Dos and Don’ts When Studying and Preparing for the PANCE in 2022

There is one – just one – thing to do to ensure you do well on the PANCE. You read that right. Just one.

Have a plan for taking the PANCE.

That’s a loaded tip, we know, but stay with us here. Having a plan is the best way to study, prepare, and have the tools that help you succeed. Beyond that, planning and maximizing the tools and study aids available can ensure you retain this valuable information after you’ve passed the PANCE exam and received your NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants) certification.

If you are planning to take PANCE exam in 2022, here are a few things you should know:

  1. The PANCE has 300 multiple-choice questions.
  2. It’s timed. There are five blocks of 60 questions and one hour to complete each block. 
  3. There will be a total of 45 minutes for scheduled breaks during the PANCE.

You’ve got this!

Since you already know that being prepared is how you are going to manage studying for the PANCE and passing it, here are our top 13 Do’s and Don’ts for taking the PANCE.

Do not (and we cannot stress this enough) procrastinate!

You have spent how much time in school to get to this point? Clearly, you are driven, educated, hard-working and focused. Now is the time to finish strong.

Do be prepared

The PANCE is about six hours of your life and a decent amount of cash. You only want to do this once and if you are prepared, once should be all you need. Being prepared should look something like this:

  • Study. Study a lot, and study often.
  • Practice in the format of the PANCE exam.
  • Study the way that works best for you and use resources that fit your style (more on that later).

Don’t expect your study needs to fit seamlessly into your existing schedule

The PANCE doesn’t care that your roommate’s birthday is a weekend-long celebration, or that you got sick for three days the week before. Don’t expect studying for the PANCE to be an afterthought and still do well.

Do prioritize your PANCE studying

In the words of our PA expert, “view this time as a season of dedicated study that requires your focus.” It isn’t forever, but for now, studying is your priority. Plan (there’s that word again) your other responsibilities to make sure you don’t overcommit yourself.

Don’t expect a “one-size fits all” approach to work

Let’s make this simple; there is no such thing as one way of studying that works for everyone. Do you know how you study, focus, and retain information best? Studying for the PANCE is essential, but how you study isn’t going to be the same as everyone else.

Do what works best for you

Are you someone who reads until the book is finished without noticing that two days have passed? Cool! Do that. If you need support and motivation to stay on-course, find a study group or someone (or a few someones) you can study with one-on-one to keep one another motivated. Do you study better at night, or by reading aloud, or with flashcards? Do you have more of a visual learning style, or do you like mnemonic study tools (because if so, you came to the right place)? All of these methods are fine if you learn and retain the information.

Don’t waste your time scrolling aimlessly through social media

That social media scrolling has addictive qualities and you can lose a devastating amount of time. Those viral videos, funny cat memes and jealousy-inducing travel photos will still be there after you’ve passed the PANCE.

Do check out Picmonic’s social media accounts

Have you been to our YouTube channel or Instagram account? If you’ve got that social media itch, you can do some studying while being social. It’s a win-win! 

Don’t burn out

It can be tempting to push yourself but don’t overdo it. It’s easy to think studying longer and spending more hours preparing for the PANCE will help, but it can actually do the opposite. The key is to study smarter.

Do take breaks

According to numerous experts, studying or working for a specific amount of time – recommend times range from 25 minutes with the Pomodoro Technique, to 90 minutes from an MIT study – followed by a set break for about 20% of the study or work time, is ideal for productivity and retention. While the amount of time can differ, experts all agree, give yourself a break! It is the best way to expertly use the brain’s two modes: learning/focusing for the longer period, followed by consolidation during the break.  

Don’t stress! You’re in great company

You are not alone. Many people have taken and passed the PANCE before you, and many will come after you. Plus, there are a lot of people studying for the PANCE right now. Take some advice from experts, find study groups, and enjoy a little camaraderie with people who understand what you are going through.

Do use study tools and have fun

We don’t mean to toot our own horn (well, maybe a little), but if textbooks don’t keep you endlessly engaged or excited, there are other options like Picmonic. We’ve taken what science shows – picture mnemonics work – and boosted their effectiveness. Our approach increases retention by 331% and improves exam scores by 50%. Picmonic can help you recall everything you’ve learned not only next week or next month but for years to come. Because let’s face it, you want to pass the PANCE and become an amazing PA, but you also want to actually recall and use this information you spent countless hours learning, don’t you?

Don’t assume all PANCE learning systems are equal

Picmonic was designed for students, by students! Our founders created pictures, stories and additional study tools when they were in school and found they actually worked. Here we are today with hundreds of thousands of students using Picmonic. Picmonic’s proven and customizable study guides, videos, and quizzes will help you study more efficiently, feel confident, retain information, and have a little fun along the way!

Now that you’ve decided to create and execute your own personalized PANCE study plan, you can (kind of) relax. Make your plan, reward yourself for meeting your goals and see it through. You’ve got this, but you don’t have to do it alone. Check out Picmonic for Physician Assistants and see how much better and more enjoyable studying for the PANCE exam will be.

Bonus! Picmonic is also a valued resource for PAs who are taking PANRE ( the NCCPA requires physician assistants to maintain their medical and surgical knowledge). Picmonic has Playlists for both PANCE and PANRE.


Brent Hawkins
Brent Hawkins, MPAS, PA

His career as a physician assistant began in the clinic but has taken him places he never would have imagined. He worked as a PA in family medicine for two years after graduating from the University of North Texas Health Science Center PA Program in Fort Worth, Texas. Over the past ten years, he’s had the unique opportunity to help health professional students in their training through writing, editing, and creating educational content. His time in health-professional student education has allowed him to be involved in video production, medical illustration, and curriculum development. His specific focus is on developing test preparation for PANCE and USMLE.

(Visited 3,672 times, 3 visits today)