For candidates who find themselves three months from their PANCE® exam, it’s natural to begin to feel the pressure of the upcoming exam. However, there is no need to worry; you still have time for the focused and strategic test prep that will have you ready for PANCE exam success.
The longer your study plan, the more margin for error you have. For example, if you start your test prep six, nine, or twelve months before the PANCE exam, you give yourself some margin to take days off occasionally. However, if you begin your PANCE prep three months before the exam, be prepared for a shift in strategy — your daily study sessions will need to be lengthier and more focused than if you had begun earlier.
Whether you’ve been preparing for the PANCE for a while and are wondering how to maximize the last three months of study or you’re just now beginning your PANCE prep, here are some things to keep in mind regarding a three-month PANCE study plan.
Familiarize Yourself With the PANCE Exam
With just three-months to go before exam day, it is important to familiarize yourself with the PANCE so you’ll know what to expect when you sit for your exam. If you begin your prep by acquainting yourself with the look of the exam and the type of questions you’ll face, this will help relieve test anxiety and allow you to begin preparing efficiently and confidently.
The National Commission on Certification of Physician’s Assistants (NCCPA) offers practice tests for PANCE, PANRE, and CAQ exams. These practice tests come at a cost of $50 per exam and can only be taken one time per purchase. According to the NCCPA, the practice exams “help PAs assess their relative strengths and weaknesses to direct their study efforts and to familiarize themselves with the types of questions they’ll see on the actual examinations.
Practice tests, like those offered by the NCCPA are important, but you’ll need more than these practice tests for your three-month PANCE study plan. They familiarize you with the look and feel of the actual exam, but they don’t give you the “why” behind correct and incorrect answers. In other words, you can see what you missed, but you won’t learn from your mistake. This leads us to probably the most important factor in preparing for the PANCE exam . . .
Choose a Premium Test-Prep Resource
With only three months before your PANCE exam, you should prepare with a high-quality resource like UWorld’s PA Qbank. The very best resource will have . . .
- An interface that looks identical to the actual exam
- Quality, PANCE-style questions that cover real-life clinical scenarios testing high-yield concepts
- Detailed rationales that explain both correct and incorrect answer options
- Vivid illustrations to aid in knowledge retention
- Flashcards that utilizes spaced repetition (more on this in a moment)
- Performance tracking that identifies your strengths and weaknesses for more pointed study
Daily practice with high-quality questions and detailed rationales is essential to PANCE success. When you practice in a Question Bank (QBank) that has the aforementioned features, you’ll be confident and prepared for your exam.
Utilize Digital Flashcards With Spaced Repetition
Because there is only three months left in your PANCE prep, efficiency is key in order to maximize your test prep. This is why innovation like spaced repetition is vital for your success on exam day.
Many students flip through print or digital flashcards at random. The problem with this randomness is that it doesn’t put a priority on the most difficult information. You are spending the same amount of time reviewing easier content — content you already know — than you are the more difficult subjects and foundations.
Flashcards with spaced repetition show you difficult concepts more frequently until you master them, then these concepts are shown less frequently, but strategically, to promote long-term retention.
Create Your PANCE Three-Month Study Plan
Now that you’ve familiarized yourself with the exam and chosen a premium test-prep resource that has a flashcard feature utilizing spaced repetition, it is time to build out your three-month study plan.
When using UWorld’s PA QBank for PANCE prep, it is beneficial to work through the entire QBank. Students who get through the QBank in its entirety, generally score higher on their PANCE exams.
With over 1,700 questions in the QBank, building out your study plan is simply doing the math. If your schedule allows, and if you are committed to studying every day for three months (90 days), you will need to work through approximately 19 questions per day (1,700 ÷ 90).
Perhaps, as you look ahead at the next three months, you realize that you won’t be able to study every day. Let’s say you work on weekends and have some other obligations over the next three months, so you anticipate 60 days of solid PANCE prep, not 90 days. If that’s the case, you’ll need to work through 28 questions per study session (1,700 ÷ 60). Keep in mind that practice questions will only be a portion of your study plan. We also recommend full length practice tests and additional content review in the areas where you are weakest.
The crucial thing is to build a realistic study plan and then stick with it. With only three months until your PANCE exam, it is essential that you make the most of each study session.
Simulate the PANCE Exam
Familiarizing yourself with the exam and simulating the test-taking experience are two different things. Once you’ve spent sufficient time studying in the UWorld PA QBank, and as your PANCE testing date gets closer, it is a good practice to begin simulating the exam in order to prepare you for test-day pressures.
The PANCE exam is a grueling five-hour exam made up of 300 multiple-choice questions. The exam is given in five blocks of 60 questions. You are given 60 minutes to complete each block; therefore, you have one minute per question.
In order to be prepared for that pacing on exam day, set up some timed tests of 60 questions each as part of your three-month PANCE study plan. You can set up these 60-question blocks in your UWorld PA QBank.
This is a little bit different than your normal study sessions because you don’t want to see the detailed rationales after you complete each question. Instead, this is more like taking the actual test. You can go back and see what you missed in order to learn from that mistake after you complete all 60 questions.
This exercise of simulating the exam is meant to prepare you, mentally and physically, for the intensity of working under clock pressure.
Make Your Test Prep Priority #1
As a PA student, you have no doubt learned how to multitask. You know how to budget your time, giving all of your responsibilities equal priority. However, in these last three months of your PANCE prep, your study sessions need to be your number one priority.
You’ll need to shift your priorities and adjust your calendar so that your three-month PANCE study plan gets the majority of your focus.
This might mean you’ll have to talk to friends and family, explaining that you won’t have as much social time as you normally would for a little while. If you work a part-time job, perhaps you’ll have to cut back your hours or take a leave of absence.
This doesn’t mean that you won’t have a life outside of your PANCE prep. You can’t study 24 hours a day, and you don’t want to burn yourself out by over studying. You’ll want to find a balance. Still, whatever your normal routine or schedule, plan to make adjustments so that your PANCE prep will be the priority in the days, weeks, and months leading up to your exam.
Are you preparing for an upcoming high-stakes exam like the PANCE or PANRE®? If so, check out UWorld’s comprehensive online learning tool for your PANCE, PANRE, didactics, and clinical success. Our challenging questions, in-depth explanations, and performance tracking features will have you ready for success on exam day. Start your FREE trial today.