You're beginning an exciting and rewarding career; and NCCPA certification is an important step as you begin this journey.


If you graduate from a PA program accredited by the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA) or its predecessors, you can take the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination® (PANCE) for certification. The multiple-choice exam assesses basic medical and surgical knowledge. You will need to submit an application and payment in advance and can choose from over 200 testing sites.

After passing PANCE, PAs are issued NCCPA certification and can use the PA-C designation until the certification expiration date (approximately two years).

Read NCCPA’s Code of Conduct for Certified and Certifying PAs, which explains the ethics and professionalism expected of all PAs seeking or holding NCCPA certification.

PANCE Eligibility

To be eligible for PANCE, you must graduate from a PA program accredited by ARC-PA. 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.


Individuals who have never been certified and who graduated from an ARC-PA accredited PA 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 PA educational program again.

PANCE Registration

You must submit an application and $550 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.

2023 PANCE Exam

  • January 3, 2023 – December 16, 2023 – Administration window for the 2023 PANCE exam.

PANCE Requirements

When registering for PANCE, please consider the following requirements:

  • NCCPA does not accept applications until 180 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. 17 – 31, 2023.

Exam Development and Scoring

NCCPA’s exam questions are developed by committees comprising PAs and physicians selected based on both their item writing skills, experience and demographic characteristics (i.e., practice specialty, geographic region, practice setting, etc.). The test committee members each independently write a certain number of test questions or items, and then, each item then goes through an intense review by content experts and medical editors from which only some items emerge for pre-testing. Every NCCPA exam includes both scored and pre-test items, and examinees have no way of distinguishing between the two. This allows NCCPA to collect important statistics about how the pre-test items perform on the exam, which informs the final decision about whether a particular question meets the standards for inclusion as a scored item on future PANCE or PANRE exams.

Learn more about NCCPA’s exam development process and scoring here.

You can also access more information about the PANCE passing rates.

To view a tutorial of PANCE, go to

When preparing for PANCE, you will want to familiarize yourself with the content blueprint. Want to see what the PANCE is like and focus your exam preparation? Check out our Practice Exams.

Becoming Certified Resources