40 Common PA School Interview Questions & Answers (2023)

August 23, 2023
5 min read


Reviewed by:

Jonathan Preminger

Former Admissions Committee Member, Hofstra-Northwell School of Medicine

Reviewed: 08/08/23

We’ve provided a list of PA school interview questions and how to answer them to help boost your confidence for your interview!

After meeting all requirements and progressing into the next steps of the application process, getting invited for an interview is just as exciting as it is nerve-racking. The interview is the first time the admissions committee will meet and get to know you. 

To secure a spot in the school of your dreams and become a PA, you’ll need to ace the interview. One of the best ways to guarantee your success in the interview is to prepare, and we’ve got you covered! We have a list of interview questions along with guidance on how to answer some of the most commonly asked questions.

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10 Common PA School Interview Questions With Expert Answers

Here, we list some common physician assistant school interview questions with tips on how to answer them to help you prepare for your interview. 

Before we get into the list, don’t make the mistake that some students make by searching a list of questions and memorizing answers to each question. This should be avoided because your answers may come across as rehearsed and unnatural. 

A quality that PA schools look for is the ability to think on your feet and communicate effectively, and having your answers memorized beforehand does not demonstrate either of these skills. 

Secondly, you cannot guarantee what questions will actually be asked during the interview. However, you can use this list as a guide to give you ideas on what information interviewers want from you and strategies to answer questions.

1. Tell Us About Yourself

This is a dreaded question for most, and if you feel a bit awkward and unsure about how to answer this question, you are not alone. 

Talking around a table

Here is a great chance to show off your interests and hobbies, especially those that med and PA schools look for on resumes. Talk about the extracurricular activities you’ve been involved in that demonstrate core values and skills that healthcare workers exhibit, such as empathy and leadership. 

Sample Expert Answer

I grew up in a small town in rural Michigan with two younger sisters. Both of my parents worked in the culinary industry, working long hours. However, I always feel like they prioritized our well-being and happiness above all. My father was an avid sports fan, and I spent a lot of time playing soccer in the backyard with him and my sisters. Trying to emulate the style of a pro player, I went for a slide one day and felt a shooting pain in my ankle. 

My injury persisted for years, and this incident meant that I spent more time in clinics than most of my peers. Living in a rural area, I was always prepared for the inevitable wait – that’s why I turned to people watching and trying to understand why doctors and medical staff were doing what they did. I actually started to enjoy my visits and interactions with the medical staff. 

I will be graduating from [school name] with a bachelor’s degree in Biology at the end of the semester. My passion for healthcare has grown, and I have worked as a part-time phlebotomist for two years and have volunteered at [hospital name] since my freshman year of college. These experiences provided insight into the daily lives of medical staff and have reaffirmed my motivation to become a PA. 

2. Why Do You Want To Attend PA School?

This is almost a guaranteed question that will be asked during any PA school interview. PA school is very demanding and stressful, and the healthcare field itself often means long hours and high-stress situations. 

Question marks

Not everyone can handle the demands of the job, and interviewers want to know if you can. If you do not have strong reasons for wanting to attend PA school, it may suggest to the interviewers that you have not really thought through the realities of PA school.  

There’s no right or wrong answer, but admissions officers will be looking for your dedication and genuine interest in becoming a PA. Be as specific as possible when answering this question. 

For example, describe who inspired you to become a PA or a specific instance or experience that changed your career goal toward healthcare.  

Sample Expert Answer 

My main motivation to become a PA is to provide high-quality patient care, particularly to underrepresented groups who often find healthcare inaccessible. I had the opportunity to work at a detox center serving an urban population in downtown [city name], where I worked with a team of PAs, counselors, and nurses. While working together, I was struck by the connections the PAs made with patients and how they could calm an agitated patient with calm words and affirmations. Every member of our team was instrumental in helping our patients, but the PAs were like the glue that held everyone together and kept shifts moving smoothly. 

My experience working at that center showed in real-time that while I’m able to lead as I did in [experiences], I’m also happy to work toward a common goal with others and perform my tasks collaboratively with others. The depth of care, understanding, organization, and initiative displayed by those PAs helped me hone these qualities in myself and have only reaffirmed my motivation to become a PA.

3. Why Did You Pick Our Institution? 

PA school is competitive, and schools want to admit students who seem genuinely interested in attending their school and program. The best way to scope out applicants who actually want to attend the school is by evaluating how they answer this question. 

Doctor with arms crossed

As you answer this question, stay positive! No admissions committee wants to hear an applicant be negative about the program before the student even attends the school. Highlight particular aspects of the school and program in your answer. Being specific demonstrates that you have done some research about the school. 

You can mention class sizes, faculty research, campus culture, and other programs offered to students (such as clubs or associations). Make sure to describe how the school and its program suit your needs and goals. 

Sample Expert Answer 

[School name]’s emphasis on clinical excellence and a collaborative educational experience are what first inspired me to apply. I learn best from hands-on experience, and the program's commitment to a well-rounded education and comprehensive clinical training align with my learning style.

I’m also excited to have the potential opportunity to join [research program]; I’ve participated in related research in [project during college]. I am eager to potentially attend an institution that values staying at the forefront of medical advancements and encourages its students to integrate the latest research findings into their clinical decision-making.

The [school name’s] commitment to community service and engagement deeply resonates with my personal values. I’ve worked as a hospice volunteer for three years and have helped organized blood drives on my college campus three years in a row as well. The school’s emphasis on outreach and providing patient-driven care aligns perfectly with my aspiration to make a meaningful impact on the lives of others. 

I’m confident this program will provide me with the knowledge, skills, and experiences to flourish as a compassionate, driven PA.

4. How Do You Plan on Overcoming the Workload and Other Challenges of PA School?

PA school is not easy. The University of Utah interviewed two of its PA program students who explained that, in their experience, PA school is time-consuming and pretty demanding. The two students say that the workload really picks up in the last two years of the program, especially. 

Student on computer

Admissions committees will want to know that if you are admitted to the program, you are able to be successful. Also, they want to ensure the candidate is aware of the academic rigor of the program. 

Be confident and assured as you answer this question. You need to convince the interviewers that you are capable and prepared to handle the workload and other challenges of PA school. 

With this being said, make sure that you know the expectations of PA school and the potential workload before going into the interview. Again, be specific and make the connection between the workload and your solutions clear. 

Sample Expert Answer 

Through shadowing multiple PAs across specialties, I’m confident in my understanding of a PA’s daily challenges and workload. Since the start of college, I’ve effectively used a combination of time management strategies, including calendars, alarms, and reminders. Even my living room wall has sticky notes color-coded for what needs to be done and when, just in case the rest of my methods were to fail. 

However, I understand the importance of adaptability and the ability to face challenges head-on while knowing when to seek support from others. I’m proactive about seeking guidance from professors, using resources like study groups, and taking advantage of mentorship opportunities. 

Embracing self-care practices such as jogging (I’m currently training for a half-marathon) and mindfulness will also play a pivotal role in maintaining my physical and mental well-being. 

By maintaining a balanced approach to academics, seeking support when needed, and managing my time, I believe in my ability to manage the workload.

5. What Do You Consider Your Greatest Strengths and Greatest Weaknesses In Health Care?

This is a really important question. The key thing to keep in mind when you answer this question is, to be honest and genuine. Share your strengths and what makes you a great candidate, but don’t gloss over your weaknesses either. 

It's not easy to be vulnerable with strangers, especially those you want to impress. But honesty, professionalism, and self-reflection all make a great healthcare worker, and these are all qualities necessary to talk about your weaknesses

Wrap up your response with a commitment to work on your areas of weakness and continue to grow professionally and personally. 

Sample Expert Answer 

My greatest strength lies in my strong communication skills; effective communication is crucial for building a rapport with patients while understanding their needs. I’ve often been a mediator or the person to clear up misunderstandings between friends and coworkers, such as when [example of disagreement]. 

My greatest weakness in healthcare is time management. In my desire to take on the most empathetic approach possible, I’ve found myself spending too much time with patients and not enough time performing other tasks, resulting in me having to share work with others. To correct this, I’ve used tools to prioritize my workdays by writing down all my tasks in order of completion and a goal for the time it takes to complete each. 

Since implementing this new strategy, I’ve not had to ask for help managing my tasks and will continue to work on my time management skills both in and outside of work. 

6. Why Do You Want to Be a PA and Not a Doctor? 

Admissions committees may ask this question to follow up on why you want to become a physician assistant. Take care not to paint doctors in a negative light when you’re answering this question. 


Instead, share why you’re drawn to the PA profession in particular. There are differences between PAs and MDs, and admissions committees want to ensure the applicants they speak to are passionate about the field and have specific, compelling reasons for applying. 

Expert Sample Answer 

I carefully considered my options for healthcare careers before embarking on the path to becoming a PA. While doctors are integral to the success of healthcare systems, I’m drawn to the PA profession for numerous reasons.  

First, I appreciate the patient-centered nature of the role; building strong relationships and addressing patient concerns holistically and empathetically aligns with my passion for providing compassionate and personalized care. 

The collaborative nature of the role also inspires me to pursue becoming a PA. I thrive in groups where I can work closely with others, and I look forward to the knowledge and skills I’ll learn from physicians and other healthcare professionals as we work as a team to provide the best quality patient care possible. I’m a voracious learner who feels refreshed and enthused by the prospect of lifelong learning.

I also find the PA profession’s versatility especially attractive. I’m passionate about adapting my approach to patient care while having opportunities to work across multiple specialties. While I respect the work of MDs, I feel that the daily work of PAs aligns more with my interests, passions, and aspirations. 

7. Which Experiences and Activities Have Prepared You for the PA Profession? 

This is your opportunity to share the extracurricular activities, work, and volunteer experiences that have prepared you for the PA profession. Note that these experiences don’t necessarily have to be healthcare-related, but we recommend touching on a few of these points. 


If you plan to mention activities and experiences you’ve written about in your personal statement or secondary application essays, take care to add something new to your story. Remember, you want to give the admissions committee as much information to work with as possible! 

Expert Sample Answer 

I believe my many hours of clinical experience have prepared me for PA school. I’ve pursued clinical experience at [clinic name] as a medical scribe, and I’ve been working as an EMT since my [year]. I believe that sometimes the best way to know if a path is right for you is to gain the hands-on experience necessary to make an informed decision! 

As of now, I’m approaching 4,200 hours of clinical hours. These hours have been spent working with patients, interacting with healthcare teams, and providing emergency medical care, further confirming my love for this field. 

8. Can You Describe the Role of a PA? 

PA school admissions committees want to ensure applicants have a good understanding of the PA profession. While your answer doesn’t need to sound like it was read straight from a dictionary, they want to ensure you know what a PA does. 

PA students

Expert Sample Answer 

PAs conduct patient assessments, order tests, prescribe medications, diagnose illnesses, develop treatment plans, and perform some medical procedures under physician supervision. While PAs do not have all the same freedoms as a physician in a healthcare setting, they are essential to bridging potential gaps between physicians and patients. 

I’m also passionate about providing patient education regarding procedures, medications, and treatment plans to ensure patients receive the best care possible and feel empowered to take charge of their health. 

9. What Would You Do If You Didn’t Get Into PA School This Year? 

First, know that your interviewer likely isn’t asking this question due to some fault in your application. The purpose of this question is to test your motivation and commitment to joining the field. Remember to provide a realistic answer and share how you’d grow from the experience. 

Sample Expert Answer 

If I didn’t get into PA school this year, my ultimate goal would be to reapply next year. However, I’d first take steps to evaluate my application and pinpoint weaker elements that may have given admissions committees pause the first time they reviewed it. 

I’d also focus on gaining even more clinical experience; I’ve considered becoming a CNA in the event I wouldn’t be accepted, and I would focus my attention on attaining certification to continue serving patients while pursuing shadowing opportunities with PAs in other specialties.

10. Do You Have Any Questions for Us?

This is an excellent opportunity to ask any questions you may have about the school and program. As you ask your questions, try to leave them open-ended to get as much information from the admissions committee as possible. 

PA students talking

Even if most of your questions have already been answered, it is still a good idea to try to ask one or two questions if given the chance. This shows genuine enthusiasm for the program. It also shows a level of preparedness that admissions committee members always look for.

Sample Expert Answer

Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with me today. I do have a question about [school program] you mentioned. In what other ways does your school serve [city’s] community? 

I also wanted to ask: based on what you have seen and your personal experience, what advice would you give a first-year student?

Other Common PA School Interview Questions

Your interview will consist of more than the previous questions, so it’s best to know what to expect from other common PA school interview questions.

See below for a list of other interview questions you may be asked. 

  1. What makes you a good candidate for our program?
  2. What would you bring to the program?
  3. How do you deal with stress?
  4. How do you study most efficiently?
  5. What is appealing about the location of the school? 
  6. Describe your time management skills. 
  7. What do you want to get out of the program?
  8. Do you see the roles of PA changing in the future?
  9. Do you have a supportive group of family/friends around you?
  10.  Where do you want to be in five years?
  11.  How do you define professionalism?
  12.  What qualities do you think are important to being a good PA?
  13.  When did you decide to pursue PA school?
  14.  Can you generally recount the history of the PA profession? 
  15.  Tell us about a situation where you demonstrated strong leadership skills. 
  16.  What are your goals in medicine?
  17.  In your opinion, what are the biggest issues/barriers in medicine today?
  18.  If you could do anything different in your undergrad, what would you change?
  19.  Where do you want to work once you graduate?
  20.  Who inspires you, and why?
  21.  What was the last book you read?
  22.  What is the thing you enjoy most about being a PA?
  23.  Why should we pick you over other applicants?
  24.  What are your hobbies and interests?
  25.  Describe a situation where you were under extreme stress, and how did you handle it?
  26.  How would your friends and family describe you? 
  27.  How would you describe your morals and ethics?
  28.  What do you do on a typical day?
  29.  Tell us about a time when you disagreed with instructions from your supervisor, and how did you handle this situation?
  30.  Do you prefer to work independently or within a team?

Strategically prepare how you would like to answer some of these questions (and be honest!), and you’ll do well in the interview. 

If your interview happens to be virtual, we’ve got some great tips on how to prepare for video interviews too!

PA School Interview Tips

Here are a few things you can do to ace your interview and impress the admissions committee:

1. Be Prepared

Most people find interviews hard and stressful if they are unprepared for them. Preparing in advance is essential to feeling and presenting yourself as a confident, approachable, and professional candidate. 

You can start preparing by reviewing common questions asked during PA school interviews and considering how you will answer them.  

2. Be On Time

This one is self-explanatory. Admissions teams look for candidates who are reliable and professional. With this being said, don’t show up too early either, as it could create an inconvenience for the interviewers. 


3. Be Professional

Throughout your interview, keep a friendly but professional manner. Shake your interviewers’ hands, look them in the eye as you answer questions, and look engaged and interested in what they have to say.

4. Empathize With Your Interviewers

Acknowledge all the hard work your interviewers are doing. You can say something along the lines of “I bet this has been a really long day for you all!” to show that you acknowledge how they might be feeling. The ability to emphasize is also a good quality for healthcare professionals to possess!

5. Dress Appropriately

Professionalism goes a long way, and you can make a great first impression by dressing appropriately and professionally for your interview. 

Happy PA students

6. Be Yourself

This one may seem obvious, but it really is important. Admissions committees have done tons of interviews and will be able to spot if someone is being insincere. 

Follow these tips, and you have a great chance at success!

What NOT To Do In A PA School Interview 

It’s helpful to know what to do during an interview; it can be just as helpful to know what to stay clear of. Here are a few things to avoid during your PA school interview. 

1. Criticizing Past Employers

Even if you have had bad experiences with employers, do not speak negatively about them. This comes across as unprofessional and off-putting for any interviewer. 

2. Be Unprofessional in the Waiting Area

Your interview begins as soon as you arrive. Don’t act unprofessionally in any way while you’re in the waiting room, even if it seems like no one is watching you. 

Administrative assistants, employees, and other students and applicants will probably notice your behavior. If you are acting inappropriately, this will most likely get back to the interviewers in one way or another. 

3. Share Irrelevant Information or Ask Irrelevant Questions

You only have a specific amount of time allocated for your interview, and you don’t want to waste it sharing information or asking questions that do not pertain to the school or program or something you could find online. 

For example, you can ask about school scholarships and tuition rates through a Google search—your interview isn’t the time to ask about these! While you may be genuinely curious about something that doesn’t necessarily relate to the program or even the school, your interview is not the time to ask these questions. 

4. Using Cliches in Your Answers

No one wants to hear the cliché answers that you want to become a PA because you “have a passion for helping people.” Interviewers have heard these responses hundreds of times before, and it comes across as impersonal and insincere. 

Be yourself and be honest. Interviewers want to hear from the real you, not what you think they may want to hear.

FAQs: PA School Interview

If you still have questions about PA school interviews, no worries! We answer some of your frequently asked questions below. 

1. What Should I Expect at a PA School Interview?

Expect to be asked a lot of biographical questions about yourself, your values, and what you do in your free time. For example, an interviewer may ask what book you last read. While they may seem irrelevant, the admissions committee wants to know about you and your hobbies as much as possible. 

You can also expect behavioral/scenario questions, questions about why you want to attend the school, and other queries to determine if you’d be a good fit. 

Some PA schools also hold MMI interviews, where you’ll participate in many interviews, scenarios, and even group activities with other applicants. 

MMI interviews are similar to the CASPer test that some PA schools require; your responses to questions can show admissions committees you have the skills to succeed! Preparing for the CASPer can be challenging, but a skilled coach can help you ace the test. 

2. What Percentage of PA Applicants Get Interviews?

Acceptance rates for PA schools are pretty competitive. According to the Physician Assistant Education Association, only about 20% of PA school applicants get accepted into PA schools. 

This means three out of ten applicants get into a PA school. It is highly recommended that you apply early to increase your chances of getting into a PA school!

3. Are PA School Interviews Hard?

PA school interviews shouldn't be too difficult if you know what to expect and prepare for it. If you know the expectations before going into the interview and have some ideas on how you can best answer questions, you will do fine! 

Going in prepared does not necessarily mean you’ll ultimately be accepted, though it does maximize your chances of doing great during the interview and impressing your interviewers. While nerves are to be expected (this is, after all, a very important interview), you’ll want to manage your pre-interview anxiety as much as possible. 

4. How Do I Prepare for a PA Interview?

The best way to prepare for a PA interview is to go over potential questions you may be asked. Go over your own resume and application, as the interviewers will likely ask you about both. 

If you have a gap in your resume or a low score in a course or final exam, it's likely the interviewers will ask you to explain further. Don’t dwell on any past faults or blunders, but do be transparent and candid. Whenever you have to talk about your weaknesses, aim to end your answer with a commitment to self-improvement.

Final Thoughts

Now that we’ve gone through some of the most common PA school interview questions with some tips on how to answer them, we hope you feel more prepared for your interview! 

As you read through the questions, remember to keep away from memorizing answers to potential questions. This is ultimately a waste of time and isn’t an effective strategy for success. You can, however, write down points on a sticky note or paper and bring them into the interview for reminders and guidance.

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