Top PANCE FAQs: Everything You Need to Know for Exam Day
Taking the PANCE is the culmination of your PA school journey. Everything you learned comes down to passing this one test before you can FINALLY put your knowledge to work. The odds of you passing the boards are high, especially if you put in the work—the PANCE pass rate was 92% in 2022, so the odds are in your favor!
As you approach this crucial step in your career, you are probably spending hours and hours studying while balancing clinical rotations, end-of-rotation exams, and practicals. Make sure you take the time to review what to expect the day of the exam, so you feel prepared for the test. Exam day is important, that’s a given. But what about the days leading up to it? And what to do when it’s finally over? Here is a list of six things to keep in mind that will help you navigate the PANCE from start to finish.
1. Scheduling the PANCE
When it comes time to schedule a PANCE exam date, you will likely be prompted by your PA program to make an NCCPA account. Utilize an email address you will have access to after graduation for this, as you will need to access this account for the rest of your career!
Once this is made, your PA program needs to submit your information to the NCCPA portal before you are eligible to schedule your test. You will then submit an application via the NCCPA website and make the payment of $550 in advance to take the PANCE. The NCCPA will notify you of your eligibility and you can then schedule the exam through the Pearson VUE site. You can schedule your testing date/time 180 days (or about 6 months) prior to your program completion date. You are eligible to take the boards as soon as 7 days following graduation from your PA program.
Do not hesitate to schedule your test date, as you can make changes up to one day prior to the exam without penalty! Time slots can go quickly, so have a few testing centers in mind that would be convenient for you to test at, as you may have to travel a few hours to take the exam.
When I was preparing to take the PANCE, I scheduled the earliest available date at a location about two hours away from my house. I was planning on staying with a friend the night before the exam. However, the advice you are always given is to make sure you are looking back at the exam scheduling site to see if you can get either an earlier testing date (if that fits your goals) or a closer testing center. I was able to switch my exam to a few days earlier at a site closer to my house about two weeks before the test date. This is very common because many people will just schedule a test date to have something on the books and then further adjust it as necessary for location, timeline, or other personal needs.
2. Time Leading up to the Exam
We all know the rigorous PANCE study schedule that should go into prepping for your exam, but what else should you be doing in the days leading up to the test? Once you know your test center, you should plan to take a drive to it before the day of the exam. Not only does this alleviate any stress associated with getting to the site, but it also gives you an idea of where you will park and how long you should expect the commute to take. Even if you are familiar with the area, I recommend making the drive.
As I am sure you have heard many times, you shouldn’t study the day before the exam. A worn-out version of yourself is not what you want on test day. Instead, spend some time outside if possible the day before the test. Be sure to hydrate, nourish your body, and perhaps do some exercise for stress relief. This will ensure you are putting your best foot forward on the day of the exam.
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3. What to Bring to the PANCE
Make sure you know what to bring with you and have everything ready to go. You need two forms of identification, at least one of which needs to have a photo (such as a driver’s license or a passport.) These are the most important things to have with you on test day because forgetting them or bringing the wrong ID will mean you won’t be able to take the exam.
It is often advised to dress in layers so you can remove or add clothing if you are too hot or cold. Be advised, baggy sweaters or coats may not be allowed. On my test day, I wore a crew neck with a T-shirt underneath. Also make sure to bring water, lunch, and snacks in case you want to take a break during the test. They won’t be allowed in the room, but your locker will be easily accessible during scheduled breaks.
4. What to Expect on Exam Day
The PANCE is a five-hour exam. There are 300 questions in total, administered in five blocks of 60 questions each. You have 60 minutes to complete each block, giving you one minute per question. Prior to starting the exam, you’ll have the opportunity to complete a quick, 15-minute tutorial that allows you to become familiar with navigating the test.
You do get 45 minutes total of allotted break time during the exam. This is for you to use as necessary. After you complete each block of questions, you will have the opportunity to take a scheduled break. During this time, you can access the personal items you stored in your locker. If you opt to use the scheduled break time, it is imperative that you do not go over the allotted 45-minute total as it will cut into your test time. If you take any unscheduled breaks, such as during the middle of a block,- this would cut into your allotted time for that block. In addition, you would not be able to access any personal items during this time (including cell phones).
When I took my test, I originally went into the exam planning to take at least one break. However, during the actual test day, I opted to keep going and did not take any. This is a personal preference, and you should do what you think is best for you the day of! I would definitely bring some light snacks and water with you, in case you want to access them during a scheduled break.
5. Taking the PANCE
My best advice for the PANCE is to take this test like you would take any other exam. By the time you reach this step, you have already taken many tests in PA school, end-of-rotation exams, and, hopefully, a good number of practice tests. You are prepared to take this exam. Remind yourself of this before taking the test. Be sure not to spend time the day before or the day of reviewing, because that will only serve to stress you out. Eat a healthy, hearty breakfast prior to the exam, and ensure you are hydrated. If you have time, exercise, meditation, or a nice walk the morning of the test may help clear your head.
Given the amount of material covered on the test, there will undoubtedly be questions you don’t know the answer to. The key is to try your best not to spiral when you don’t know the answer. I would recommend taking your best guess, flagging the question, and reviewing it again at the end of the section if time allows. You will not get additionally penalized for a wrong answer, so you should always submit your best guess.
You have roughly one minute per question. There will be certain questions that take longer than one minute and others that take less. I would check every fifteen minutes to see where you are progress-wise. You never want to be in a situation where you are rushed at the end, because you may miss questions you could have answered. Be sure to save any questions you are unsure of and want to spend more time on for the end after you take a quick best guess.
6. Receiving Your PANCE Score
So, you took the test. Now, when will you hear back? Technically, the scores can be reported anytime within two weeks of taking the exam. Oftentimes, it takes about four business days. I took my test on a Friday and got my score the following Tuesday. Of course, this varies. Expect to receive an email from the NCCPA letting you know that your results are available to view.
To pass the exam, you need to have a score of 350 or higher, and the score range is between 200 and 800. The exact scoring of the PANCE is complex and involves a review of the questions by qualified panelists. The PANCE questions change very frequently, but every form of the PANCE is equivalent in terms of the content and level of difficulty.
The waiting game can be tough. You may look up answers to questions following the exam and find you missed some, which can cause some people to get nervous. Remember, you cannot share or discuss any of the exam questions for any reason, as that is cheating and can result in serious consequences. My best advice after completing the PANCE is to try and distract yourself by doing things you love for a few days while you wait for the results. Try your best not to continuously refresh your email, although this is much easier said than done, of course!
Taking the PANCE is a journey unto itself. Follow these six guidelines to help get you through it, from start to finish. Once it’s over, celebrate! For now, you can begin a whole new journey: your life as a PA!
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