How to Study for the PANCE Exam – A Step By Step Guide

PA School • May 27, 2023

A step by step guide to acing the PANCE, the national PA certification exam. This video walks you through the entire process on how to study for the PANCE exam so that you know what to expect and how to study effectively.

How to Study for the PANCE Exam

Taking the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) can be a daunting task. After spending two or more years learning all the necessary material, it’s time to put that knowledge to the test in a five-hour exam. However, with the right study strategies, you can prepare yourself for success. In this article, we will break down the PANCE exam step by step and provide you with effective study strategies to help you excel. So, let’s dive in!

Understanding the Exam

Before delving into the study strategies, it’s important to have a clear understanding of the PANCE exam itself. Here are some key facts about the exam:

  1. Exam Breakdown: The PANCE exam covers two main categories: knowledge of diseases and diagnoses, and knowledge and skills related to tasks performed by physician assistants (PAs).
  2. Exam Duration: The exam is five hours long and consists of 300 multiple-choice questions.
  3. Section Breakdown: The questions are divided into five sixty-minute sections, with breaks provided in between.
  4. Eligibility: To take the exam, you must be a graduate of an ARC-PA accredited PA program and certified by the NCCPA.
  5. Exam Fee: The cost to take the PANCE exam is $550, and it is recommended to register early. However, you cannot register more than 90 days from your graduation date.

Using the Blueprint for Study Direction

The NCCPA provides a blueprint that outlines the content covered in the PANCE exam. It is crucial to use this blueprint to guide your studying. Here’s how the blueprint can be helpful:

  1. Content Distribution: The blueprint breaks down the content per subject. For example, cardiovascular system comprises 13% of the exam, pulmonary system 10%, and genitourinary system 9%. By understanding the weightage of each subject, you can allocate your study time accordingly.
  2. Task Categories: The blueprint also includes task categories such as history and physical exam, diagnosis, ordering tests, professionalism, patient education, and health maintenance. These categories are integrated into the medical content questions. Knowing this will help you approach questions holistically.
  3. Surgical Topics: Approximately 20% of the exam may cover surgical topics. Since you have completed a surgical rotation, it’s important to review and refresh your knowledge in this area.

Study Strategies for Success

Now that you have a grasp of the exam structure and blueprint, let’s explore how to study for the PANCE exam effectively:

  1. Set a Study Timeline: It is recommended to schedule your exam within a couple of months after your graduation date. This allows you to utilize the fresh knowledge you gained during your education. Work backward from your chosen exam date to create a study plan that suits your needs.
  2. Identify Your Learning Style: Determine whether you are an auditory, visual, or tactile learner. Choose study resources that align with your learning style to enhance your understanding of the material. It is essential to comprehend the concepts rather than simply memorizing.
  3. Practice Questions: Engage in as many practice questions as possible. This helps you become familiar with the question format, develop strategies for narrowing down choices, and improve your ability to make educated guesses. Practice questions build confidence and reinforce content retention.
  4. Follow the Blueprint: Concentrate on the subjects that have a higher weightage on the exam while still covering all the content areas. Assess your strengths and weaknesses by taking a practice exam initially. This will help you identify areas that require more attention and allow you to adjust your study plan accordingly.
  5. Active and Passive Learning: Employ a combination of active and passive learning techniques. Actively engage with the material by answering questions, but also review your notes, listen to lectures, and use different study resources to reinforce your understanding.
  6. Time Blocking: Use time blocking as a strategy. Set a timer for 30 minutes and focus on studying a specific subject during that time. Take a five-minute break, repeat the cycle four times, and then take a 30-minute break. This method helps maintain focus and enhances retention.
  7. Answer Every Question: Remember that there is no penalty for answering a question, so try to answer every question on the exam. Even if you are unsure, making an educated guess gives you a chance of getting the answer right.
  8. Take Care of Yourself: Prioritize self-care before the exam. Commit to your study plan, exercise to reduce stress levels, and get sufficient rest the night before. Avoid cramming or introducing major lifestyle changes that may negatively impact your well-being.

Final Thoughts

Preparing for the PANCE exam requires dedication, strategic planning, and the use of appropriate study resources. Remember, passing rates are high, and even if you don’t pass on your first attempt, you can retake the exam after 90 days. If you need personalized assistance or further guidance, there are resources available to help you succeed. By following these study strategies and utilizing the tools at your disposal, you can approach the PANCE exam with confidence and increase your chances of passing. Good luck on your journey to becoming a certified physician assistant!

Also read: How to Prepare Your CASPA Application – Step by Step Guide

About me:

I’m Michele Neskey, aka The Posh PA. Welcome to my YouTube channel! My mission is to provide personalized guidance, education, and motivation to build confidence and promote wellness for aspiring physician assistants and beyond.   

Having been a PA for 17+ years and helped hundreds of students gain acceptance into PA school,  I understand the admissions process. I know what they are looking for, and I can help you tailor every component to make you shine, giving you the BEST chance of getting accepted to a program.  But it doesn’t end there. I create personalized plans for PA students and practicing PAs including test-taking strategy for the PANCE, contract negotiations, and tools to overcome and prevent provider burnout. 

My goal is to get you into a physician assistant (PA) school & survive the rigorous program, help you prevent burnout as a practicing PA, and help you take care of yourself so you can be the best version of YOU for your patients, family, and most importantly YOU!