Passing PANCE After Multiple Failures: Forward Moving Strategy From our User

Passing the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE) is a crucial milestone for every PA student. However, for some, the journey to success is filled with hurdles, including failing the exam multiple times. In this blog post, I want to share my personal experience and provide insights into what I did to ultimately pass the PANCE. Remember, these are my recommendations, and what worked for me might not work for everyone. But I hope my story can inspire you to keep pushing forward, even when faced with setbacks.

  1. Seek Help During PA School

If you’re currently in didactic or PA school, don’t hesitate to ask for assistance. Most programs offer various resources like learning specialists, counseling services, tutoring, mentors, program advisors, or disability resource centers. Be proactive in identifying your needs, whether it’s overcoming test anxiety, addressing learning disabilities, seeking study strategies, or managing external stressors. These resources can not only help you succeed in PA school but also prepare you for success on the PANCE. For example, if you have a disability, explore the possibility of receiving testing accommodations for your End of Rotation (EOR) exams and the PANCE.

  1. Failing Isn’t the End of the World

Failing the PANCE can be emotionally devastating. It’s natural to feel embarrassed, anxious, and overwhelmed. Imposter syndrome may rear its ugly head, and you might worry about finances and your future. However, remember that you’re not alone in this struggle. Seek support from trusted individuals, whether it’s through counseling services, friends, family, therapy, or online communities like the PAstudent Reddit community.

Remind yourself that you were selected for your PA program from a pool of many applicants. You’ve worked hard to get through PA school, and passing the PANCE is the final step. Believe in your abilities, and understand that failing one exam doesn’t define your intelligence or potential.

  1. Create a Comprehensive Study Plan

My study plan for the PANCE spanned 12 weeks. Depending on your foundational knowledge, you can adjust this timeline, possibly shortening it to 4-6 or 8 weeks. I began by printing a calendar and the official PANCE Blueprint, which outlines all the testable topics. Then, I assigned specific topics to study each day, focusing on a systems-based approach. My goal was to study for 6-8 hours a day, with one day off each week.

  1. Choose Your Resources Wisely

When preparing for the PANCE, it’s important to limit the number of resources you use to avoid overwhelming yourself. Here are my recommended resources:

a) 1-2 board-specific books (e.g., PANCE Prep Pearls, First Aid Step 1/2, or Current). I used PANCE Prep Pearls and made additional notes in the books.

b) Question Banks (I used both ROSH and U-World).

c) Supplement your knowledge gaps with videos and lectures specific to the PANCE. I prefer lecture-style learning and visual aids, so I used a combination of MedGeeks, Osmosis, and CramthePANCE (a YouTube channel). While MedGeeks may be costly, it was worth it for me.

d) Study with a small group or partner. My study group consisted of individuals I met online. Even though we were in different states and time zones, we met up 1-2 times a week via video calls to work on questions together. This created a supportive environment for learning.

e) Maintain a notebook of commonly tested and confusing topics. Review this daily to reinforce your knowledge.

f) Stay focused during study sessions by using techniques like the Pomodoro Technique, and consider watching “study with me” videos on YouTube to stay motivated.

  1. Exam Strategy

On the day of the exam, it’s essential to employ a strategic approach:

  • Start by reading the last two sentences of long vignettes, as they often contain vital information for answering the question.
  • Don’t hesitate to flag questions, select an answer, and return to flagged items if you have time.
  • If you qualify for accommodations, apply early, as the process can take a few weeks.
  • Choose a test center location and time that aligns with your comfort and preferences.
  1. Daily Study Schedule

Here’s a sample daily study schedule:

  • Breakfast
  • Study at a coffee shop or library
  • Review commonly tested and confusing topics
  • Spend 30 minutes to 1 hour reviewing previous concepts
  • Take a short break
  • Dedicate 3-4 hours to reviewing daily topics using selected resources
  • Take another short break
  • Spend 2-3 hours on question banks (ROSH and U-World) in tutor mode, reviewing your answers afterward
  • Dinner, exercise, relaxation
  • Review commonly tested topics for 20 minutes before bed
  • Aim for 6-8 hours of sleep

As the exam date approaches, shift your focus from content review to more practice questions. Consider taking full-length mock exams to simulate test conditions.

Passing the PANCE can be a challenging journey, especially for those who face initial setbacks. My personal experience serves as a reminder that with determination, the right resources, and a solid study plan, it’s possible to overcome obstacles and achieve success. Don’t be discouraged by failures; instead, use them as stepping stones towards your ultimate goal. Keep pushing forward, believe in yourself, and remember that you’re not alone on this path. Feel free to reach out to me with any questions or for support. Good luck on your PANCE journey!