The academic courses in the didactic phase of the curriculum are graded on a pass/fail system. Students must earn a passing grade for each course to progress through the program. The clinical phase is given a letter grade for each clinical rotation. Student must pass each rotation with a C or better to earn credit for the respective rotation, otherwise remediation will be necessary.
End-of-rotation exams are given monthly in appropriate specialties for individual students. The final grade for each clinical rotation is calculated as follows:
- 50% – Student’s performance on the end-of-rotation examination (given monthly)
- 50% – Preceptors’ evaluations of student’s clinical performance
Other Evaluation Instruments
During the academic and clinical years, in addition to their regular course and rotation evaluations, PA students are required to take several special tests, as follows:
The PACKRAT (Physician Assistant Clinical Knowledge Rating and Assessment Tool) is a standardized multiple-choice exam, administered once in each year of the PA curriculum, which will include NCCPA board topic questions. The School of Physician Assistant Studies uses the PACKRAT scores as a measure of how an individual student’s clinical knowledge base has progressed during his/her training. This information may be used to make decisions affecting promotion, graduation, or remediation.
The OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination) is administered once each year and measures a student’s ability to perform a relevant history and physical examination for a common primary care problem on standardized patients. Students who fail to achieve an overall passing grade of 71% may be required to remediate at the discretion of the School.
Comprehensive Summative Examination
The Comprehensive Summative Examination (CSE) is a multi-dimensional 180-question examination administered in the Spring semester of the clinical year, just prior to graduation. Like the PACKRAT and OSCE, it is a measure of the clinical knowledge accumulated throughout the two years of the curriculum and may be used to make decisions about a student’s academic standing in the School.
Feedback from Students
The School of Physician Assistant Studies values feedback from its students, and it regularly collects both quantitative and qualitative feedback in a variety of ways, including students’ evaluations of instructors and Coursemasters, representative comments from both the academic and clinical classes at regularly scheduled Debriefing sessions, Director’s meetings with each class on a regular basis, and the Exit Survey which is required of each graduating clinical student prior to graduation. Scores and comments on all feedback instruments are tabulated, discussed, analyzed, and used as a primary means by which the School makes modifications to the curriculum and organizational design.
Academic Advisement and Support Program
Each incoming PA student is assigned a faculty advisor who monitors the performance of that student carefully and regularly, in order to identify any academic or other concerns and to provide direction and resources that will assist the student in improving his/her performance. The School also provides an academic support program under the direction of the Academic Coordinator, to assist students in need of remediation or independent study. Now five years in existence, this academic support program has proved very successful in identifying areas that need strengthening and in providing the resources and direction students may need in order to improve their performance.