While not a requirement for all programs, it's not uncommon for the GRE to be a part of PA school applications. I want to answer some of the common questions that come up in regards to the GRE. Keep in mind that these are my recommendations and there have certainly been success stories of students accepted without stellar GRE scores.
Why do I need to take the GRE for PA school?
For most programs, the GRE Is not going to make or break your application, but is more of a checkmark for the program. Since the majority of PA programs are Master's level (and this will be a requirement for all programs soon), they need some type of standardized testing to justify this level of education.
It is important that you're able to show an ability to perform well on standardized tests because ultimately at the end of PA school, you'll be required to pass the PANCE. Granted, these are very different tests. The GRE is a strategy test, and the PANCE is a knowledge test (with some strategy involved).
Another reason PA schools require the GRE is that they must have some way to screen applicants and essentially weed some out. It's not feasible for a school to evaluate thousands of applications thoroughly so they have requirements to minimize the amount of applications that actually need evaluated.
What is considered a good score on the GRE?
This is a very subjective question because many programs don't necessarily have a stated requirement or minimum. If a program does advertise a specific desired score, you need to at least hit that number or percentage or your application will likely be discarded from the beginning.
As a rule of thumb, shoot for a total combined score of 300 across the Verbal and Quantitative sections. The Writing portion doesn't really matter for PA schools. You also want to try to get higher than the 50th percentile for each section.
One way to determine if your score is "good" for a particular program is to see if they advertise their class averages. Sometimes programs will put the average scores or percentages of what their most recent incoming students had on the GRE, so you would want to try to make yours comparable to be considered competitive.
Does it look bad if I need to retake the GRE?
One of the good things about the GRE is that you can take it as many times as you need to and they will essentially look at the highest scores. The worst part about having to retake the GRE is that it is expensive! But this is one part of your application that you can improve on much easier than something like GPA, so if you don't do as well the first time, I say try again.
How much does a GRE score affect my application?
Like I mentioned above, the GRE is typically more of a "checkbox" than anything else. It doesn't really tell the program much about you in regards to how you'll perform in PA school or even on the PANCE. That being said, it's not going to be the first thing programs look at when evaluating your application. A low score may get your application thrown out, but a high score isn't going to make a huge impact.
Can a high GRE score make up for a lower GPA or lack of healthcare hours?
To a degree, it may be helpful to have a solid GRE score and use that ability to test well as a strength, but ultimately your GRE score is not going to completely counteract a discrepancy in other areas on your application. For example, if your GPA doesn't meet the minimums, but you have a great GRE score, your application will likely still be disregarded because of the GPAs. Same goes for healthcare hours. Do well on the GRE, but don't put all your eggs in that basket.
Why should I take the GRE for PA school?
This is a question that I actually get a lot. While there are plenty of schools that don't require the GRE at this point, by taking it you increase your chances of being accepted significantly by minimizing your competition. Think about it this way - if a school requires the GRE they may get 1000 applicants who took the test. If a school does NOT require the GRE, they may get 1000 applicants who did not take the test, as well as those 1000 who did take it. The more specific the requirements a school has that you can meet, the higher your chances of landing an interview.