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NP & PA Student Blog


Published December 3, 2013 4:34 PM by Caroline Pilgrim
I'm down to the wire of finishing my PA degree and the PANCE is looming with a mere 17 days left for me to cram. How do you study for the PANCE? Because I haven't yet passed, don't take all this advice too seriously but I'll elaborate a bit on what I think is helpful:
  1. Start early. My school has over a month of built-in PANCE prep with lectures and practice exams so we had an earlier start than many programs.
  2. Stick to the blueprint. The NCCPA will become your best friend and I've been told that really adhering to blueprint content is your ticket to passing.
  3. Don't try to understand, just memorize. If you start early enough, you may have time to memorize complex patho concepts but the reality is the PANCE is a lot of pattern recognition so if you learn a lot of key terms it can be much more efficient than trying to re-learn everything you missed in your didactic year.
  4. Take practice exams all the time. The biggest thing that has helped me improve on my Packrat is practice questions because you start seeing the same questions over and over. I never sit down to study without doing at least 50 practice questions. I use PAEasy and Kaplan which I bought with 5 other classmates. Kaplan is really tough and I highly recommend it if you can get some folks to split the hefty $200 cost. Another good option is the Lange practice questions either as an iPad app or in book/CD-ROM form. Our school has a Packrat built in every week and I've improved each time.
  5. Listen to podcasts when you work out or drive.
  6. Bring your practice book everywhere. My favorite is A Comprehensive Review for the Certification and Recertification Examinations by O'Connell. I also use First Aid for the Family Medicine boards. I have a couple others but you really just need a few. If you memorize everything in these you would totally pass.
  7. Write stuff down. This helps me because it makes me slow down and realize what I'm reading. I have a notebook I have taken all my PANCE notes in from said review books.  I overdosed on flashcards in didactic so I gave up on that medium.
  8. Have a life and don't freak out. I'm a super busy person and the looming PANCE hasn't stopped me from going to see Hunger Games, spending time with friends, enjoying the holidays or cooking comfort foods. It's just a test and the worst that can happen is I fail and lose $400 and have to wait 90 days. That's really NOT the end of the world. 


Thank you, Mr. Williams for your advice!  I have passed my PANCE now and agree that the more in-depth you go cannot hurt.  And indeed, the big 4 areas saved me.  I got a 63%, 77%, 83%, 84% in the top 4 areas.  My neuro was only 54% so definitely spend time in the big areas.

Good luck to all!  

Caroline Pilgrim, PA-C December 26, 2013 10:40 PM
Roanoke VA

Having taken the PANRE twice, I would also add a few things, only because I may have a different perspective secondary to working in the field prior to taking the test:

1. Yes, start early. 4 months, minimum. You need to put in 2 hours daily to reap the benefit. I need to respectfully disagree with Caroline, in that I think you DO need to grasp an understanding instead or memorizing; understanding will assist with deducing the answers to the questions that you have difficulty with, and can aid with a number of questions, not just one or two.

2. Know the blueprint. This is important for people other than new grads, in that while you will be reviewing things you 'learned' years ago in school, the fact is that you may not be familiar with immunization schedules and treatments for heart failure if you have been working in Ortho for the last 5 years. The blueprint will tell you which 4 areas to spend your time on...ENT and Urology are not weighted heavily, so don't waste your time there.

3. Take at least one practive exam after some studying (it's worth the $35.00), and along with your practive tests, get a gauge of the areas on which you need to focus. This will save you a ton of time and effort.

4. Give yourself a degree of credit in some areas and don't waste yout time there. For example, I deal with infectious disease  tangentially in my work. I did well on it on the practice test and got 100 percent right on the exam. It's not an area where I wasted my time.

5. Spend your time on the big 4: Cardiopulmonary, etc. The blueprint tells you the percents that are on the exam.The top 4 are 50% of the test. They are the money areas. This doesn't mean you need to ignore the others, but your practice exam will tell you which others to invest in, even slightly.

6. IMPORTANT! Take a review course (only after you have finished your studying on your own), and take it 10 days prior to your exam. I recommend the CME Resources one because there are really great educators who have spent time contributing questions to the exam, but most will be helpful. It will serve as a review, but most importantly it will remind you of areas you have forgotten and can direct you to places that you may need to direct more attent to than you previously thought. It's not meant to teach: it's review.

I recommend 10 days prior to your exam because it allows time tgo over the stuff you had forgotten, but more importantly, more than 10 days will be too long and you will just become mesmerized with everything. I call it 'getting full'. You just want to go over things enough and vomit your review for the test. 10 days is plenty.

7. I used one book: Current. It has all of the areas that are on the Blueprint, and there isn't a chewy long explanation. Mark the areas that are listed in the Blueprint in Current, and carry it with you. Also, find a 2 year old version of the book. The questions on the exam will not be as current as the latest issue (they tend to lag by 2 years), and treatment recommendations could have changed.

D. Williams, Physician Assistant Coordinator December 14, 2013 7:55 AM
Hudson OH

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