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How Hard Is The Pance

By David Krug 8 minute read

Doctoral-level physician assistant training is a significant step in the right direction, but it’s not the end of your journey. A state-issued license is required before you may begin practicing medicine under the supervision of a supervising physician.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, you must pass the PANCE exam in order to obtain this license (BLS). Find out more about the PANCE test and how difficult it is to pass in the next sections of this article.

About PANCE Physicians Assistant Test

Definition of PANCE is needed. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) administers the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination, which is an essential step of obtaining your license to practice as a physician assistant.

However, they aren’t physicians, they’re just people who work in the medical field as clinical assistants. It’s better to say that they operate in conjunction with and are overseen by fully licensed doctors who have earned their MD or DO degrees.

Physician assistants (PAs) and doctors (MDs) have considerable distinctions in terms of education, training, and work responsibilities, but one thing they both have in common is the requirement for professional license.

A licensure exam – while not the same one as for doctors – is required for physician assistants as well in order to be able to practice their profession. Those who pass the PANCE test can use the official title “Physician Assistant-Certified,” or PA-C, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Basic generalist understanding of various diseases and the information and abilities required to treat medical disorders are covered by the PANCE license exam. However, statistically speaking, the PANCE test has a high success rate, but you still need to study thoroughly in order to pass.

In order to keep their certification in good standing, certified physician assistants must pass a refresher test after passing the PANCE once for initial licensing. Licensed PAs will be able to opt into the new PANRE-LA recertification procedure beginning in 2023, instead of having to take the regular 10-year PANRE recertification test.

How Difficult Is the PANCE Exam for Physician Assistants?

Has anyone taken the PANCE? In particular among future PAs who picked the professional route because it appeared simpler than becoming a physician, this is a prevalent question.

The good news is that the PANCE exam is passed by the majority of hopeful physician assistants. Those who fail the PANCE typically fall just shy of the passing mark by a little margin, allowing them to raise their score enough to pass the exam again.

Even yet, the PANCE test’s substance is hard. However, it is meant for those who have already finished a master’s degree program in physician assistant studies, which includes both classroom and clinical work. Test takers are naturally expected to demonstrate that their knowledge of medicine is sufficient to practice medicine on actual patients in clinical settings because this test is an essential aspect of obtaining a license to operate in clinical practice. 

To put it another way, it’s a bad idea to assume that the exam would be simple because of the high success rate.

Most test-takers pass the PANCE because they take the test very seriously, study hard, and follow a well-planned study schedule. Candidates may work in jobs other than that of a licensed physician assistant while preparing for the PANCE test, however some physician assistants suggest that this be treated as a full-time job in order to avoid spreading one’s attention and efforts too thinly in order to pass the examination.

What Does Passing the PANCE Entail?

Passing the PANCE exam is made more difficult by the fact that the proportion of questions you must get correct in order to pass the examination is not specified. It’s possible to receive a PANCE score as low as 200 and as high as 800. To pass the exam, test-takers must score at least 350.

But because each PANCE test is scored on a scaled score that is determined by comparison to a reference group, NCCPA does not currently publish a minimum proportion of right answers needed for a passing score.

A PANCE test-primary taker’s objective is to answer as many questions correctly as possible.

PANCE Exam Pass Rate

Among first-time test takers and all test takers, the NCCPA reports that the PANCE exam pass rate routinely exceeds 90%. From 2016 through 2020, the lowest overall passing rate was 91% in 2019, while the highest overall passing rate was 97% in 2018. Pass rates for first-time test takers were lowest in 2019 (93 percent) and highest in 2018 (98 percent).

There were 10,687 tests given in 2020, and 95% of those who took them for the first time passed them. In all, 9,915 people took the PANCE in 2020 and passed it.

It’s true that the PANCE exam has a greater pass rate than many other professional examinations, but that just serves to inflate the perceived difficulty of the exam. Nearly 90% of doctors who take the United States Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE) also take the PANCE test, which has a similar pass rate.

According to the American Bar Association Journal, bar test success rates for attorneys have been in the upper 80s in recent years. There is a 50% pass rate on the four-part CPA test for accountants aiming for certification.

However, some sections of the exam have greater success rates. An actuary’s test pass percentage is between 30 and 40 percent depending on the level of certification required.
Even if you’ve done well in your PA program, you’ll still need to study for the test.

What Happens If You Fail the PANCE?

In order to become a licensed PA in any state in the United States, you must pass the PANCE. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), passing this exam is a requirement for licensing in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.

This exam, on the other hand, isn’t one-and-done. After completing your PA master’s degree program, candidates can take PANCE as many times as they need to — as many as six times in a six-year period according to the NCCPA. If you fail the PANCE test, you must wait 90 days before attempting the test again, and you are limited to three attempts in a calendar year.

A test-taker who fails the PANCE six times or fails to pass it within six years after graduating from their master’s degree would have a significantly more difficult time entering into this industry. Without starting from scratch and earning a PA master’s degree from scratch, the individual is no longer able to take the test. Because of this, it is difficult to enroll into such a school after already having this degree, and performing the work all over again is frightening. 

Aspiring physician assistants need to pass their license exams sooner rather than later since the stakes are so high. Even if they don’t pass it on their first try, the vast majority of students who complete a master’s degree program in physician assistant studies eventually do so. In the event that a candidate is having difficulty passing the exam, they can use a number of alternative study methods, study schedules, and training courses to enhance their future results.

As part of their preparation for the NCCPA exam, test-takers can gain a sense of their strengths and shortcomings by taking approved NCCPA practice exams that cost $50 for each exam.

Test takers receive a subscore for each section of the exam on their PANCE score reports. Taking a look at your subject area subscores will help you figure out where you had the most trouble and what areas of the test you need to work on the most in preparation for a repeat.

There are some ways to increase your PANCE exam passing odds. One is to enroll in a school with a high pass rate, which indicates that the curriculum in that program does an excellent job covering the exam topics. There are several PA programs with 100% success rates.

What Is the PANCE Exam Like?

Ninety five percent of the exam consists of medical-related questions. The remaining 5% of information falls under the topic of professional practice difficulties. Although the PANCE is a broad exam, up to 20% of the questions may focus on themes in general surgery. The PANCE exam consists of 300 multiple-choice questions, which must be completed over the course of five 60-minute sessions with brief pauses in between.

The PANCE Exam’s Content

What kind of questions are on the PANCE exam? Medical systems and specializations, as well as specific medical duties, are used to organize the information. There are 13 percent of medical system questions on the 2019 PANCE content plan that deal with cardiovascular systems, making it the most prevalent.

Ten percent of the inquiries concern the respiratory system, nine percent the digestive system, and eight percent the muscular-skeletal system. In this section, each of the following systems commands 7% of the content: the endocrine system, neurologic system, reproductive system, eyes, ears, nose, and throat system Six percent of the material is devoted to infectious illnesses, while the remaining six percent is devoted to mental health and psychology.

It contains 5% of each of the four systems: dermatology, genitourinary, renal, and hemolytic. For the most part, the PANCE test will ask you questions on how you would go about managing patients. One-fourth of the exam is devoted to drug therapy, while the other one-fourth is dedicated to clinical intervention. Another ten percent of the material is devoted to the application of fundamental scientific principles and health maintenance, patient education and preventative actions.

Most of the content is on generating the most likely diagnosis (which accounts for 18 percent of the questions). Patients’ medical histories and physical examinations account for 17% of the questions on the test, while diagnostic and laboratory tests make for 12% of the test.

Keeping track of one’s time is one of the most difficult things for test takers to master during the lengthy and divided exam. Every minute you have to answer a single question before you run out of time, on average.

PANCE vs USMLE Exams for Medical Professions

As stated before, both the PANCE and the USMLE are licensure examinations intended to qualify medical practitioners for license, and their pass rates are comparable. However, they cannot be substituted.

A candidate with an MD cannot become a doctor by passing the PANCE – in fact, he or she is not even eligible to sit for the PANCE – and a future physician assistant cannot substitute the USMLE for the PANCE.

The test format is a major distinction between the PANCE and USMLE. In contrast to the PANCE, which is administered in a single sitting, the USMLE consists of three distinct phases. Step 1 is an eight-hour exam consisting of 280 multiple-choice questions designed to assess a candidate’s understanding of fundamental sciences and their ability to apply these principles to the clinical practice of medicine.

This examination may contain questions about the mechanisms that contribute to health, disease, and therapy. Step 2 of the USMLE is another one-day examination consisting of 318 multiple-choice questions delivered over the course of nine hours.

In this phase of the USMLE examination, test-takers respond to questions about the clinical sciences and medical abilities required to provide patient care, enhance health, and avoid disease. Step 3 is a two-day exam with 232 multiple-choice questions on the Foundations of Independent Practice (FIP) and 180 multiple-choice questions and 13 computer-based case simulations on Advanced Clinical Medicine (ACM).

David Krug