA?
- Why should we pick you?
- Where do you see the future of medicine heading?
- If you could pass a law that would help PAs, what would it be?
- What experiences influenced you to pursue this career?
- What are the greatest problems facing the field of medicine in America?
- If you saw someone stealing medications in the hospital, what would you do?
- What animal would you be and why? (This is weird and may not be super common, but they just want to see how you respond to a question like this)
* If you have volunteered, shadowed or had direct-patient care, be sure to mention this during your interview questions.
* Prior to your interview, have the school put you in touch with a student or alumnus to discuss the program. Not only can you gain valuable information about the program, but describing this conversation during your interview will let the program know you are especially interested in their program and you’re willing to go above and beyond to find out this information.
* Hint: Always be ready for the unexpected. On my application and during my interview I mentioned that my wife (she was actually my fiance at the time as I was to be married in 2 weeks) was a registered nurse. At the end of my interview one of the staff members on the panel asked me "since I was married why was I not wearing a wedding ring"... Valid question! I told them the truth: that fiance' just didn't seem to fit since we had been together for 6 years, we were to be married in 2 weeks and she would be traveling with me 3,000 miles in a U-Haul, changing jobs and was the main reason I was sitting before them that day. One of the panel members gave me this look of disappointment? And I was worried. I remember having this quick thought at the time that I should just lie and tell them that I left my ring at home or in the hotel room. But, I am a crappy liar, and that would have been horribly obvious.
Take the PA School Mock Interview
Click on the text to hear me ask you the question... Then provide your answer.
What Our Clients Have to Say
I was interviewed and accepted into 4 of the programs I applied to (including my #1)! I am sharing because I want to say thank you so much for these questions! I went over them and they helped me feel extremely prepared, and that confidence definitely translated well during my interviews! I finally feel ecstatic when I think about my career path, and having the ability to finally work with patients, hopefully in a clinical trial setting where I can really be an asset, is more than I ever hoped for up until now. So thank you thank you thank you! - Laurin, PA-S
Take home lesson:
Always be honest, no matter how hard the question is . . . The road to PA interview success is lined with the building blocks of your life. Don't try to be somebody you are not, or try to answer the questions with some memorized rote version of what you think the interviewer wants to hear. They have heard those answers a thousand times. Believe it or not being yourself is a novelty at times. Wow them with your individuality, your passion, your compassion, your work ethic and your knowledge of the PA profession.
Don't forget to leave your answers in the comments section!
More PA School Interview Resources
- View my collection of PA school interview video resources from around the web at PAFLIX PA School Interviews
- Recommended Book: How To "Ace" The Physician Assistant School Interview
- Recommended Book: The Physician Assistant School Interview: Essential Strategies to Blow 'Em Away and Claim Your Seat in Class
- Blog Post: A Look At Two PA School Interviews