The PANCE Exam at a Glance

The PANCE exam is a computer-based, timed test comprised of 300 multiple-choice questions assessing medical and surgical knowledge required to become a certified physician assistant. The PANCE exam is administered in 5 blocks of 60 questions each, with 60 minutes provided for the completion of each block. Exam questions fall into two categories: organ systems and diseases, disorders and medical assessments that relate to those systems; and knowledge and skills needed to confront those diseases, disorders and assessments. The PANCE exam is administered by computer year round at more than 200 Pearson VUE testing centers throughout the U.S.

For a breakdown of the PANCE content blueprint check out the NCCPA web site at

PANCE Registration Basics

Before scheduling an appointment to take the PANCE, you must submit a registration application to the NCCPA, and pay the PANCE examination fee of $475. After obtaining a scheduling permit from the NCCPA, you can then register to take the PANCE at any Pearson VUE Testing Center. The scheduling permit spells out the specific start and end dates of your selected three-month window of eligibility. Visit to schedule your exam date and get directions to testing centers in your area.

Before choosing your three-month window of eligibility to take the PANCE, you should be aware of several factors that need to be taken into account:

  1. The NCCPA does not accept PANCE applications until 90 days prior to your expected program completion date.
  2. The NCCPA requires a 7-day waiting period after graduation from PA school in order to verify your program completion. If this verification of completion is not received from your school, your exam window is withdrawn by the NCCPA.
  3. You should allow time after graduating date for the verification process (above) and several additional weeks to assure that you have sufficient room within your window end date to secure a test appointment at the location you select.
  4. You can only take the PANCE once in a 90-day window, or three times a year.

Learn more about the PANCE Exam.

Understanding Your Score

Your PANCE score is a scaled score, which means that it does not report the number of items answered correctly, or a percentage answered correctly. Rather, the scaled scoring system involves the number correct as well as the relative difficulty of those items. There are different versions of the exam, which vary slightly in difficulty. A slightly lower percent correct is required for examinees receiving a more difficult version of the test, while a slightly higher percent correct is required for examinees receiving a slightly less difficult version of the test.

PA graduates from 2003 on have up to six attempts in six years to pass the exam, and may take the exam once in any 90 day period or 3 times in a given year.

Once examinees have registered for the PANCE, and have received their three-month eligibility window, they can request a letter from the NCCPA verifying their eligibility status to be sent to their state board in order to obtain a temporary license. The Credentialing Info Release form, from the examinees personal record, may be sent by fax, email, or regular mail., Check the NCCPA web site at for specific addressing information for the applicable sending method.


Physician Assistants who currently hold NCCPA certification must pass a recertification exam before the expiration of their certificates, which occurs at the end of the sixth year of the certification maintenance cycle. The exam may be taken as early as year five. PANRE is administered at Pearson VUE Testing Centers. PANRE is a computer based examination composed of 240 multiple choice questions administered in four blocks of 60 questions with 60 minutes to complete each block. PANRE examinees must complete the exam within 4 hours. You have choices to make when taking the PANRE. While 60% of the generalist exam will cover the same content as always, the remaining 40% can be directed towards more generalist questions in one of these three areas:

  • Adult medicine
  • Surgery
  • Primary care

This option gives PAs the opportunity to focus more of the exam on their general area of practice—or continue with "business as usual" by choosing the "primary care" option. The PANRE will still be a generalist exam, you will just have the option of having more generalist questions in one of the areas listed above. No matter which option you choose, the content blueprint remains the same because it is still a generalist exam.

You may only take the PANRE once in any 90-day period and you may only take PANRE twice in your fifth year and twice in your sixth year. You have up to 180 days from the beginning of your exam timeframe to take the exam. If you apply late in your sixth year, your time frame will be shorter than 180 days.