To become a certified PA, you must pass the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE), a computer-based, multiple-choice test comprising questions that assess basic medical and surgical knowledge.
Check out the following engaging video on PANCE! It has a wealth of information to prepare you for taking the initial exam, including how to register, what to expect on test day and when you will receive your score. After watching the video, read more on eligibility and registration requirements below.
To be eligible for PANCE, you must graduate from a program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) as a Physician Assistant Program or a Surgeon Assistant Program. PA program graduates will be deemed to have graduated from an accredited program if their PA educational program was accredited at the time of their matriculation.
**Even if you have earned a medical degree from another country, you must still graduate from an accredited PA program to take PANCE.
Did you graduate from one of the following U.S. programs before July 1994? You're also eligible to take PANCE if you:
- completed a program between July 1, 1994 and December 31, 2000 that was accredited by the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs as a Physician Assistant or a Surgeon Assistant Program.
- completed a program between January 1, 1986 and June 30, 1994 that was accredited by the American Medical Association Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation as a Physician Assistant Program or a Surgeon Assistant Program, or
- completed a program between January 1, 1977 and December 31, 1985 that was accredited by the American Medical Association Committee on Allied Health Education and Accreditation as either a Program to Educate and Train Assistants to the Primary Care Physician or a Surgeon Assistant Program.
- completed a program before December 31, 1976 that was accredited by the American Medical Association Council on Medical Education as either a Program to Educate and Train Assistants to the Primary Care Physician or a Surgeon Assistant Program.
- have been awarded unrestricted eligibility and have previously taken the initial certification examination administered by the NCCPA.
Limitations on Eligibility: The Six-Years-Six-Attempts Rule
Individuals who have never been certified and who graduated from an ARC-PA accredited physician assistant program on or after January 1, 2003, will be eligible to take PANCE for up to six years after completing the requirements for graduation from that program. During that six-year period, PANCE may be taken a total of six times. When either the six attempts or six years are exhausted, whichever occurs sooner, the individual loses eligibility to take PANCE. The only way to establish new eligibility is to complete an unabridged ARC-PA accredited physician assistant educational program again.
You must submit an application and $475 payment in advance to take PANCE. You may schedule your exam anytime (depending on testing center availability) within the 180 day timeframe established for you based on your expected graduation date and the successful submission of all required materials to NCCPA. The five-hour PANCE exam includes 300 multiple-choice questions administered in five blocks of 60 questions with 60 minutes to complete each block. There is a total of 45 minutes allotted for breaks between blocks and you will be responsible for managing your break time. You will have 15 minutes to complete the PANCE tutorial.
**Before registering for PANCE, be sure to review the policies and procedures.
When registering for PANCE, please consider the following requirements:
- NCCPA does not accept applications until 90 days prior to your expected program completion date (as provided by your program director). (As used here, "program completion date" is the date all requirements for graduation are completed as deemed by your program.)
- The earliest date you'll be able to test is seven days after your program completion (provided your program director has confirmed your program completion date.) This date will be reflected in your exam application acknowledgement e-mail.
- You have 180 days from the beginning of your exam timeframe to take the exam. These dates will be reflected in your exam application acknowledgement e-mail.
- You may only take PANCE once in any 90-day period or three times in a calendar year.
- There will be no testing between Dec. 21-31, 2013.
If there's any chance that you won't complete your PA program requirements on time, wait until you are confident of your program completion date before registering for the exam to avoid rescheduling fees.
Questions about PANCE? Find answers to frequently asked questions.
Pearson VUE testing centers are located throughout the U.S. and other select countries. After registering for the exam, visit www.pearsonvue.com/nccpa to schedule your exam date and for directions to testing centers in your area.
To view a tutorial of PANCE, go to www.pearsonvue.com/nccpa.
Sign in to your personal certification record on the right-hand side of the next screen to register for PANCE.