The Scoop on the PANCE and PANRE


The PANCE (Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam) is the national certifying exam that physician assistants must take to be able to practice medicine. This test is offered through the NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants). After graduating from an accredited physician assistant program, prospective PA’s may sit for this exam. The cost of this exam is $475. You can pay for the exam and schedule to take it 90 days before you graduate from PA school. The NCCPA will be aware of your graduation date from your school, so they will email you when you are eligible to schedule the exam. The earliest you can schedule the exam is 7 days after you graduate. The exam is taken at a Pearson Vue testing center. Therefore when you Free Trial for the exam, you can choose a location close to where you reside.

The PANCE will ask you questions about general medicine. An outline for the exam can be found at the NCCPA website under or you can check out the article I wrote on the Content Blueprint or you can check out our outline of the. This breaks down the percentage of each organ system and task area. The exam itself consists of 300 multiple choice questions. It is broken up into 5 sections. Each section of the exam contains 60 questions and you have 60 minutes to complete the section. So you will have on average one minute to answer each question. You are allotted 5 hours to answer these questions, but you are given a total of 5 hours and 45 minutes to take the test. This means that you are allotted 45 minutes of break time. In those 45 minutes you can eat a snack, go to the bathroom, or do whatever else you need to do to mentally prepare yourself for the rest of the test that awaits you. During the exam there will be many questions you are confident about and many, you are not confident about. This is normal, keep in mind most people do pass. So do not get overwhelmed by questions you aren’t sure about. You are able to flag questions in your current section that you aren’t sure about and come back to them if you have time at the end. However, you cannot go back to previous sections. You also cannot highlight portions of the exam or cross out answers, like you see in many practice sites.

After you’ve completed the exam, you begin the nervous wait for your scores. Scores are typically released on a Thursday. If you took your exam on a Thursday or a Friday, you can expect to have your test results the first Thursday after your exam. If you took your test any other day, you will likely receive your score the second Thursday after your exam. I have heard of some exceptions to this rule, but this is at least what you can expect. The exams are not scored entirely based on how many you get right and how many you get wrong, but rather the questions are weighted. The lowest score you can receive is a 200. The highest score you can receive is an 800. To pass the exam you need at least a 350. Your score on the PACKRAT correlates almost perfectly with the PANCE, so if you passed the PACKRAT and continue to study, you can be confident that you will pass your boards.

If you do not receive the score necessary to pass this exam, you can retake the exam in 3 months. You may take the exam only 3 times in one year. Once you find out that you’ve passed, (YAY!) you don’t have to take another certifying exam for another 10 years! This exam is called the PANRE (Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam). It used to be taken every 6 years, but this has recently changed to every 10! The other good news is that the PANRE is less exhausting and less expensive than the PANCE.

The PANRE costs $350. There are only 4 sections and thus only 240 questions. The exam itself will take 4 hours, but you are again allotted 45 minutes for breaks. I highly recommend that you take as many practice exams as possible. We offer free PANCE practice questions/ free PANRE practice questions, and five full-length practice exams. 60% of the PANRE is general medicine questions. The other 40% is your choice. You can choose between adult medicine, surgery or additional primary care questions.

In the time between your certification exams, you will need to complete CME (continuing medical education) requirements to maintain your certification. This information is located on the NCCPA website. The certification is national, but the license you need to practice medicine is issued by each state. You should apply for a license in the state you wish to practice. Each state requires different information from you and takes a different amount of time to issue the license.


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