Study Guide and Study Schedule

The Physician Assistant National Certification Exam (PANCE) is a comprehensive exam taken at the end of the Physician Assistant program and the final step to becoming a PA-C. Studying for this critical exam can feel daunting. Having a well thought out PANCE study schedule can help you organize and prepare to do well on this high-stakes exam.

The Physician Assistant National Recertification Exam (PANRE) is taken 9-10 years after the PANCE and during active PA practice. New challenges arise when studying for the PANRE such as full time work schedules and work-life balance. Having the right tools including a PANRE study schedule, PANRE study guide, and a high-quality QBank can ensure your success.

What to Study for PANCE/PANRE?

Before diving into the exam material, take time to familiarize yourself with the PANCE or PANRE. Use resources provided by the National Commission on the Certification of PAs (NCCPA) such as the New PANCE Content Blueprint, PANRE blueprint, registration eligibility, and exam layout.

Take note of registration timelines and read through the FAQ on the NCCPA website to familiarize yourself with how to sign up for the exam, how to find a nearby location and test day logistics. Once these details have been taken care of, you can focus on the exam content.

The PANCE blueprint and PANRE blueprint provide a detailed overview of medical content areas and professional practice tasks covered in the examination. Utilizing the UWorld PANCE study schedules or PANRE study schedule provided in this guide can help you organize each medical content category by week and provide practice testing times to improve your test taking stamina.

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How to Study for The PANCE/PANRE

If you are in the last semester of your PA education, you likely have class notes, textbooks and end of rotation study materials as a guide. Aligning these notes with the PANCE Content Blueprint and following an efficient study schedule will help ensure you cover the right content areas.

Additionally, the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) offers practice tests for PANCE and PANRE. These practice tests come at a cost of $50 per exam and can only be taken one time per purchase. Practice tests, like those offered by the NCCPA are important, but you’ll need more than these practice tests for your 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 mistakes.

How to use the UWorld PANCE/PANRE study material effectively

With only months before your PANCE or PANRE 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/PANRE success. When you practice in a Question Bank (QBank) that has these features, you’ll be confident and prepared for your exam.

UWorld PANCE-style questions, answer explanations and the detailed reporting included in the UWorld PA QBank

Testing your PANCE/PANRE knowledge

The UWorld QBank contains more than 2,000+ PANCE and PANRE-style practice questions. With the ability to select questions based on content area, you can use the Qbank daily or weekly to enhance your studying. Once you cover a subject you can create practice tests with 5, 20, or more questions to practice taking board style questions.

Reviewing explanations for correct and incorrect answers enhances memory and recognition through experiential learning. With the My Notebook and Flashcard features, information can be organized, stored and utilized how you learn best.

How long to study for PANCE/PANRE

Ultimately, the amount of time you spend studying for the exam depends on the time you have. If you are finishing school and planning to take the PANCE, you have already been studying for the past 1-2 years through didactic year, clinicals, and End of Rotation exams (EORs). You have likely already taken at least one PACKRAT, multiple end of topic exams and EORs.

If you are preparing for the PANRE, it may have been a while since you’ve taken a standardized exam and you may need to start preparing earlier to strengthen those studying muscles. Your circumstances and schedule will be different then a student’s. You could be working full-time and balancing a family or additional responsibilities.

Regardless of which exam you are taking, consider the following:

  • If you start your exam prep sooner you will spend less time studying daily and you will still have additional time to review your areas of weakness and improve.
  • Find study blocks that work with your schedule. There is no right or wrong answer. You may prefer to study the first 30 minutes to 1 hour of your day or in the evening before you wind down.
  • Whether you are learning new content or reviewing topics you have already studied, allow yourself time to take practice exams. Practice exams are the best way to build stamina for exam day.

How Early Should I Start Studying for PANCE/PANRE?

Your PANCE study schedule and timeline depend on you. Those who begin earlier may feel less pressure when life events occur. This allows you to have more flexibility and take time off from studying when needed. Starting sooner means shorter study periods over a longer time frame. For example, if you start studying six months prior to your anticipated exam date, consider dedicating 30-60 minutes of your day to PANCE review. If you begin to study three months prior to the exam, plan to spend longer periods of time daily focusing on the content, approximately two to three hours per day.

Whether you are in school or working, starting sooner may not always be possible. This is why UWorld has created 3-month, 6-month and 12-month PANCE/PANRE study plans to help you prepare no matter what comes your way.

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Happy PA student leaving her PANCE exam

How to Create a Customized PANCE/PANRE Study Schedule

If you are preparing for the PANCE, you may already know your strengths and areas of weaknesses. Focus primarily on your weaknesses when developing your study schedule. Not sure which areas you should focus on? The results of your second PACKRAT will help you recognize your knowledge deficits. Use the results to create an individualized PANCE study plan.

Still not sure where to start? Use the UWorld 3-month, 6-month, or 12-month plans. These study plans were designed to cover all exam content areas, allow time for practice questions from the UWorld QBank and leave ample time for remediation and breaks.

Week 1
Study To Do
Cardiovascular system
  1. Use to review exam information and registration requirements
  2. Schedule your exam
  3. Use the UWorld QBank and create an end of week exam on cardiovascular

Things to Do the Day Before the PANCE/PANRE Test

The night before the exam is not the day to start cramming and try to learn new material. You have made it this far. Have confidence in your abilities and find ways to relax and prepare for the day ahead. Here are a few things you can do to prepare the day before your PANCE or PANRE.

  • Relax, read a book for leisure, write in a journal, catch up with friends and family, go for a walk or jog.
  • Gather the things you will need for test day. This can include picking out a comfortable outfit, packing your snacks, water, and a light nutritious meal to enjoy during section breaks. Have your exam confirmation and IDs ready.
  • Ensure you get a proper amount of sleep the night before your test. And don’t forget to set your alarm.
  • Attitude is everything. Think positively and embrace your imminent success.

Study Tips for PANCE/PANRE

As a PA student or practicing PA you are no stranger to hard work and you understand the need for good study habits and a good work ethic. PA school and working in the field is demanding. Developing strong study habits will help you succeed no matter what stage of your career you are in.

Here are few study habits to help you succeed on the PANCE or PANRE:

  • Know what works for you and use it

    At this point in time, you likely know if you prefer taking notes by hand or typing them. You will know if you prefer flashcards or highlighting books or notes. Use the things that you know work best for you and stick to them. If you have trouble learning in a group environment, plan to study alone. If you work best first thing in the morning, plan to wake up 30-60 minutes earlier and study as soon as your day begins. If you are a night owl, make sure you are blocking out distractions and commitments so you can study at night.

  • Cramming does NOT work

    When studying for the PANCE or PANRE, you are studying to advance your career. It’s important to ensure that you understand the information you are learning, not just memorizing it. Use Uworld’s flashcard feature with spaced repetition to save and review difficult concepts. Utilizing this powerful study tool will deepen your understanding and help you retain the information better.

  • Learn, relearn and learn again

    Studies show that knowledge is best retained when we are repetitively exposed to the information. Take notes, use flashcards with spaced repetition, review topics that seem difficult multiple times to improve memory recall. This will help engrain the information and strengthen your career.

Swap social media scrolling for EOR/PANCE review.
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Frequently Answered Questions (FAQs)

If you don’t have a study plan, that is okay. It is never too late to create one. Remember that you can take the PANCE as soon as 7 days after graduation or up to 1 year after your graduation date. Many students consider taking the exam immediately after graduation, while some wait a few months to prepare. There are a variety of resources available to help you including the UWorld PA Qbank.

If you are having trouble figuring out where to start, review our 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month PANCE study plans to see which one works for you. You can use our recommended study plans as a guide then customize a plan to fit your schedule. The first step is the hardest so challenge yourself to set goals and get started today!

When using UWorld’s PA QBank for PANCE prep, it is beneficial to work through the entire QBank. Students and practicing PA’s who get through the UWorld PA QBank in its entirety, generally score higher on their exams.

If you want to create your own study plan, start by dividing the number of QBank questions in our QBank by the number of days you have left to prep. If your schedule allows, and if you are committed to studying every day for three months (90 days), you will need to work through an average of 22 questions per day (2,000 ÷ 90). On some days you may use 20 questions in a specific content area, while on other days you will take 60 question timed exams.

Perhaps, as you look ahead at the next three months and 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 33 questions per study session (2,000 ÷ 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 key is to build a realistic study plan and then stick with it and make the most of each study session.

Read More About the PANCE

When do I register for the PANCE exam? Am I eligible to sit for the exam? When should I take it? How much does it cost to register? Find the answers to these questions and more here.

Find out everything you need to know about the PANCE exam in this informative article. PANCE summary, exam information, frequently asked questions, and more — it’s all here.

Learn how the PANCE exam is scored, what the average pass rate is for first-time PANCE candidates, and how to earn a passing exam score in this explanatory scoring guide.

Discover important exam details and begin your PANCE prep by acquainting yourself with the exam blueprint. This article will give you a behind the scenes look at this licensure exam.

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