PAEA End of Curriculum Exam Successes and Surprises

When we launched the PAEA End of CurriculumTM exam on January 5, 2020, we had high hopes for its impact on PA education. While the first year of the exam may not have followed the path we imagined, we have still seen the exam’s positive impact on PA programs across the nation and continue to support utilization of the exam and expand its ongoing development.

Interest has been strong in the first year, with 101 programs adopting the exam either on its own or through the Student Exam BoxTM. Of those, 48 programs have administered the exam, which provides an objective, standardized evaluation of student medical knowledge as one component of their readiness for graduation. This speaks to the value that members place in PAEA Assessment.

During the early phase of the COVID-19 pandemic, to maintain the integrity and validity of the scores, we suspended access from March 23 through May 27, 2020. As a result, many programs were unable to administer the exam this first year.

“The standards set by PAEA for this exam convey the high expectations that we, as a profession, have for our students. Your cooperation in maintaining those standards in a time of crisis shows that you value those expectations as well,” said PAEA CEO Mary Jo Bondy at the time. As programs developed local COVID-19 mitigation plans, we began requiring program directors to sign an Attestation of Eligibility to verify that they are safely in compliance with our PAEA Assessment Exam Policies, and we have seen steady administrations in small groups or larger classrooms.

On January 5, 2021, we will change unscored pretest items on Version 1 of the End of Curriculum exam forms, which will be administered in 2021. This allows us to continue moving new items through the pretest and item validation process, building our End of Curriculum exam item bank. As a reminder, the End of Curriculum exam scores are based on a reference population of test takers in the relevant stage of their PA education and are reported as scale scores that range from 1200-1800. Scale scores allow you to compare student scores between different forms of the same exam version year-over-year. There will also be a Safe Exam Browser update at this time. New versions of the lockdown browser application and the launch file will be posted in conjunction with the update on January 5, and will be required for End of Curriculum exam administrations from that day forward.

To help us in the ongoing development of the End of Curriculum exam item bank, and to provide support for practicing PAs whose jobs were affected by the pandemic through furloughs or reduced hours, we convened a Rapid Item Development Workgroup. Participants were recruited in conjunction with AAPA. From June 1 through August 16, 2020, three groups of clinically active PAs received item writing training and worked through a condensed item development, editorial, and peer review schedule. The 15 participants who completed the process developed a collection of quality exam items with a fresh perspective on patient case scenarios. The experience also fostered participants’ interest in future transitions to PA education, with all of them expressing interest in test writing, precepting, or teaching opportunities.

Over this past year, the PAEA Assessment team also released a number of educational resources to help those programs that have administered, or hope to administer, the exam.

We also presented a recorded session during the virtual PAEA Education Forum, which is accessible to event registrants through the end of the year. Test Your End of Curriculum Exam IQ

Overall, this has been a successful first year for the PAEA End of Curriculum exam. We look forward to continuing development of this important assessment and helping programs to implement it.