First Steps to the PANRE

Published: 20th January 2012
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The PANRE needs to passed at least one time every six years in order to maintain your certification. The test is managed by the NCCPA. It is made up of 240 questions and is just a little more than four hours long. If want to keep your certification you must pass the PANRE. The trouble is that being aware that you must pass the PANRE and choosing to take it are two different things. This is a very hard step for most physician assistants. You haven't sat for an exam in five long years. You have little or no interest in a lot of the areas you need to review. Regardless, you must ultimately decide to sit for the test and study for it.

A physician assistant first becomes entitled to take the PANRE while in his fifth year after becoming certified. You are able to sit for the test twice while in your fifth year. These two tries are required to be at the very least 90 days apart. These guidelines hold true throughout your sixth year also.

If you want to be able to sit for the PANRE twice in one year, the first attempt should be booked for early in September. That will leave 90 days before the end of the year. The PANRE is not given the last week in December so make certain to plan your first try early enough.

You will want to check out the NCCPA website as soon as you have made up your mind to take the PANRE. Log into your account and in the left hand column there will be a link for exam registration that will help you through the registration process. There is also a registration fee of $350. During registration you will also have to decide which version of the PANRE to take.

You may choose from three different versions of the PANRE. The options are adult medicine, surgery and primary care, which is the traditional version of the PANRE. 60% of the material is the same across all three options. The remaining questions will come from material based on the area you chose. The NCCPA clearly states that all of the exams are equally difficult and are still generalist exams where the content blueprint still is applicable.

Once you are done with registration you have 180 days to take the exam . If you are at the end of your 6th year, you obviously have less time. After completing the registration you will receive an e-mail from the NCCPA directing you to book your examination with Pearson Vue. Pearson Vue is the company who administers the test. The e-mail will have a link to where you can schedule the location and time for your PANRE. There is a short training exercise for the PANRE at http://www.pearsonvue.com/nccpa/ which reviews how the computer application operates while in the examination. Completing this ahead of time will give you one less thing to stress about on the day of the exam.

The PANRE is made of 240 multiple choice questions. These are called clinical vignettes, meaning you are given a patient presentation or problem with all of the clinical facts you need to answer the question. The topics for the questions come directly from the content blueprint which is available on the NCCPA website.
The content blueprint is recreated below.

Practice Tasks

H&P 16%
Labs and studies 14% ***
Diagnosing 18%
Health Maintenance 10%
Clinical Intervention 14%
Pharmaceutical Therapeutics 18%
Basic Science Concepts 10%

*** You will be supplied with all of the normal lab values during the exam. There is no reason to memorize normal lab values.

Disease/Disorder by Organ System

Cardiovascular 16%
Pulmonary 12%
GI/Nutritional 10%
Musculoskeletal 10%
EENT 09%
Reproductive 08%
Endocrine 06%
Genitourinary 06%
Psych 06%
Neuro 06%
Dermatologic 05%
Hematologic 03%
ID 03%

The exam is broken up into four sixty minute blocks. Each block contains sixty questions. You have about one minute per question. You will be allowed to take a rest between each block. There are 45 minutes in total for breaks during the test which may be broken up between these three breaks in whatever way you decide. During the exam try not to forget to to put something down for each and every question. Your score is dependent only on the number of questions that you answer correctly. You will not be penalized for guessing. Once a question block is finished you may not go back to it, so be absolutely sure there is something down for every question.

Generally you will be given your results in 2-3 weeks. You will get your score and a breakdown of each section. I hope you won’t need this information, but if you do have to retake the test It is nice to know what topics you need to focus on. Best of luck!

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