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This paper aims to evaluate the goodput performance of the IEEE 802.11 a wireless local area network (WLAN) from both the media access control (MAC) layer and physical (PHY) layer perspectives. From the physical layer perspective, we analyze the packet error rate performance of the orthogonal frequency division multiplexing (OFDM) based WLANs under the generalized Nakagami fading channel. According to the Chernoff bound analysis in the Nakagami fading channel, we derive the approximate packet error rate for the IEEE 802.11a WLAN with different data rates and fading parameters. Furthermore, we propose an efficient channel driven rate adaptation (CDRA) scheme. Through a PHY/MAC cross-layer analysis, we demonstrate that the goodput of the CDRA scheme indeed approaches to that of the optimal dynamic programming based rate adaptation method, while avoiding the complex calculations in selecting transmission parameters as the optimal method.