Overview of the Proposed Recertification Exam Model

under Consideration by the NCCPA Board of Directors

For well over a year, NCCPA has been focused on a pivotal question: How can we maintain the generalist nature of the PA-C credential through a recertification model that better reflects the current state of PA practice in which almost 75% of PAs are practicing outside of primary care?

We set out to answer that question in a way that also:

  • Improves the relevance and value of the assessment experience by addressing the content of the exam and the educational value of the recertification process; and

  • Maintains the integrity and appropriate rigor that the public and other stakeholders of this process should reasonably expect.

And we did—but not on our own. The model we have published – the model about which we are now seeking feedback from certified PAs and other stakeholders – is one borne out of a year-long analysis of PA practice, the existing PANRE, assessment methods, PA preferences, and the needs of other stakeholders. We have literally tens of thousands of PAs to thank for providing insights and opinions to inform the development of this model.

The Model

  • Core medical knowledge would be assessed during every 10-year cycle through periodic take-at-home exams.

  • Specialty-related knowledge would be assessed through a secure, proctored, timed exam during the final years of every 10-year cycle. These exams would be shorter than today’s PANRE and would assess knowledge needed to practice safely and effectively in that specialty area. These are exams that would assess what PAs actually do in practice. Ten to twelve specialty exam options would be offered initially, including family medicine (which would approximate the current PANRE in terms of breadth of content for those who prefer a general exam).

All PAs would continue to be certified as generalists with the PA-C credential, regardless of which specialty exam is taken. Multiple performance levels on both the core knowledge and specialty exams would be identified so that those in a defined level of performance can remediate through CME rather than retesting. For those scoring at an exceptional level, the specialty exam would also satisfy the exam requirement for the CAQ program for those who desire to pursue that optional, additional Certificate of Added Qualification.

The Benefits

The benefits of this new model include the following:

  1. Preserves the generalist nature of PA certification and the flexibility that it facilitates;

  2. Increases the degree to which PAs are assessed on content relevant to their current practice (with the opportunity to choose for themselves which of the specialty-focused exams best fit their experience and/or career plan);

  3. Maintains an assessment process on which the public, state medical boards and other stakeholders can rely as a valid measure of knowledge and clinical reasoning skills;

  4. Promotes ongoing learning and knowledge retention;

  5. Encourages the consultation of resources on content outside of the PA’s current area of practice, which better reflects how that is done in practice; and

  6. For a large percentage of PAs, reduces the time and cost of preparing for a timed, proctored exam that for many covers content outside their current scope of practice.


Read more about the model and its development in NCCPA’s white paper: /uploads/files/PANREModelWhitePaper.pdf.

For the latest Q&A, visit https://www.nccpa.net/panre-model.

Comments or questions? Write to newpanre@nccpa.net.