How to Apply for the PANCE Exam

The time to take the PANCE has finally arrived! All of the blood, sweat, and tears you have poured into your future career is coming to a head!

You may be wondering now what? How do I apply? How much does it cost? Where do I take the exam? Today we will answer all of these questions and more!

I promise it will be worth it!

The PANCE exam consists of five 60-minute sections. Yes, you read that right, it is a five-hour exam! Each section has 60 questions giving you one minute to complete each question. There will be 45 minutes of break time total allotted to you. You are responsible for managing this time. If you leave the exam during a 60-minute section, this time will be taken away from your actual exam time. You will also not be able to access your locker or materials. When taking a break after finishing a block of questions, you may check your locker. I personally bring a review sheet for that break. I do not recommend studying in between sections, but I do recommend checking the information you were unsure of that came up in a section.

The current exam cost is $500. Sticker shock, I know! But I promise it will be worth it. To qualify for the PANCE exam, you must graduate from a program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) as a Physician Assistant. Once the graduation date is set by your university, you can apply 90 days prior to this date, at the earliest.

Paper work and test location

Application for the PANCE can be done through the NCCPA. Once the application is accepted, there will be 180 days available to schedule the exam. The earliest test date that will be available is seven days post-graduation. The exam can be taken once in any 90 day period or three times within one year.

When the NCCPA provides exam acknowledgment, you must create a Pearson VUE account. Pearson VUE is a testing center used for many certifications. You will be able to find the closest Pearson VUE center after creating your account. The testing center offers a tutorial for the PANCE exam for your convenience.

The testing center will require two kinds of identification. One must have a photo. Both must also match the name the NCCPA has on file for you. If there is not a match, the NCCPA must be contacted immediately.

At the testing center, there will be a locker provided to store food and materials in. There is nothing allowed in the test room, no gum, no tissues, etc. A digital fingerprint will be used going in and out of the room. There will be a paper, a pencil, and ear plugs provided to you.

Test timelines

Prior to taking the exam, do a few test runs at home. Try different break schedules to determine your fatigue point. Here are a couple of test timeline examples:

Section 1:  60 minutes
Section 2:  60 minutes
Break 1:     15 minutes
Section 3:  60 minutes
Break 2:     15 minutes
Section 4:  60 minutes
Break 3:     15 minutes
Section 5:  60 minutes


Section 1:   60 minutes
Break 1:       5 minutes
Section 2:   60 minutes
Break 2:     15 minutes
Section 3:   60 minutes
Break 3:     15 minutes
Section 4:   60 minutes
Break 4:     10 minutes
Section 5:   60 minutes

There are a few quick tips that are important to know about the PANCE exam prior to taking it. There is a tab for normal lab values. Also, the temperature will be given in Fahrenheit and Celsius. You are able to mark a question and go back to it if you have time at the end of the section but, remember, a guess is better than no answer. Finally, know the generic drug names.

Anything else?

Once you have finished the exam, your score could take up to two weeks to arrive. The score will be listed on the NCCPA site. Aside from that, it is important to discuss with your future place of employment what is needed for credentialing. States have different licensing requirements which may include a state license, controlled substance license, and a DEA license. Some places of employment will pay for these expenses. If you plan to work under a temporary license, you must email the NCCPA for an eligibility letter which you will submit to the state of employment.

Good luck with studying!

P.S. For more tips on studying check out our PANCE Prep Tips

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