The PANCE. How to get that -C after your name.


What is the PANCE?

The PANCE is the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, which is required in order to become certified and practice medicine.  After you pass the PANCE, you will then take the PANRE  (Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam) every 10 years to maintain your certification.

The PANCE is a 300 multiple choice question test.  It is composed of 5 blocks of 60 questions, with 45 minutes of total scheduled break time.  You can use the scheduled break time however you want in between sections/blocks.  For example, you could take the first section (60 questions) and then take a 10 minute break or you could take section one and two (120 questions) and then take a scheduled break for 30 minutes.  I tried to break after every section (60 questions) and walk around, eat a snack and drink some water.

How do I sign up for the PANCE?

You cannot sign up or register for the exam until 90 days before your expected graduation date.  Then you can go to the NCCPA website and set-up an account and submit an application and $475 to take the PANCE.  After you have done that you will receive an email from NCCPA telling you the dates and how you can schedule your exam.

You cannot take the exam until 7 days after graduation (your program director has to confirm all of this with NCCPA).  Again, NCCPA will send you an email stating the earliest date you may take the exam.  Once you have this confirmation email, you can follow the instructions to set-up an account with Pearson VUE and schedule your PANCE.

What is test day like?

I scheduled my exam 7 days after graduation (the earliest possible) and for the 8am time slot.  This means I had to be at the testing center at 7:30 am.

You will need to bring 2 forms of ID with your signature.  I used my drivers license and student ID, but I brought my passport as a back-up.  I also took some snacks (chips, almonds, m&ms).  I had all of this ready the night before, so I could easily wake-up and go.  

When I arrived at the testing center there were about 6 people waiting.  Only 4 of us were taking the PANCE.  To get admitted to the testing room we had to put our personal belongings in a locker (leave your cellphone in the car).  Then we had to have our IDs confirmed and a palm scan done.  Once this was all completed we were allowed to enter the testing room.

Every time you enter or exit the test room you have to show them your ID and do a palm scan.  If you are on a scheduled break (aka in between blocks/sections) you may access your locker.  The testing center had water and coke available for us.  You can access the bathroom at any time, but if you are not on a scheduled break the time clock keeps counting down.

There are headphones and ear plugs available if noise bothers you.  They will also give you a dry erase board/paper to use as scratch paper. If you have any questions or issues during the exam you can just raise your hand and they come right to your computer.

When do you get your score?

NCCPA states you will receive an email within 2 weeks after testing requiring you to log-on to the NCCPA website to check your score.

I tested on a Saturday and did NOT receive my scores the following Thursday (within 5 days).  I kept thinking it would be on that first Thursday, since that is what everyone online seemed to say.  Nope, my scores came after 12 days, on the second Thursday.

What if I don’t pass?

Just in case: You can take the PANCE once in a 90-day period or three times a year, whichever is fewer.  So you will have to wait 90 days to retake the PANCE.

You will be eligible to take PANCE for up to six years after graduation from a PA program. During that six-year period, the examination may be taken a maximum of six times. When either the six attempts or six years is exhausted, whichever occurs sooner, you lose eligibility to take the PANCE.  The only way to establish new eligibility to take PANCE is to enter into and complete PA school again.


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