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The journey to becoming a practicing physician assistant (PA) is long and arduous. First, a candidate must excel in their undergraduate education while taking a heavy load of science-based classes. After graduation, a candidate then moves on to a challenging PA program for two years of classroom and clinical work. Once graduate school is over, there’s one final step every aspiring PA must take before beginning their career: the physician assistant national certifying exam (PANCE).

Pearson VUE administers the PANCE exam at testing centers throughout the country. Candidates need to register for their exam in advance and may sit for their first test seven days after their program completion date. A candidate can only take the PANCE exam once every 90 days or three times in a calendar year. 

The five-hour test consists of 300 multiple choice questions, which are organized into five different blocks. Candidates have only one hour to complete each 60 question block. That means candidates need to answer a question every minute to complete the block on time.

Tips for PANCE Exam Success

With so much riding on the outcome of this text, it’s no surprise that prospective PAs look for every possible edge. However, there are no shortcuts to success. Instead, passing the PANCE exam depends on the candidate’s preparation and state-of-mind during the test. If you’re preparing to sit for the PANCE exam, here are a few tips to keep in mind.

1. Practice Questions in Advance

This is, perhaps, the most important component of your test preparation. Taking practice tests lets you develop your question comprehension skills while providing real-time feedback on your learning progress. Practice questions will also help reveal your areas of weakness that may require additional study. Whenever possible, answer your practice tests on a computer, because it will simulate real-world testing conditions. There are several paid practice test programs available, as well as some free online options.  

2. Arrive at the Test Early and Set Yourself Up for Success

While Pearson VUE has testing centers located across the country, some PA candidates may have to travel to their exam site. On the day of your test, it’s critical to arrive at least 30 minutes before the exam begins. Some exam takers choose to rent a nearby hotel room, so they don’t have to worry about traffic, parking, or other unexpected challenges.

On the morning of your test, eat a nourishing meal, but avoid heavy foods that might make you sluggish later in the day. Also, make sure to dress comfortably, because you’ll have a long day ahead of you. Upon arriving at the test center, check-in with the proctor, and select a computer at a location that best suits your needs. Consider all factors like nearby foot traffic or glare from outside windows. Now you’re ready to begin.

3. Manage Your Time During the Test

As you take practice tests online, clock your time so that you can begin judging your pace. This will be critical on test day because you’ll want to know how quickly you progress through a block without continually checking the clock. If you start running out of time, triage the remaining question by answering the easiest ones before moving on to the more challenging content.    

4. Use the Process of Elimination to Answer Every Question

Your task during the test is to find the single best answer to each question. Use the process of elimination to narrow down your possible choices and avoid choosing an answer until you’ve considered all the available information. If you have time at the end of your block, go back and review your answers. If you have a good reason to change an answer you’re unsure about, you’d be right to do so. However, without any additional information, sticking with your gut reaction is probably your best option. No matter what you do, make sure to answer each question, because the computer will mark every unanswered question as an automatic error.

5. Watch for Signs of Fatigue

Succeeding at a five-hour test takes a lot of mental and physical endurance. Candidates who are physically fit will be better suited for an extended period of focus, so make sure you include regular exercise as part of your exam prep. It’s also important to get plenty of sleep the night before your exam.

If your mind starts to wander during the test, it could be a sign of mental fatigue. Without addressing this problem, your performance could suffer as you begin to lose focus. To combat this, take occasional mini-breaks to breathe, close your eyes, and relax your body.

Congratulations! You Passed. What Comes Next?

Now that you’ve aced your PANCE exam, you’re ready to begin a fabulous new healthcare career. That’s where Physician Assistant Solutions comes in. We’re a staffing firm dedicated to matching PAs and nurse practitioners with their ideal jobs. Start by searching for open positions on our website, then create an account, and one of our representatives will guide you through the next steps. You’ve come a long way, yet somehow, you’re still only at the beginning. We can’t wait to see where this journey takes you.

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