Assessment

PAEA Releases PACKRAT® 25th Anniversary Faculty Guide

By Julien WilliamsNovember 12, 2020

Version 25 of the popular PACKRAT exam will be available on November 18.

On this special 25th anniversary, PAEA is publishing, for the first time, the PAEA Physician Assistant Clinical Knowledge Rating and Assessment Tool Faculty Guide. As most of you know, PACKRAT is an objective, comprehensive, self-assessment tool for student and curricular evaluation. This supplemental guide offers context to the PACKRAT exam’s development, content, and objectives.

The newly developed faculty guide provides comprehensive information about the PACKRAT exam, including how and why it was created, and the rigorous peer review that occurs with each version. The faculty guide answers questions that faculty may have about the PACKRAT exam format, content, and scoring and interpretation.

PACKRAT was the first in PAEA’s suite of assessment products, which now includes the End of Rotation™ exams and the End of Curriculum™ exam. Over the past 25 years, PACKRAT has brought together PA educators from a number of programs and provided valuable insight for tens of thousands of students. Here are some of the data that we have gathered about the PACKRAT exam:

  • Over 246 programs administer the exam yearly – representing, on average, 95% of programs.
  • More than 100 educators have joined the development board, with rotating membership.
  • Over 100,000 exams have been administered – nearly 20,000 per year and rising.
  • For a brief history, every PA educator should view this video.

As part of the suite of exams, PACKRAT shares similarities with PAEA’s other assessment tools: The exam development process is rigorous; the scoring and interpretation is detailed; ADA accommodations are available; and the PAEA honor code policies apply to the exam administration. Yet, PACKRAT also has many unique features: it is a self-assessment tool; it may be given proctored or unproctored, as an open- or closed-book examination; and testing windows allow students to start the exam at any time over a several-day period. Programs determine the time limit for the exam — up to six hours and 59 minutes — plus time-and-a-half and double-time accommodations, if appropriate. PAEA does not recommend, or intend to recommend, a passing grade for PACKRAT.

As mentioned earlier, PACKRAT is an objective, comprehensive, self-assessment tool for student and curricular evaluation. The national comparative data are provided to help programs evaluate trends across entire classes of students and use them along with other data points to inform program-level decision-making. The national comparative data are available once 300 students have completed the exam. The data regularly update as more students take the exam, providing first-year, second-year, and all-student data. However, interpretation should be pursued with caution as data in specific content areas may represent a small number of questions and varying levels of difficulty. Basically, the student’s score report allows students and programs to determine where students fall compared to other PA students taking the same exam.

The peer-reviewed research developed since PACKRAT’s inception has been included in multiple studies and has looked at various correlations. It has provided insight and been useful for determining correlations with admissions, how a student develops within their program, and how they perform on other exams.

The purpose of this faculty guide is to offer faculty detailed information about the PACKRAT exam and how it is developed, published, and validated. We believe you will find the PACKRAT Faculty Guide to be a valuable tool for your program.

Reminder: PACKRAT version 25 will be available to start administrations on November 18. No blueprint or topic list changes were made. All PACKRAT administrations scheduled to be taken on or after November 18 will be transitioned to the new version. Version 24 will remain available as a back-up for retesting purposes, but version 23 will no longer be available.

Julien Williams

Julien is PAEA's manager of assessment development.