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Resources for Preparing for the PANCE

Updated on March 25, 2013

So the day has come and all of your hard work has paid off. You have taken what feels like a million tests, lived through lab practicals, and been pimped to the point of exhaustion. It is finally graduation day and you are a Physician Assistant!......Well almost. There is one final exam standing between you and your –C and it’s a big one! GULP!

PANCE Set-up and Blueprint

Basic information about the structure of the PANCE can be found on the NCCPA website. The PANCE consists of 300 questions split into 60 minute blocks. Test takers are given 5 hours to complete the exam, plus an additional 45 minutes allotted for break time and 15 minutes allotted to complete the PANCE tutorial. Additional up-to-date specifics can be found on the NCCPA website. The link is provided below.

Additionally, test takers can find a content blueprint on the NCCPA website outlining what percentage of the exam each topic encompasses. This is a great place to start as it provides the test taker with information on which disease states to focus on and their relative representation of the exam. Some feel that is may be most prudent to study those areas of the blueprint that represent the greatest percentage of the exam the most in-depth. Others choose to focus on those areas of the blueprint that they feel they are weakest in.

Deciding on a Study Strategy

Deciding on the best study strategy is unique to each graduate, as each test taker has a unique learning style. There are a number of resources available to help you prepare ranging from review books to PANCE preparation courses. Study resources vary greatly by cost, with week-long review courses being the most comprehensive in content, but highest in cost. Additionally, the NCCPA offers 2 practice exams to help test takers gauge their relative strengths and weaknesses. These practice exams closely simulate the PANCE exam. They are a good way of gaining exposure to PANCE style questions, but are not intended to be used as a predictor of PANCE performance.

You may be asking – Well how long should I study? This is also unique to each test taker. In my graduating class I found that most people waited 3-5 weeks after graduation to take their boards. The NCCPA requires that graduates wait 7 days following graduation before they may sit for the PANCE. Test takers have an 180 day window following graduation to take the exam. This provides a large window of time for new graduates to sit for their exam.

With the above said, it is important to assess preparedness before sitting for the exam, as there is a 90 day wait period before you may retake the exam.

Helpful Review Books

Physician Assistant Review
Physician Assistant Review

This book provides a review of the majority of the disease states on the content blueprint. I felt that it was very in-depth yet concise. Additionally, it came with a bank of online questions that could be used as both pre-test and post-test assessment of comprehension.


Let's Recap

Study strategy and time spent preparing varies from test taker to test taker, but there are a number of tips that can help every test taker

  • A great place to start is in downloading the NCCPA content blueprint. It will provide the test taker with disease states to focus on and their relative representation on the exam.
  • There are a number of review resources available including review books, courses, and practice exams. Which of these resources is best for you depends on your budget and study style.
  • Practice exams are available at the NCCPA website and can give test takers practice in answering PANCE style questions. Additionally, the can provide general information pertaining to a test takers relative strengths and weaknesses. The NCCPA states, however, that practice exams should not be used to predict a test takers performance on the PANCE.
  • The test is comprised of 300 questions split into 60 question blocks. Test takers are given 5 hours to complete the blocks as well as 45 minutes of break time and 15 min to complete the tutorial.
  • Make sure you prepare! You will have to wait 90 days to retake it!

How much study time did you take before sitting for the PANCE?

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