How to Study for the PANCE Exam and Pass

How to Study for the PANCE Exam and Pass

Ready to PANCE study the night away? You’re in the right place. The PANCE is a long, challenging exam for future physician assistants, but passing it with flying colors is a feeling like no other. Create your PANCE study timeline, get some study tips, and get all the deets you need for the exam below!

How many questions are on the PANCE?

The PANCE has a total of 300 questions. Testing is split into five one-hour blocks, so you’ll answer a total of 60 questions every 60 minutes. You’ll also receive a 45-minute break between every block and 15 minutes to complete the PANCE tutorial.

What to study for the PANCE

The PANCE Content Blueprint was recently updated in 2019. The exam content sections are split into PA tasks and medical content including diseases and disorders.

95% of the exam is medical content, and all medical content questions are coded to one of the PA task areas except for professional practice tasks–the remaining 5% of the exam.

You can also expect up to 20% surgical topics. Please note that the allocations for every content area vary slightly.

Medical Content Category

Allocation (%)

Cardiovascular System


Dermatologic System


Endocrine System 


Eyes, Ears, Nose, and Throat


Gastrointestinal System/Nutrition


Genitourinary System (Male and Female)


Hematologic System


Infectious Diseases


Musculoskeletal System


Neurologic System


Psychiatry/Behavioral Science


Pulmonary System


Renal System


Reproductive System (Male and Female)


PA Task Category

Allocation (%)

History Taking and Performing Examination


Using Diagnostic and Laboratory Studies


Formulating Most Likely Diagnosis


Health Maintenance, Patient Education, and

Preventative Measures 


Clinical Intervention




Applying Basic Scientific Concepts


Professional Practice



How to study for the PANCE 

Preparing for the PANCE can be overwhelming, but with the right PANCE study tips and strategies, you’ll be on the right track in no time. 

PANCE Study Tip 1: Keep information fresh

Schedule your PANCE exam early! While you may want to kick your feet up and relax for a few months post-graduation, you should schedule your PANCE exam within a realistic timeline. You don’t want all that fresh PA information to go to waste, do you?

With at least two to three months of PANCE prep, you’ll be ready. However, going too long without studying, procrastinating, or getting distracted during study times can seriously harm your chances of performing well on the PANCE. So, don’t be avoidant—be proactive.

PANCE Study Tip 2: Select your resources…but not too many

Hold your horses for a sec. Being proactive doesn’t mean grabbing every review book, using every Qbank known to man, or watching PANCE videos on repeat. While there’s an abundant amount of resources out there, select a few that work for you. PANCE examinees often go with a Qbank and a study tool like Picmonic.

PANCE Study Tip 3: Take a practice exam

Practice exams are going to be your best friend. NCCPA Practice Exams are $50 and can help you map your performance over time. It’s a total of 120 questions. You’ll have a 1-hour block to complete 60 questions–it’s perfect to start practicing for the long PANCE exam. Plus, your performance profile will report your overall strengths and weaknesses. Don’t expect to receive individual question results, though. Here’s a sample profile so you get the gist. 

PANCE Study Tip 4: Get familiar with time blocks

The PANCE is a long exam. To prepare, you should recreate time blocks during practice exams, Qbanks, or throughout your study time. Start with answering 10 questions in 10 minutes and add more from there. This also means you should create a test-taking strategy.

While this may feel like a race against the clock, don’t ever rush. Take deep breaths, read every question thoroughly, and use your best judgment. This is a great way to simulate the exam environment so you can build stamina, practice time management, and be physically and mentally prepared.

PANCE Study Tip 5: Maximize your study time

Finding your best study mix is key. Start with topics that have a higher allocation percentage on the PANCE exam and what you find the most challenging. It will take some trial and error, and you may need to spend more time studying one topic than another. If necessary, use refreshers to keep all topics at the top of your mind. Quick reviews can be a daily-spaced repetition quiz with Picmonic or your favorite picture mnemonic

Create your PANCE Study Schedule

It’s time to create your PANCE study plan. Maintaining a study-life balance, sleeping, eating, and taking care of your needs is important to this timeline. Remember, you can only take the PANCE once in a 90-day period or three times in a calendar year. Use this timeline as a guideline and adapt it to your needs as needed. Studying for the PANCE is never one-size-fits-all, but this PANCE study schedule is a great way to get started.

Week 1 to 2: Work on establishing and refining your PANCE study timeline. Find the best two-to-three-hour blocks of your day to study, and try to study at least five days a week. Set aside time for quick reviews or refreshers if needed, but you should have a schedule that will work for you over the next three or more months. Most who study for the PANCE start studying the major medical content categories, but you don’t have to start in chronological order. Challenge yourself with content sections you feel uneasy about.

Week 3 to 4: Continue your studying. You should take a practice exam to see your progress so far. If you feel you’re spending too much time in one area of study, test your knowledge or take a break and come back to it later. With your exam results, start allocating extra time for sections you need improvement in. 

Week 5 to 6: Don’t neglect cardiovascular, respiratory, musculoskeletal, and other systems. There is a lot of information within these topics, and while they may have a smaller allocation percentage, they’re still important need-to-knows. Use your resources to remember more in less time.

Week 7 to 8: This is the time to get disciplined with time blocks in your study sessions. Try to maximize your study time and begin timing yourself during quizzes, practice exams, or Qbanks. If you’re finding it difficult to be motivated at this time, dive into a content section that interests you the most. 

Week 9 to 10: Practice your test-taking skills. Block out two hours in your day to take a practice exam while simulating the exam environment. If you find your test-taking skills need a little improvement, take a breath and work on it. Reinforce concepts with review quizzes and refreshers. 

Week 11 to 12: Go over any areas you don’t feel confident in. Otherwise, don’t spend the final days leading to your exam stressing or cramming. A few review sessions are fine, but trust what you know. 

Prep with the best—Picmonic!

Now that you know a few PANCE study tips and have your study schedule, it’s time to sign up for the study resource of your dreams. Picmonic is a research-proven study tool that guarantees you’ll pass the PANCE exam. With 1,800+ physician assistant mnemonics, covering 21,000 need-to-know facts, PA students are set for success. Use it to review, quiz yourself, study, and learn everything you need for the PANCE exam.


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