The PA school interview essay is a surprise evaluation you might be asked to write on the day of your PA school interview. The interview-day essay is becoming increasingly popular at both the hardest and the easiest PA schools to get into for its use as a secondary evaluation of interview candidates. While a surprise essay can be intimidating, it can be prepared for just as you would prepare to answer PA school interview questions. In this blog, we’ll look at what the PA school interview essay is, what you need to know about it and how to prepare for this surprise evaluation ahead of your interviews.

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What is a PA school interview essay What you need to know about the PA school interview essay How to prepare for a PA school interview essay What not to do for a PA school interview essay FAQs

What is a PA School Interview Essay

The PA school interview essay is becoming increasingly popular in admissions for physician assistant programs in Canada and the best PA schools in the US. While the PA school interview is a standard part of PA school requirements during admissions, many programs have started asking applicants to complete an interview-day essay. Often, this is a complete surprise to applicants! Some programs will provide students an opportunity to read over the provided essay prompt and prepare ahead of time, but many are using the PA school interview essay as a surprise evaluation on the day of the interview.

Why is this becoming a trend with PA schools? A spontaneous writing sample is another tool admission committees can use to determine whether you have the qualities of a good physician assistant. Namely, being able to adapt and react to a changing situation and being able to effectively communicate in writing. It’s also a test to see whether you can think critically and formulate an answer to an essay prompt under a time pressure, since PA school interview essays are usually timed.

PA schools might also use the interview-day essay to evaluate your writing and communication skills further. There is a difference between writing a timed surprise essay and crafting a PA personal statement with time and forethought, so PA school admissions committees want to see if you can write just as well on the spot. Your essays are a very important part of your PA school application and can determine whether you get an invitation to interview with the program, so the spontaneous interview-day essay is also crucial to your overall interview performance and can affect whether you’re accepted to a program. The use of the surprise PA school interview essay can be nerve-wracking, but it is possible to prepare for these surprise challenges ahead of time!

What You Need to Know About the PA School Interview Essay

The difficult part of writing a surprise essay is that it’s spontaneous, the prompt is usually unknown, and there is a time pressure. PA school interview essays usually need to be written in just 20 to 30 minutes, which is quite a time crunch for those who are not fast writers or like to have time to plan, draft and review. PA school interview essays are evaluated on content as well as grammar and structure, so you’ll need to cram brainstorming, planning, writing, and editing into just 20 to 30 minutes. On top of this, the essay prompts will require your critical thinking and careful consideration. Generally, there are a few types of essay questions or prompts you can expect in a PA school interview essay:

  • Ethical questions
  • Behavioral questions
  • Personal questions
  • Questions about the physician assistant profession

These 4 question categories are very common in almost all medical school interviews and related professions, like nursing school, pharmacy school and PA school interviews. For example, your essay question might be as simple as the “why this medical school” essay prompt, or you may need to know how to answer the dreaded med school interview question tell me about yourself in your PA school interview essay. You may also be asked what contribution you can make to the PA profession. While the prompts will look similar, they will be geared towards PA school programs and content. Your PA school interview essay prompt may be simple but open-ended, or it may be a more complex prompt relating to current events in the profession. Whatever mystery prompt you can expect, practice answering a few of each type of the different questions so you can be ready for anything.

Preparing for your PA school interviews? Check out this video!

Keep in mind that PA school interview essay questions or prompts are quite similar to any medical school interview questions but will be slightly adapted to the PA profession. You’ll also be answering these prompts or questions in an essay format instead of verbally, so your practice will involve writing and brainstorming instead of mock interviews or an in-front-of-mirror delivery. We’ll look at each of the types of questions in a bit more detail next.

While you may not know what you’ll be walking into during your PA school interviews, and if you’ll even be asked to write a surprise interview-day essay, you can effectively prepare for the possibility in much the same way you would prepare for PA school interview questions or prepare to write your personal statement. Next, we’ll look at some tips and strategies you can use to prepare for a possible PA school interview-day essay, and easily tie it in with your PA school interview prep.

How to Prepare for a PA School Interview Essay

Now that you know what you can expect for a PA school interview-day essay, its important to know how to prepare to write a surprise essay on an unknown topic. Luckily, its quite similar to preparing for a PA school interview, meaning you can practice questions in advance, research common prompts and question types as we’ve seen above, and also practice your essay writing skills. Most crucially, you can practice your timing so you can be sure to write a well-crafted essay in a very short time. In some ways, preparing to write a surprise PA school interview essay is a combination of interview prep and test prep. It will require many of the skills needed to effectively prepare for a PA school application, and the good news is you can easily tie your interview-day essay prep into the rest of your application prep. Some key ways you can prepare for an interview-day essay are:

Writing your PA school personal statement? Read on for our expert advice.

On the day of your PA school interview, if you're faced with a surprise interview-day essay, you can follow this simple step-by-step guide to get started!

  1. Read the prompt and identify the question type (ethical, behavioral or personal)
  2. Identify the key points of the prompt or question to address
  3. Take some notes, write down some bullet points to formulate main points of your response
  4. Start writing! Create a short introduction of 2 to 3 sentences, a main body paragraph or two with your most important points and then wrap up with a brief conclusion
  5. Review your essay for errors
  6. Submit your essay!

What Not to Do for a PA School Interview Essay

The thought of a surprise essay test can make students nervous, on a day that’s already guaranteed to induce some anxiety. PA school interviews are tough and having to write a surprise essay on top of this can be overwhelming, but its important to remember that while you should prepare for both, the PA school interview essay is only a small part of the interview day. You should be ready for both formats on your PA school interview day—the admissions interview, whether this is a panel interview or an MMI format, and the written essay.

Remember not to overwhelm yourself and take your time to properly prepare for the two sides of your PA school interview. Below we have a list of don’ts for your PA school interview essay to help keep you on track.


1. What is a PA school interview essay?

A PA school interview essay is a short, timed written evaluation held on the day of your PA school interview. These essays are often a surprise or not announced to students until they arrive for their interview. This evaluation tool is being used more and more often as part of PA school interviews.

2. How do I stand out in a PA school interview essay?

To stand out in a PA school interview essay, you want to submit a complete, well-structured, and error-free essay. You’ll be evaluated on content as well as grammar, so make sure your essay is well-crafted and hits your major points in a clear and consistent way.

3. Are PA school essays important?

Yes, any essay written as part of your PA school application is important, from the PA personal statement to the PA school interview-day essay. Every written assignment you submit with your application will be considered by the admissions committee and used to determine whether you are accepted.

4. How do you prepare for a PA school interview?

The best way to prepare for a PA school interview is to practice answering interview questions with mock interviews. You should also familiarize yourself with the different question types and learn how to answer each type.

5. What is the prompt for a PA school interview essay?

PA school essay prompts can vary, but for PA interview essays they will usually be hypothetical ethical dilemma scenarios, behavioral questions, or personal questions such as “why do you want to be a PA?”. Sometimes, you’ll be asked about current events in the field or hot topics in the profession.

6. How should I prepare for a PA school interview-day essay?

To prepare for a PA school interview-day essay, practice writing your responses, in short essay form, to common prompts and different types of interview questions. It’s also critical to practice your timing, since the PA school interview essay will be timed.

7. What do you write PA school interview-day essays on?

PA school interview essays are usually written in response a to given prompt or question. These can be ethical dilemmas, behavioral questions or sometimes open-ended personal questions.

8. Are PA school interviews essays hard?

While PA school interview essays can be challenging and intimidating, with the right preparation and a bit of practice, they can be tackled with relative ease. 

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

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