Graduate from a PA program accredited by ARC-PA or one of its predecessors. Today, there's no other way to gain PANCE eligibility.

You can take PANCE once in a 90-day period or three times a year, whichever is fewer - this applies to all applicants.

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, the examination may be taken a maximum of six times. When either the six attempts or six years is exhausted, whichever occurs sooner, the individual loses eligibility to take PANCE. The only way to establish new eligibility to take PANCE is to enter into and complete an unabridged ARC-PA accredited physician assistant educational program.

There is a 90-day waiting period between retakes of the same examination.

To request an eligibility letter, sign in to your personal record and choose Credentialing Info Release from the left-hand menu bar, email us your request (including your name, NCCPA ID number and to whom it should be sent) or fax or mail your request.

After your application is processed, you'll receive an exam acknowledgement from NCCPA within 3-5 business days with instructions on how to schedule your exam.

Yes, the normal labs value for healthy adults comes up in a separate screen when the examinee clicks “Lab Values”.

The generic name of a drug is always provided. The trade name is provided in parenthesis after the generic name of the drug only if it is deemed necessary by NCCPA.

No, K questions are no longer on the exam.

NCCPA will post your exam results in your personal certification record as soon as we receive the results (approximately two weeks after your test date.) We'll notify you by email when the results are received.

No. You must graduate from a PA program accredited by ARC-PA or one of its predecessors.

**Even if you have earned a medical degree from another country, you must still graduate from an accredited PA program to take PANCE.

A PA must possess either (1) a valid, unrestricted license to practice as a PA in at least one jurisdiction in the United States or its territories or (2) unrestricted privileges to practice as a PA for a government agency. Further, if more than one PA license or government agency privilege is held, all of them must be valid and unrestricted. These requirements are described in greater detail in the eligibility section of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

PAs must submit the required information for any and all state licenses and/or government agency privileges that they hold. Further, if they have more than one PA license or government agency privilege, all of them must be valid and unrestricted. If NCCPA determines that a PA has submitted incomplete or inaccurate information regarding state licenses and/or government agency privilege, the PA may be subject to disciplinary review.

For state licenses, PAs are required to enter their name as shown on the license, the State Board with which the license is held, the license number and expiration date. This information must be provided using the Licenses/Privileges link on their personal certification record.

PAs must also attest to the statement, “I agree to provide NCCPA with the required information for any and all state licenses and government privileges that I have held in the past or currently hold. Furthermore, I understand that all state licenses and government privileges must be unrestricted, as defined in the licensure requirement section of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program, in order for me to be eligible to register for, earn, and maintain the Certificate of Added Qualifications. I understand that I am responsible for notifying NCCPA of any restrictions placed on my licenses or privileges to practice within 60 days of the final action taken by the licensing or privileging authority and that I may be subject to sanctions if such notification is not timely provided.”

For government agency privilege information, PAs are required to enter their name as shown on the privilege, the name of the government agency, and the privilege expiration date. This information is entered through the Licenses/Privileges link on the CAQ section of their personal certification record.

PAs must also attest to the statement, “I agree to provide NCCPA with the required information for any and all state licenses and government privileges that I have held in the past or currently hold. Furthermore, I understand that all state licenses and government privileges must be unrestricted, as defined in the licensure requirement section of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program, in order for me to be eligible to register for, earn, and maintain the Certificate of Added Qualifications. I understand that I am responsible for notifying NCCPA of any restrictions placed on my licenses or privileges to practice within 60 days of the final action taken by the licensing or privileging authority and that I may be subject to sanctions if such notification is not timely provided.”

In addition, PAs must request that the government agency provide NCCPA with verification of the privilege status. PAs will be required to acknowledge this requirement by clicking on the following statement: “I understand that it is my responsibility to assure that any government agency(ies) from which I hold privileges to practice as a PA provide NCCPA with the required verification of unrestricted privilege(s), as defined in the licensure requirement section of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

PAs can download a template from our Web site to be completed by the government agency and returned to NCCPA as verification of the government agency privilege.

Your CME credits should be earned and logged by 11:59 p.m. PT, December 31 of your certification expiration year along with submitting the $130 certification maintenance fee. Sign in to your personal certification record to view any outstanding requirements and upcoming deadlines.

The certification maintenance fee is $130 if you earn and log your CME credits by 11:59 p.m. PT, December 31 of your certification expiration year. (The $50 discount is no longer available. The 2011-2013 cycle was the last cycle the discount was available.)

Sign in to your personal certification record, and click the "CME" link in the left-hand menu bar.

The activity start and end dates are the dates the provider list on documentation as the date the activity began and ended.

Simply log the exact number of credits earned according to your certificate with up to two decimal places (i.e., 1.75, 2.5, etc).

No, you can log activities that have the same sponsor and provider as one activity. You will enter a date range, the total amount of credits earned through the provider and a general activity title.

The maximum number of Category 1 credits that you can earn as an instructor is included in the list of certification programs. However, you may only log those instructor credits once each year (or twice per logging cycle) regardless of how many times you actually teach the course. Additional, duplicative instructing activities may be logged for Category 2 credit based on the number of hours spent preparing for and teaching the course.

The ATLS course does count for Category 1 (Preapproved) CME credit even though you did not receive a card or certificate for completing the course. You should have received a "letter of audit" indicating that you attended the course. If you are audited by NCCPA, the letter of audit (with a date listed) from the CME provider will be sufficient documentation of the activity.

You can earn Category 1 credit for delivering lectures to PA students or other medical professionals if the attendees receive documentation that the activity is approved for Category 1 credit. If the lecture was not preapproved for Category 1 credit, you can log time spent preparing for and delivering the lecture as Category 2 credit. Category 2 CME is earned on an hour-for-hour basis.

There are no maximums on the number of credits that you can earn for any Category 2 activity. All Category 2 credits are earned on an hour-for-hour basis.

Category 2 CME is any medically related activity that enhances the role of a PA (including journal reading). If you serve on committees at the local, state or national level that meet those qualifications, you may log the time you spend on committee work for Category 2 credit.

CME earning windows always open on May 1. You can begin earning and logging CME credits for your next cycle on May 1 during the certification expiration year of your current cycle.

Yes. We charge for our services on an a la carte basis. That way, you pay for the services you use but your fees aren't subsidizing the cost of services you're not using. The certification maintenance fee covers the cost of all NCCPA's work associated with CME logging.

No, you can pay the CME logging fee at any time during the logging cycle.

Just sign in to your personal certification record, and click on the "CME" link.

You should keep your Category 1 CME documentation for your current CME cycle and your last CME cycle. For example, if you are currently on a 2012-2014 CME cycle you would need to keep that documentation and the 2010-2012 CME cycle documentation. We do not audit Category 2 CME. This is the policy for NCCPA, not the state medical boards. You will need to check with your state medical board regarding their auditing requirements.

Acceptable supporting documentation includes certificates received upon completion of an activity from the CME provider, a hospital-generated list of programs attended, or written verification of attendance or credits earned from the provider of a CME activity. Other documentation may be considered at the discretion of NCCPA. Acceptable documentation for Category 1 credits should state that the activity has been approved by one of our four CME sponsors (AMA, AAPA, AAFP, AOA, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC), the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), or the Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada (PACCC)). There should also be a statement indicating the number of Category 1 credits awarded for the individual activity. If the documentation you have for a Category 1 activity does not state this information, the activity cannot be considered Category 1 CME.

NCCPA will accept a copy of the card you received, a certificate of attendance or written verification of attendance or credits earned from the provider of the certificate program.

This means the activity is not approved for Category 1 credit and if this activity has been logged as Category 1, NCCPA will not be able to verify the credits logged for this activity, unless the activity is an approved certification program.

Yes. CME credits that have been logged for a PA's PA-C certification maintenance may also be used for earning and maintaining a CAQ, as long as they also meet the CAQ CME requirements.

For the initial CAQ, PAs must log 150 credits of Category 1 CME that is focused on their specialty and earned within six years prior to when they apply for the CAQ exam, and at least 50 of those credits must have been earned within two years of applying for the exam. Each specialty also has specific CME requirements and recommendations. These requirements are listed in the Appendix section of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

For meeting the CME requirement to earn the initial CAQ, the 150 credits of Category 1 CME must have been earned within six years prior to applying for the CAQ exam, and 50 of those credits must have been earned with two years of applying for the exam.

For CAQ maintenance, the 125 CME credits must be earned within the current ten-year CAQ cycle.

These requirements are listed in the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

No. The exam does not qualify as a CME activity.

Preparing for a CAQ exam can be logged on an hour-for-hour basis as Category 2 CME for the purpose of maintaining PA-C certification. Category 2 credits are not required or accepted for maintenance of the CAQ.

The new 10-year certification maintenance cycle will include five, two-year CME cycles. During the first four CME cycles, you'll need to earn 20 Category 1 CME credits through self-assessment CME and/or performance improvement CME (PI-CME). That's not 20 additional credits, though. It will be part of the 50 Category 1 CME credits you are already accustomed to earning to maintain certification. During the fifth and final CME cycle, the CME requirements are less structured: 100 credits including 50 Category 1 credits, earned however you like. That will give you more flexibility when preparing for PANRE, which under this new process you'll be taking every 10 years instead of every six.

PAs will transition to the new process as their six-year certification maintenance cycle ends beginning in 2014. Sign in to your Personal Certification Record for a message regarding the timing of your transition to the new certification maintenance cycle.

You'll be taking PANRE every 10 years instead of every six years. Other than that, there are no changes currently planned for PANRE.

Taking PANRE a year early doesn't change your certification maintenance cycle, so you would transition to the 10-year cycle once your certification is updated in 2014 and would be due to pass PANRE again in 2024.

It really doesn't affect cost much at all. NCCPA's Board just reviewed fees and costs with this new process in mind. The only change we are making is the elimination of the discount for early CME logging. Certification maintenance fees will remain $130 per two-year CME cycle, and PANRE fees are holding steady at $350.

As far as the cost of the CME itself, PAs who have been meeting all their CME requirements through free CME opportunities will likely have to begin spending some money. It may not be much, however. Many of the self-assessment and PI-CME opportunities out there today are very low cost. For example, the 20-credit PI-CME requirement can be met for as little as $25. Keep in mind, too, that these types of CME activities generally don't require travel; they are programs you complete in your practice and online. So many PAs may find that their CME expenses actually come down under this new process.

The short answer is that after more than 30 years of basically the same certification maintenance process, we felt that we could improve things to more directly impact patient care while engaging certified PAs in more meaningful activities that encompass a broader range of PA competencies. We think that engaging in the thoughtful reflection that self-assessment evokes will help busy PAs to sometimes make more informed decisions about how they spend their limited CME time and dollars. We believe that taking time to review an aspect of practice, to identify an opportunity to improve it and then to make that change will have a real impact on your practice and – in many cases – your patients’ health.

The longer answer is that this started in 2003, when NCCPA launched an initiative to define PA competencies. In 2005, NCCPA, AAPA, PAEA and ARC-PA endorsed a document entitled Competencies for the PA Profession that had been developed cooperatively by those four organizations over a two-year period. The purpose of the Competencies document, as noted in its introduction, is “to communicate to the PA profession and the public a set of competencies that all physician assistants regardless of specialty or setting are expected to acquire and maintain throughout their careers.” It continues, “This document serves as a map for the individual PA, the physician-PA team and organizations that are committed to promoting the development and maintenance of these professional competencies among physician assistants.”

The document describes six categories of areas in which PAs should demonstrate competencies: medical knowledge, patient care, interpersonal and communication skills, professionalism, systems-based practice, and practice-based learning and improvement.

Since the adoption of the Competencies document in 2005, NCCPA has been considering whether and how to incorporate a broader range of the competencies described in that document into the PA certification maintenance process. Over the last several years, we considered a wide range of possibilities, ultimately focusing most closely on physician boards’ implementation of the maintenance of certification (MOC) requirements mandated in 2000 by the American Board of Medical Specialties. The ABMS MOC is a four-part model that includes requirements in the categories of (1) licensure and professional standing, (2) lifelong learning and self assessment, (3) cognitive expertise, and (4) practice-based improvement.

Drawing both from what the physician boards implemented and the lessons they learned during the process, NCCPA's Certification Committee—composed of certified PAs and physicians—developed recommendations that were shared with a number of national organizations and all certified PAs for comment. Discussions then continued for almost two more years during which one new concept was pilot tested and additional information was collected and considered. Today, NCCPA leaders believe that we have developed a process that will facilitate the process of lifelong learning and improvement in a way that benefits PAs and patients.

Unlike traditional lecture-learner CME sessions in which the PA is a passive participant, self-assessment CME activities involve a more active process of conducting a systematic review of one's performance, knowledge base or skill set.

PI-CME is active learning and the application of learning to improve your practice. And this can be done in partnership with your supervising physician and others in your practice; everyone can work on and get credit for PI-CME together.

PI-CME involves a three-step process:

 1. Compare some aspect of practice to national benchmarks, performance guidelines or other established evidence-based metric or standard.

 2. Based on the comparison, develop and implement a plan for improvement in that area.

 3. Evaluate the impact of the improvement effort by comparing the results of the original comparison with the new results or outcomes.

That depends on what you mean by “project.” While NCCPA was initially considering a less structured performance improvement requirement that would have required PAs to design and implement their own improvement project, since then the concept of PI-CME has emerged as a simpler way to accomplish the same goal. PI-CME will generally involve the review of a sample of patient charts, implementation of some change in your practice, and then a follow-up review of a sample of charts to assess the impact of the change. It will be structured; you will not have to conceptualize and design a unique improvement project and find ways to measure impact. You will be able to focus your time on the actual effort of making a positive change in your practice.

In order for a PA to claim specific self-assessment and/or PI-CME credit, the activities have to be approved by AAPA. For a complete list of activities, click here. AAPA will continue to add more activities as they are identified and approved.

That's a question that we are still working to answer. Ideally, it would. The challenge will be developing clear guidelines that can easily be consistently applied to projects that are done outside of the framework of established PI-CME programs. We are optimistic that there will be a positive answer for this. To help us get there, we have asked AAPA to offer recommendations, which we expect to receive and consider later this year.

From the beginning of NCCPA's discussions about potential changes to the certification maintenance process, leaders have been cognizant of the need to ensure that the non-practicing PA can continue to maintain certification. Physician organizations have addressed this in a variety of ways. To help us determine the most appropriate way for us to address the issue, we have asked AAPA to offer recommendations, which we expect to receive and consider later this year. In addition, PAEA has established a Workgroup to develop programs for PA educators (and other non-practicing PAs), which will assist in meeting both the PI and self-assessment requirements of the new certification maintenance process.

Details for the experience requirement are provided in the Appendix of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program. The number of experience hours required varies by specialty and was developed with input from PAs and physicians working in the specialty. The experience hours must have been acquired during the six-year period prior to when the PA provides their attestation of the experience to NCCPA. Volunteer work and clinical experience gained in a post-graduate training program may also be counted for this requirement. The hours do not have to be congruent, but they must have occurred within the six-year period prior to your attestation. PAs selected for an audit will have to provide documentation of their experience.

Please refer to the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program for more detailed information on this requirement.

To fulfill the experience requirement, PAs must sign in to their personal certification record at www.nccpa.net, and pay the $100 administrative fee (if they have not already done so). Then they will need to read the attestation statement regarding the experience requirement and click on the button to attest that they have earned the required hours of experience within the previous six years.

The experience requirement for each specialty was developed based on recommendations from physicians and PAs practicing in each specialty.

To ensure the accuracy and professionalism of CME logging and to strengthen the value of the PA-C, NCCPA randomly audits the Category 1 CME credits of certified PAs. To complete the CME audit, randomly selected PAs must submit supporting documentation for at least 50 Category 1 credits logged during the cycle for which they are being audited.

PAs being audited are selected by a completely random process. There is nothing that you did or didn't do that "caused" you to be selected for the audit.

NCCPA audits PAs for a two-year certification maintenance cycle. PAs chosen to be audited will be notified during the year after the PAs previous cycle has ended. A PA could be selected for the audit for up to an entire year after their previous cycle has ended. It is very important for PAs to keep their Category 1 documentation for at least one full year after their cycle has ended. For example: PAs who were audited for the 2011-2013 cycle are notified in 2014.

PAs selected for the CME audit will be notified by postal mail and by email.

NCCPA will provide you with a CME Audit Transcript that will list all Category 1 activities logged for the cycle being audited. This transcript will be included in the emailed and mailed notifications sent to you.

Six weeks is the standard amount of time allotted to submit your documentation for the audit. Your exact deadline will be listed in both the emailed and mailed notification correspondence sent to you and will be posted under your "CME" tab, which you can access by signing in to your personal certification record at our website, www.nccpa.net.

If you have a severe and extenuating circumstance which has prohibited you from providing the requested documentation in support of your Category 1 credits, you may request an extension to submit your documentation. NCCPA can grant a one-time only 30-day extension of your original audit deadline. Extensions for longer periods of time cannot be granted. To request an extension of your audit deadline, please submit a written request within the six-week period given to respond to the audit explaining your situation and include any supporting documentation you may have concerning your severe and extenuating circumstance. Requests must be received before the six-week deadline passes. This request can be mailed (12000 Findley Road, Suite 100, Johns Creek, GA 30097), faxed (678.417.8135) or emailed to audit@nccpa.net. Be sure to include your name and NCCPA identification number on the request.

If NCCPA has a valid email address on record, you will receive an official letter via email. If we do not have a valid email address on record, an official letter will be sent via postal mail to the mailing address we have on record for you. The letter will state your new audit deadline date.

Acceptable supporting documentation includes certificates received upon completion of an activity from the CME provider, a hospital-generated list of programs attended, or written verification of attendance or credits earned from the provider of a CME activity. Other documentation may be considered at the discretion of NCCPA. Acceptable documentation for Category 1 credits should state that the activity has been approved by one of our four CME sponsors (AMA, AAPA, AAFP, AOA, Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada (RCPSC), the College of Family Physicians of Canada (CFPC), or the Physician Assistant Certification Council of Canada (PACCC)). There should also be a statement indicating the number of Category 1 credits awarded for the individual activity. If the documentation you have for a Category 1 activity does not state this information, the activity cannot be considered Category 1 CME.

NCCPA will accept a copy of the card you received, a certificate of attendance or written verification of attendance or credits earned from the provider of the certificate program.

This means the activity is not approved for Category 1 credit and if this activity has been logged as Category 1 NCCPA will not be able to verify the credits logged for this activity, unless the activity is an approved certification program.

"Confirmed" credits are Category 1 credits that NCCPA has received documentation for or Category 1 credits logged through the Conference Logging System. Since these credits have already been confirmed as Category 1, no additional supporting documentation is required.

Supporting documentation can be mailed (12000 Findley Road, Suite 100, Johns Creek, GA 30097), faxed (678.417.8135) or emailed to audit@nccpa.net. Be sure to include your name and NCCPA identification number on all materials.

It takes approximately 7-10 business days for NCCPA to complete an audit. Once your documentation has been reviewed, if we cannot verify at least 50 Category 1 credits, we will notify you via email (or telephone, if you do not have a valid email address on record). NOTE: It is strictly the PAs responsibility to check the status of their audit to ensure NCCPA has received the appropriate documentation.

Sign in to your personal certification record at www.nccpa.net and click on "CME" in the left-hand menu bar then choose "CME Audit Information".

Yes. Additional Category 1 CME credits can be submitted to meet the audit requirements as long as the credits have not been previously logged to meet certification maintenance requirements and the credits were earned within the earning window of the cycle that is being audited. Acceptable documentation will have to be submitted in order to have these credits applied to the audited cycle.

PAs who are unable to submit supporting documentation for at least 50 Category 1 credits will fail the CME audit and will automatically be audited for their new cycle.

NCCPA will send an official email to you once your audit has been completed. If we do not have a valid email address, an official letter will be mailed to the address we have on record for you.

Beginning with the 2006-2008 CME logging cycle, PAs who do not pass the initial audit must follow the procedures below to complete the second CME audit:

  • All CME credits for the second audit cycle must be logged on paper re-audit logging forms (online logging will not be an option for PAs who are in their second audit).
  • Acceptable documentation must be submitted for all Category 1 credits listed on their audit logging form before the credits can be entered in the PA's logging record.
  • PAs must earn and log additional Category 1 credits for those that could not be verified in the initial audit (example: If 45 Category 1 credits were verified in the first audit cycle, then at least 55 Category 1 credits must be logged for the second audit cycle – 50 Category 1 credits that are required for the regular certification maintenance cycle plus the 5 Category 1 credits that could not be verified in the first audit).
  • PAs will have to pay a $100 re-audit fee.
  • Once the second audit is passed, the PA will be audited at least one time within their next three certification maintenance cycles.

The CME Audit Detail Report is your audit transcript that shows which Category 1 credits have been verified by NCCPA and any discrepancies in activity information that was logged ( i.e., incorrect sponsor, incorrect provider, incorrect activity name and/or date).

The CME Post Audit Final Transcript reflects the final outcome of the CME audit and becomes the current transcript on record for a PA for the audited cycle.

Details for the procedures/patient case requirement are provided in the Appendix of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program. The procedure/patient case requirement varies by specialty and was developed with input from PAs and physicians working in the specialty. In support of this requirement, PAs must provide an attestation from a supervising physician who works in the specialty and is familiar with the PA's practice and experience. The physician attestation must indicate that the PA has performed the procedures and patient management relevant to the practice setting and/or understands how and when the procedures should be performed.

Please refer to the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program for more detailed information on this requirement.

To submit the procedure/patient case requirement, PAs must sign in to their personal certification record and pay the $100 administrative fee (if they have not already done so). Then they will need to read the attestation statement regarding the procedure/patient case requirement and click on the button to attest that they have satisfied the requirement.

PAs will then need to acknowledge that they must also provide an attestation from a supervising physician who works in the specialty and is familiar with their practice and experience. The physician attestation must indicate that the PA has performed the procedures and patient management relevant to the practice setting and/or understands how and when the procedures should be performed. PAs can download a template to present to their supervising physician by clicking on the link provided in the procedure/patient case section in their personal record in the Certificate of Added Qualifications (CAQ) section. The physician attestation must be submitted to NCCPA.

The CAQ exams consist of 120 questions. PAs are provided with two hours of testing time and 15 minutes to take the tutorial. (If they take the CAQ exam on the same day as the PANRE, they will not need to do the additional tutorial.)

The exam is only offered one day per year in September.

Just like the PANCE and PANRE, the CAQ exams will be offered at Pearson VUE centers that are located throughout the U.S. and in select other countries. Although the exams are given on just one day a year, PAs can take the exam at a Pearson VUE location of their choice, based on availability.

The examination consists of 120 multiple-choice questions related to the specific specialty and targeted for PAs who have experience in the practice of that specialty. Content blueprints for each exam were developed using data gathered from NCCPA's most recent practice analysis. PAs can access the blueprints on NCCPA's Web site by clicking on the following link and then selecting the particular specialty of their choice.

If a PA fails the exam, he/she can apply for the next administration the following year. Currently there are no limits on the number of times a PA can take the CAQ exam. However, the PA must pass the exam within six years of initiating the CAQ process or he/she will have to start the process anew. Unsuccessful examinees may apply for a subsequent exam but will have to continue to meet the Certificate of Added Qualifications eligibility requirements described above at the time of their next application.

The CAQ exams are offered once per year in September. If a PA fails the exam, he/she may register to take the next administration.

Yes, we offer Practice Exams for all CAQs except psychiatry, which will be coming soon. To read about Practice Exams, click here.

After your exam application has been processed, you will receive an acknowledgement notice providing details for scheduling the exam with Pearson VUE.

No. All of the other requirements (specialty CME, experience, and procedures/patient case) must be met prior to applying for and taking the CAQ exam. In addition, PAs must also meet the basic requirements for licensure and have a current PA-C status.

Yes, as long as all eligibility criteria for both exams have been met. If a PA chooses to take the CAQ exam and PANRE on the same day, the testing day will be 7 hours long.

Yes. In order to maintain a CAQ, PAs must continue to meet the current PA-C and licensure and/or government agency requirements, earn and log at least 125 credits of Category 1 CME focused on the specialty over the ten-year cycle, and pass the CAQ exam prior to the expiration of their current ten-year cycle. (The CME hours may also be used to satisfy the PA-C requirements.)

No, the CAQ exam does not replace the requirement of taking and passing the recertification exam (PANRE) every six to ten years and meeting the PA-C CME requirement in order to maintain NCCPA certification (PA-C).

No. NCCPA does not recommend specific study guides or review courses.

NCCPA will conduct analysis and validation activities before the scores are released. Therefore, PAs who take the exam in September will likely receive their results in December.

For the best answer to this question, sign in and view your personal certification record. But generally speaking, you need to pass the recertification exam every ten years, with the option to take it a year early.

You can apply for the recertification exam via our online application. Just sign in and click the "Apply for Exam" link in the My To-Do List.

After your application is processed, you'll receive an exam acknowledgement from NCCPA within 3-5 business days with instructions on how to schedule your exam.

 Yes, the normal labs value for healthy adults comes up in a separate screen when the examinee clicks “Lab Values”.

The generic name of a drug is always provided. The trade name is provided in parenthesis after the generic name of the drug only if it is deemed necessary by NCCPA.

No, K questions are no longer on the exam.

You must pass by the end of the tenth year, but you can take the test in years 9 and 10 and have up to four attempts (two total per year) to test and pass.

There is a 90-day waiting period between retakes of the same examination, whether testing for recertification or to regain certification.

No. However, any past due fees must be paid before you can test.

The CAQ cycle is ten years.

To maintain the CAQ, PAs must continue to meet the current PA-C and licensure and/or government agency requirements, earn and log at least 125 credits of Category 1 CME focused on the specialty over the ten-year cycle, and pass the CAQ exam prior to the expiration of the current ten-year cycle. (The CME creditss may also be used to satisfy the PA-C requirements.)

Since one of the requirements to maintain the CAQ is that PAs must continue to meet the current PA-C requirements and hold a valid certification, loss of the certification will result in loss of the CAQ.

No, unlike the PA-C cycle that has requirements that must be met every two years, the maintenance requirements for the CAQ may be submitted any time prior to the end of the ten-year cycle.

Each exam is built to the same content blueprint. For the adult medicine and surgery practice-focused exams, 60% of the exam will cover the same content as always, the remaining 40% will be focused in either adult medicine or surgery but will still follow the same content blueprint.

Since 60% of the exams will cover the same content as always, pediatric questions may be included. If the adult medicine is chosen for the additional 40% of the exam, no additional pediatrics questions will be added. There could be additional pediatric questions that deal with surgery on the surgery practiced focused exam.

No, the content blueprint is the same for each exam.

No, each exam is built to the same content blueprint so we will not have a different content blueprint for the practice-focused PANRE.

Practice Exams specifically dealing with adult medicine and surgery will not be developed.

Yes, since the Practice Exam and all PANRE options are based on the same content blueprint.

The questions on PANRE - no matter which focus area you choose - are all still core knowledge-based questions. Choosing the primary care option gives you the same PANRE we've always offered. For those who choose adult medicine or surgery, 60% of the exam will be core knowledge questions (the PANRE as it has always been) and the other 40%, while still meeting the content blueprint, will be core knowledge questions focused in either adult medicine or surgery.

The adult medicine option will include questions that meet the content blueprint, however, 40% will be focused only in adult medicine.

The Practice Exams are designed for PAs who are eligible for an NCCPA examination. PAs should use the practice exam as a tool to assess their relative strengths and weaknesses, and to familiarize themselves with the types of questions they'll see on the actual examinations.

The NCCPA Practice Exams are provided for educational purposes only. They are not intended to predict your performance on PANCE, PANRE or a CAQ, and you should not interpret your results as a prediction of your performance. The results may assist you in identifying possible strengths or weaknesses in the various content areas that make up the exams content blueprints. The content blueprints are used as a guideline when items are selected for the Practice Exams. However, because the Practice Exam has fewer items than PANCE, PANRE and CAQ exams, the content areas contain a smaller number of items than on PANCE, PANRE and CAQ exams. For example, approximately 3% of the PANCE content blueprint is comprised of hematology questions. Thus, on the 120-question Practice Exam, there would be only 3 to 4 questions in this content area. It is important to keep in mind that  performance on a small number of items is less reliable than with a larger number of items. Your performance is based on the limited number of items sampled in the Practice Exam and should not be interpreted as a predictor of actual performance on PANCE, PANRE or a CAQ exam.

The content of the Practice Exams are based on the content blueprint for PANCE and PANRE. However, there may be some differences in the exact percentages covered in the content areas on the specific Practice Exam form.

Each Practice Exam includes 120 multiple-choice questions divided into two sections of 60 questions each. PAs can choose time intervals based on their needs. Without special accommodations, PAs have 60 minutes to complete each section for a total of two hours of testing time. With the special accommodations option, PAs can choose to do the sections in two 90-minute or two 120-minute sections. PAs should choose the same timing option they anticipate will be used during the actual PANCE or PANRE exam.

Like PANCE and PANRE, the Practice Exams provide approximately one minute per item, if special accommodations are not indicated. With special accommodations, the PA would have one and one-half or two minutes per question, dependent on the approved special accommodations.

Yes, these are questions that were used on previous administrations of PANCE and PANRE. However, keep in mind that test questions used on Practice Exams will no longer appear on PANCE and PANRE.

Each Practice Exam costs $35, which must be paid by credit card when you apply.

PAs can access the Practice Exam application online by signing in to their personal certification record 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Once registered, PAs will have 180 days to complete the Practice Exam online.

When you access the Practice Exam application from your personal certification record, you'll see a list of the system requirements. If you see a green check next to each requirement, your computer will support the Practice Exam program. If you see a red "X" next to any of the requirements, your computer, as it is currently configured, will not support the Practice Exam program; and we recommend you contact your system administrator. Note: MAC computers can be used with Mozilla Firefox.

No. Unlike the actual PANCE, PANRE and CAQ exams, the Practice Exam allows you to stop working on the Practice Exam and return later. You will not lose any time; and when you log back into the Practice Exam, you'll be returned to the last question that you had previously accessed. All responses are saved when you access the next question, so taking a break will not cause you to lose any answers you've already entered

No. The Practice Exams are designed to provide participants with feedback about their relative strengths and weaknesses in the content areas on the exam. Specific information for why a particular answer is correct or incorrect is not provided.

As soon as you complete the Practice Exam, you'll receive a performance profile, which graphically displays your relative strengths and weaknesses in the content areas that make up the examination content blueprint.

Click here to view a sample performance profile.

You'll always be able to access your performance profile from the Practice Exam overview page in your personal certification record.

PAs who are eligible to take an NCCPA examination may take as many Practice Exams as there are available, and may repurchase exams if they want to take them more than once.

Once your Practice Exam has been scored, you CANNOT review the questions or your answers. However, while you are working within each section, you can change answers or mark them for review. When you exit a section, your responses have been saved and submitted making your answers final. You can review and print your performance profile at any time after completing the Practice Exam.

Unfortunately, refunds will not be issued for a Practice Exam.

The system records all answers each time you access a question and provide an answer. If you are disconnected from the Internet or logged out of the Practice Exam program, you will re-start the Practice Exam on the same test question that was last seen when you sign back into the Practice Exam.

No. The Practice Exams are designed to mirror the testing environment and timing constraints of an actual exam. If you need to take a break during the Practice Exam, you have the convenience of being able to log out of the Practice Exam without losing any of your time. When you log back in, you have the same amount of time remaining to finish the block of questions. However, keep in mind that this is not the same for PANCE and PANRE. For the actual PANCE and PANRE, you are not able to take any breaks within a section of the test. If you anticipate qualifying for special accommodations, you are encouraged to take the Practice Exam with the appropriate special accommodations timing parameters.

No. The only part of the Practice Exam that you'll be able to print will be your performance profile that is available after completing the exam.

Unfortunately, no. NCCPA's Practice Exams are not preapproved for Category 1 CME credit. However, the Practice Exam can be submitted for Category 2 CME credit.

Earning a CAQ allows PAs to achieve recognition for their specialty experience, skills and knowledge. The CAQ offers PAs a credential to effectively document their specialty experience and expertise. Over time, we expect this will help PAs remain competitive in environments where credentials are increasingly important.

The CAQ reflects the fact that PAs are grounded first in primary care or generalist practice, a base of training and knowledge that is augmented but not replaced through specialization. The CAQ is something that PAs earn above and beyond the PA-C, which remains the foundational credential for the PA profession.

Further, while NCCPA hopes that PAs practicing in specialties will choose to participate in the CAQ program, we wanted to take every measure possible to ensure that it was a voluntary credential. We believe the CAQ is less likely to trigger automatic changes in credentialing or privileging requirements in many hospital settings.

The NCCPA Board of Directors chose the specialties to include in the initial roll out of the CAQ Program in 2011. The specialties included in the initial launch were selected based on information about the need for specialty credentials that NCCPA received from PAs practicing in these specialty areas and from leaders of the specialty organizations serving those PAs. We also considered a host of other factors, including the number of PAs practicing in the specialty, mobility trends into and out of the specialty, the criticality of the patient population served, and the degree to which the specialty is hospital-based.

PAs may register for a CAQ in the following specialties:

•  Cardiovascular/Thoracic Surgery
•  Emergency Medicine
•  Hospital Medicine
•  Nephrology
•  Orthopaedic Surgery
•  Pediatrics
•  Psychiatry

Just $350. There are two fees associated with earning the CAQ. The $100 administrative fee is due when PAs submit their first non-exam requirement (specialty CME, experience, and procedures/patient cases). When they apply for the exam, they will need to submit the $250 exam fee. (Note: PAs who fail the exam and are still within the six-year eligibility period for completing their CAQ will only need to submit the exam application fee when retaking the exam.)

Yes. Having a current PA-C status is one of the two basic eligibility requirements for earning and maintaining a CAQ. For additional information on all of these requirements, please refer to the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

Yes, PAs can register for more than one specialty CAQ at a time. However, they must meet the specific requirements for each specialty CAQ.

Before PAs can apply to take the CAQ exam, they must first meet the two basic eligibility requirements: valid unrestricted licensure and current PA-C status. In addition, they must also have completed the three other core requirements (specialty CME, experience, and procedures/patient cases). For additional information on all of these requirements, please refer to the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program.

From the time PAs submit their $100 administrative fee and satisfy the first requirement, they have six years within which they must complete the CAQ process or begin anew. However, if they have been working in the specialty and are able to complete all of the non-exam requirements together, they may submit all of those requirements at once and then apply for the exam when the CAQ exam application period opens.

Yes. If PAs meet the PA-C and licensure requirements but are under disciplinary review by NCCPA, they will be allowed to participate in the CAQ process and will be allowed to apply and take the CAQ exam. However, the exam score, if applicable, will not be released and the CAQ credential, if applicable, will not be issued until a final decision has been made by NCCPA which satisfactorily resolves the disciplinary issue to NCCPA's satisfaction.

Please refer to the Eligibility and Temporary Eligibility sections of the Governing Policies Regarding the Certificate of Added Qualifications Program for more detailed information on this requirement.

Yes. If a PA loses his/her valid unrestricted licensure or current PA-C or government agency privileges for any reason, he/she will lose any CAQ that has been achieved. Once the valid unrestricted licensure or current PA-C or government agency privileges has been restored, the PA must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for the initial CAQ, including passing the CAQ examination.

PAs will be able to print documentation of their progress from the CAQ Status section by signing in to their personal certification record at www.nccpa.net.

If a PA loses a CAQ for any reason, he/she must begin the CAQ process anew by meeting the eligibility requirements for the initial CAQ, including passing the CAQ examination.

Upon successful completion of all requirements, PAs will be granted a CAQ that is valid for ten years, based on their continuing to meet the current PA-C and licensure requirements. The CAQ will expire on December 31 of the tenth year.

The two processes are independent of each other. The only time a PA's initial ten-year cycle will coincide with the PA-C cycle is when the PA passes the CAQ exam during the tenth year of his or her PA-C cycle.

As with the audit processes for the PA-C credential, PAs will be randomly selected for the CAQ audit.

Since PAs are selected randomly for audits, it is possible for their PA-C certification maintenance requirements and CAQ requirements to be audited at the same time.

If an applicant loses his or her eligibility for a CAQ or CAQ maintenance after submitting the respective application and fees or if, at any time, it is determined that a PA provided incorrect eligibility information on any NCCPA application, the PA shall forfeit all fees.

There is a 30-day refund policy if a PA chooses to withdraw from the CAQ process. If the PA's request to be withdrawn is received by NCCPA in writing within 30 days of submitting the fee, NCCPA will issue a full refund; if not, all fees paid to NCCPA for the CAQ will be forfeited.

Because the CAQ is a Certificate of Added Qualifications and not a certification, a designation such as PA-C will not be issued. However, the PA will be issued a certificate for display.

Yes. NCCPA complies with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), and also offers special accommodations when testing for qualified examinees with medical conditions that may be temporary or are not otherwise covered by the ADA.

 For PANCE, PANRE and CAQ administrations, accommodations that have been made include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • extending testing time
  • frequent breaks
  • individual testing room
  • reader and medical device not on the approved medical/comfort aids list

For detailed information please review the Guidelines for Special Accommodations for Exam Takers with Disabilities which are available by clicking here.

 Information regarding special testing accommodations can be found at http://www.nccpa.net/SpecialAccommodations. In addition, detailed information regarding requesting accommodations and the required documentation is provided in the Guidelines for Special Accommodations for Exam Takers with Disabilities which are available by clicking here (PDF) or by contacting NCCPA to request a copy be emailed to you. You may also want to view the special accommodations request process flowchart which provides an overview of the steps in the process.

 Your request for special testing accommodations should be submitted when applying for an examination. However, you may want to review the Guidelines for Special Accommodations for Exam Takers with Disabilities which are available by clicking here prior to applying for the examination.

Appropriate documentation of a disability or qualifying medical condition must be provided by the examinee requesting special testing accommodations. The documentation must specify the extent to which testing procedures are to be modified. The accommodation requested or recommended by the professional should not be based on preferences but on disability-driven reasons, nor should it over-accommodate the test taker.

 Yes. You will have to submit your request in writing to have your current application withdrawn and transferred to a new application window requesting special accommodations and submit the required documentation. Note: If you have scheduled an exam date it will be CANCELLED.

 Accommodation needs can change over time; a prior history of diagnosis and accommodation, without demonstration of a current need, does not in and of itself warrant the provision of an accommodation.  Approval of an accommodation request will not automatically be based on the same accommodation previously approved.  For every examination application, the Special Accommodations Request Form must be completed and submitted to NCCPA at the time of application or immediately thereafter.  

If previous documentation has been submitted, NCCPA will review that documentation along with the new accommodations request form. Depending on the amount of time since the previous special accommodation request, the date of the documentation and any changes in the nature of extent of the disability and accommodation request, additional documentation may be required.  For detailed information see the Application for Subsequent Test Accommodations section of the Guidelines for Special Accommodations for Exam Takers with Disabilities which are available by clicking here.

No, accommodation needs can change over time; approval of an accommodation by a PA Program (or other testing entity) will not automatically qualify an examinee for special testing accommodations.

From the time all of the required documentation is received to notification of a decision is approximately 3-5 business days.

 Yes. You will need to submit your request in writing. Your current application will be withdrawn and transferred to a new application window without special accommodations. Note: If you have scheduled an exam date it will be CANCELLED.

Yes. Access to the documentation is restricted to the exam administration staff assigned to your Special Accommodations request.

 Click here for a list of comfort and medical aids that do not require a pre-approved special accommodations request.

No, there are no flags or indicators on your score report, certificate, credentialing verification to third party requestors that an examinee had received special accommodations.

The minimum recommended browser requirements are:

  • Internet Explorer (Windows) 8.0

  • Mozilla Fire Fox 3.0.17

  • Google Chrome all versions

  • Safari (Mac) 3.0.4

The browser/security settings must allow Java-Script.
The browser must handle cookies.
Your monitor resolution should be at least 800x600 pixel resolution (requires scrolling).  NOTE:  To ensure best viewing of the online exams features, a 1024 pixel resolution width or better is recommended and your browser MUST handle frames.

This does NOT include NCCPA's practice exams. To view the browser requirements for our practice exams, click here.

If you have problems accessing the secure PA section of the website, please contact NCCPA at 678-417-8100.

We use the best encryption technology available - the same software used by all Fortune 500 companies who conduct e-commerce. The credit card data you provide to us on our Web site can only be interpreted here at our office.

To print a receipt for any payments made to NCCPA since 2004, sign in to your personal certification record at www.nccpa.net and click the "Payment" link in the left-hand column, then follow the on-screen instructions.

You have 30 days from the date the payment was received to request a refund. You can request a refund in writing with a signature by fax (678-417-8135) or mail (NCCPA, 12000 Findley Road, Suite 100, Johns Creek, GA 30097)

*NCCPA exams and Practice Exams have unique refund policies. Please review the specific refund policy in the policies section when applying for an exam or Practice Exam.

We can provide verification of certification over the phone (678.417.8100), but we need to receive requests for the release of scores online or in writing. You can sign in to your personal record and choose Credentialing Info Release, email us your request (including your name, NCCPA ID number and to whom it should be sent) or fax or mail your request.

To make name changes, sign in to your personal certification record, click on the "My Account" link, and follow the instructions from there. A name change is not final until NCCPA receives a copy of your valid drivers license or passport. Or you can scan and email (namechanges@nccpa.net) or fax (678-417-8135) a copy of your valid drivers license or passport requesting the change and one of our staff members will update your record within 24 to 48 business hours. 

Sign in to your personal certification record, click on the "My Account" link, and follow the simple instructions from there. Or, email the new information to nccpa@nccpa.net; be sure to include your name and NCCPA ID number.