Preparing for the PANCE
Every day was Groundhog
. Well, to be fair it was early January but, like the 1993 Bill Murray
comedy, I felt like I was stuck in a time loop. The high of my graduation
ceremony had worn off weeks ago, so I made like a retired snowbird and headed
south to Florida for the winter. I camped at my mother's house while I waited
for the next stage of my life to begin, aware of the massive obstacle that
stood between me and the start of my new career: the Physician Assistant
National Certification Exam (PANCE).
I thought the strut across stage in my funny cap and
gown marked the end of my study grind, but now I felt like a man wandering the
desert who had just come across his own footprints. Each morning I slapped my
blaring alarm and prepared for the cycle I left behind in PA school. I stuffed
my textbooks into the tattered backpack that had been my extra appendage for
the last two years and faced the inevitable hours of review for the single test
that would determine the rest of my career.
I picked out a corner of the library at the local
community college, a place my academic journey had never before taken me. Now
it was my sanctuary. If I ever thought for a moment that I was better than this
place, it didn't seem to hold a grudge.
I dusted off the study skills that, I must admit, I
never truly honed until I was faced with the avalanche of exams in PA school.
Each day I dug into a new medical topic, prioritizing the subjects that
saturated the PANCE and the ones that were my greatest weaknesses. The relative
footnotes like hematology (3% of the PANCE), I saved for last. Then, after two
weeks of seclusion and countless cups of coffee, I was locked in the steel cage
of the testing center to face my computer-based adversary.
The morning after test day my alarm didn't ring. My
bags weren't packed with books and I didn't order any coffee. I languished.
Because the only thing harder than forcing myself to study every morning was
the purgatory that followed: waiting for the results.
for PANCE Preparation
Your Routine If you are in a different location or
living situation than you were in PA school, it can be even harder to get back
in the swing of studying. Find a quiet place that suits your style and make a
study schedule. Then stick to it.
you're like me, it's been a while since you sat down for a marathon
multiple-choice test. Practice grinding out one or two-hundred multiple choice
questions at a time to get used to the motions. The NCCPA website even has
practice tests that most accurately recreate the PANCE experience (for a fee,
Sweat the Normal Stuff Normal lab values are provided on
test day, from ABGs to CBCs and even BMIs. Don't stress about any you haven't
Early, Bring Food It took a full 30 minutes for my test site
to process the handful of people that had arrived before me. Arrive at least 30
minutes early if you want to get started on time. Also, you will manage your
own break time during the exam (45 minutes divided into 4 breaks as you
choose), so bring snacks to maintain your blood sugar.