The PANCE® exam is the final hurdle for PA students preparing to begin a meaningful and satisfying career as a PA-C. After completing didactics and clinical rotations from an accredited PA program, the next step is this all-important certification exam.
Because of the high-stakes nature of the exam, PANCE test prep is very important. Students often start their PANCE test prep months before the exam. This ensures that they are confident and ready when they sit for their exam.
As important as it is to know what to expect about the exam itself, it’s also important to know what to expect when you arrive on your exam date. It’s only natural to be nervous, but if you have an idea of what the environment will be and some tips for exam success, you’ll likely be much more at ease as the date of your PANCE exam approaches.
Here are some PANCE tips to help you do your very best on your exam day . . .
Get Enough Rest and a Nutritious Breakfast
The PANCE exam is a five-hour exam that can be both physically and mentally taxing. This is why it is essential to get sufficient rest the night before. Avoid distractions or events the evening before your exam and plan on at least eight hours of sleep.
In addition to adequate rest, make sure you have a nutritious breakfast the morning of your exam. Avoid foods that will make you feel sluggish. Instead, choose a menu that is light and healthy.
The combination of rest and nutrition will help you be mentally and physically prepared for the testing hours ahead.
Plan To Arrive Early
The PANCE exam is administered by Pearson VUE, which has numerous testing centers around the country. When you register for your exam, you’ll be able to choose your testing site and your testing date, depending on testing center availability.
Having already chosen your testing center, find the best route and know the estimated travel time in advance. This will decrease stress the morning of your exam and ensure that you aren’t late for your PANCE. (If you are late, it’s possible that you will not be permitted to test and that you’ll forfeit the exam fee you paid at registration.)
Plan to arrive 30–45 minutes early on exam day. Arriving early gives you adequate time to check-in with the proctor and get situated before the exam begins. Also, this allows you extra time in case anything unexpected, like a traffic jam, occurs on the way to your testing center.
In order to take the exam, you will be required to show two forms of identification.
According to the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA), “One ID must contain a permanently affixed photo with your printed name and signature and the second ID must contain your printed name and signature.”
If the name on your identification does not match exactly the name given at the time of your PANCE registration, you will not be permitted to sit for your exam.
Where To Put Your Belongings
You will not be allowed to bring any personal items into the testing room. This includes purses, backpacks, cell phones, coats, food, beverages, etc.
The testing center will assign you a locker, if needed, where you can place your belongings before entering the testing room.
Note: You will be permitted to access your locker during “scheduled” breaks (more on that in a moment).
Manage Your Time Wisely
One of the most important PANCE tips to remember is to be aware of the clock while you are testing.
You will be given five blocks of questions. Each block has 60 questions and you are allowed 60 minutes to complete each block. Therefore, when working in a block, keep your eye on the clock and make sure that you are working on pace to finish on time.
If you come across a difficult question that is taking too long to answer, make note of that question, move on and come back to it later if time permits.
Time management is crucial for PANCE success. If you’ve prepared in advance with an online learning tool like UWorld that mimics the exam, you are more likely to have a feel for proper pacing, and you’ll avoid the testing fatigue many students experience in the final blocks of their exams.
Scheduled vs. Unschedule Breaks
You are allotted a total of 45 minutes for “scheduled” break time on exam day. This is break time that happens in between testing blocks. During this break time, you are allowed to go to your locker and access your personal belongings.
An “unscheduled” break is any break you take during a block of questions. If you take an unscheduled break, the clock does not stop; this is time being deducted from your allotted 60 minutes to complete that block of questions.
You are not permitted to access your personal belongings during unscheduled breaks, with the exception of medications or previously approved food required at a specific time for health reasons.
Those are the basics of what you can expect on your PANCE exam. If you’ve utilized a premium test prep resource, built a study plan and stayed with it, and registered for your exam, you’re just one step away from earning your C. Congratulations on making it this far, and good luck on exam day!
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What to Expect on Test Day. NCCPA. (n.d.). https://www.nccpa.net/testday.