PANCE® Exam Guide

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The Ultimate PANCE® Exam Guide

The PANCE exam is a high-stakes licensure exam that candidates must pass in order to become a certified physician assistant. For PA students beginning their PANCE prep, it is recommended that they develop a PANCE study guide and practice diligently in order to achieve exam success. This page discusses helpful details of the PANCE exam.

What is the PANCE?

PANCE refers to the Physician Assistant National Certification Exam. It is the official examination graduates from an accredited physician program must take to become certified physician assistants. The exam is a computer-based test administered by the National Commission On Certification Of Physician Assistants (NCCPA).

What is on the PANCE?

The PANCE exam is developed from the NCCPA’s content blueprint, the official guide for topics and concepts tested in the PANCE. The content blueprint is organized as follows:

  1. Knowledge of the diseases and disorders PAs encounter; and
  2. Knowledge and skills related to tasks PAs perform when treating patients.

The NCCPA clarifies that the blueprint is only meant to give examples of the content students may see on the PANCE, meaning not all topics will be covered in a single exam, and students may encounter questions that are not on the blueprint.

How many questions are on the PANCE?

The PANCE includes 300 multiple-choice questions organized into five blocks of 60 questions with 60 minutes to complete each block. 

When should I take the PANCE?

You may apply to take the PANCE as early as 90 days before you expect to complete your program, and you can take PANCE as soon as seven days after you graduate. 

When should I start studying for the PANCE?

You have been preparing for the PANCE since day one of your PA program through your didactic and clinical training. Many students study throughout PA school with a question bank to practice PANCE style questions. The exact amount of dedicated PANCE prep time depends on a few factors including how well you performed in school and your comfort with standardized tests. For the majority of students, dedicated study time should begin as soon as you apply to take the PANCE. However, you should set up a study schedule that will give you enough time to pace yourself so you don’t feel overwhelmed working through the material.

How do I study for the PANCE?

First, download and familiarize yourself with the NCCPA’s latest PANCE content blueprint since the exam you will be taking will be modeled after this official guide. Then create a PANCE study plan and stick to it. For a comprehensive PANCE exam prep resource, we recommend UWorld’s PA exam learning platform.

How is the PANCE scored?

To determine the PANCE passing score, the NCCPA selects a diverse panel of PA content experts who identify what competencies an entry-level PA should demonstrate to be trusted as a capable clinician. Performance on the PANCE is reported on a scale-score metric where scale scores are used to place all scores on a unified scale regardless of any specific test form’s difficulty. This standard means that PA students with the same level of ability will achieve the same score on the PANCE irrespective of the test form taken.

What is the PANCE passing score?

The PANCE scale-score metric ranges from a minimum score of 200 to a maximum score of 800. A passing score for the PANCE is ≥ 350. To learn more about the PANCE passing score, check out this blog article.

How soon do you get PANCE results?

According to the NCCPA, it can take up to two weeks to receive test results, but most results are reported within four business days. 

How many times can you fail the PANCE?

You may take the PANCE exam up to a maximum of six times within the six years following the date of your graduation from PA school. If you happen to fail the PANCE after six attempts, or if you don’t take and pass the PANCE before your six-year window has lapsed, you will no longer be eligible to take the exam. 

How much does it cost to take the PANCE?

The cost of the PANCE exam is $550. You must apply and make a payment in advance to the NCCPA to take the PANCE exam. You must also complete the application for your PANCE registration on the NCCPA online student portal.


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