How to PASS the PANCE

I started this blog post several weeks ago, where I added things, removed some and debated if it was worth sharing with the world. This topic is universal and very subjective because I’m only a recent graduate who is sharing her one-time experience with the PANCE. The rest of the post will be very informal, so judge very lightly.

These are my views on the topic and everything I wrote about is not going to apply to every student.

Was the test hard? Yes, it was.  Probably one of the most challenging exams I’ll ever take.

What study tools did I use? I used Pance Prep Pearls and Rosh Rapid Review e-text as my text resource. Hippo education, PPP question book, Smarty Pance and Rosh Review were my resources for questions. In hindsight, I probably could’ve benefited from an additional study guide, but I am a person who doesn’t like too many sources. Once something works, rarely do I ever want to change it.

  • Rosh: I did all the body system questions, the family, internal, surgery and emergency medicine EORs. I also completed the Mock PANCE to replicate the PANCE in a 5 hour sit down. This was done 7 days before my exam.
  • Hippo: I completed at least 4x 200+ random question per practice exam. I reviewed mostly the questions I got wrong and allowed HIPPO to pick my questions based on my weak areas.
  • Smarty Pance: I did 3 of the comprehensive 225 questions exam during the first 2 weeks of my studying. I didn’t return to use Smarty Pance because it wasn’t as tough as the remaining resources.
  • PPP question book: I only did 160 question out of the whole 600 question book. I was short on time and simply preferred computerized practice question. Although if I had more time, I’d have done more of these questions because they helped.

Tutor or Exam mode while doing questions? I believe that tutor mode makes me lazy as it helps answer future questions. Simply put, I didn’t do any tutor mode. I timed myself for every exam to build up my stamina. You’re going to be taking an exam, so start stimulating that and you’ll be ready. Sidebar, I had about 8-10 min in each section of my PANCE to review my exam and news from fellow classmates was how they were running out of time.

Did I take the NCCPA Pretest?  Yes, I did and totally worth the $50 investment. Honestly, this is the only test that is very similar to the actual test and helps to show where you stand among your peers who’ve taken it. Do not take the pretest until you’ve reviewed all the topics and at least 10-14 before your exam date. It has a way of unnerving even the calmest students, so prepare for it because you don’t want to waste your money or time taking it when you’re not ready.

What were my weak areas? Pulm, Msk, OBGYN & GU were my weak points. I did terrible on reproductive system because I did not review those topics before taking the pretest. Therefore, it is important to finish reviewing all materials before taking it. TRUST ME.

How long did I study? PANCE is an individual race. You must know where you’re as a student and know what works best for you. I took my exam exactly 6 weeks after my first board review. I put in about 10 hours x 4 days a week consistently in the library and a about 6 hours here and there on days I wasn’t in the library.  I needed the structure of the library and no distraction to complete what I needed to do. While this worked for me, it can be different for you. I know a lot of people say you’re studying for PANCE while in clinical rotation, but that time is not the same because you’re still focused on passing an EOR & graduating. There must be time set apart to focus on solely studying for the PANCE and that time varies. Average recommended time is 4-8 weeks depending on who you’re. Some students will take it within 2 weeks, while some will take 10 weeks or more. Its all up to where you stand.

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How much time is too much time? Just as you don’t want to take the exam unprepared, don’t take forever either. You can be ready objectively but subjectively you may feel not ready and willing to keep pushing off the test. If your practice scores show that you’re doing well, your pretest places you in the green and you know your stuff, don’t take forever waiting. Because life will be happening around you, which can affect how well you study if you are weeks to far into it.

What topics needs extra attention? The main heavy hitters to know are cardio, pulm and GI. BUT, reproductive health, GU, and professional practice are content areas not usually given much thoughts to and I’d recommend paying closer attention to them. Personally, I treated reproductive health as a topic that “I should know already” but it turns out that I needed to read and put in more effort.  Do not sleep on professional practice content areas.

Was I anxious? I had a lot of anxiety leading up to my exam and even until the morning I got my result. I was blessed to receive so many great news that morning- my niece was born that morning as well. I believe that being mentally prepared for the exam was just as important as studying for the actual blueprint. We know the material but learning to be a test taker and not doubting yourself is vital. After my exam, I felt like such a weight was lifted and that I could have passed. While thinking about that, I tried to quell my eagerness because you just never know. That was the hardest part and the waiting was bad. Thank God for great friends who will adjust their plans to keep you company after taking that exam!

Does your score matter? I simply have no idea. To me it doesn’t matter if you pass at 350 or 750, because you’re both a PA-C. Your test score doesn’t determine what type of practitioner you’ll be. While studying, ask your faculty what numbers are ideal to be scoring. If you reach out to me personally, I will share what numbers I think can tell you where you stand. I have only my knowledge and other classmates to use as my source for it, which is why I do not feel comfortable sharing it here.

Test taking tips… Do not change the question asked. Answer what you’re given, as it is given. Do not think like a clinician, think exactly like the textbook. Read the last line first and then start from the beginning to help focus. Review questions you answered wrong then find out why you answered it the way you did and learn from it.

Group study or no? I did one group study session with my friends and it was only on cardiology. While it was helpful, we found that we were all at different points and wasn’t going to be productive to keep meeting up. We stayed in touch via video chat, group text and phone call whenever someone had a question, which was very often!

My support system was… My three closest friends in the program were the people I spoke with the most. I shared everything from my anxiety, study techniques, stress and tips with them and vice versa. I limited the amount of people who had access to me during my study time because I didn’t want to interrupt the energy I had cultivated. My state of mind during those 6 weeks were fragile and life was happening all around me and I had to block a lot of it out. You must do what you have to do sis!

If you’ve made it this far, I hope you learned something and will share my experience with the 2019 PANCE with others. It was an exam that put my 27 months in the program to test, to see if I had what it takes to practice. I am blessed to have family and friends who supported me because it was a tough 6 weeks. No one else will be able to understand what you’re feeling, except for your classmates, so it is okay to take however long you need to be ready. If I remember more helpful information, I’ll update this post as needed.

B.

p.s: be mentally prepared by learning how to control your anxiety.

p.s.s: If you are a borderline student or struggled while taking your EORs, PACKRAT etc, then I’d recommend taking your time to evaluate your weak areas and strengthen them. Those areas do not disappear just because you’re done with school. The PANCE is too important and expensive to just “go take it”. There are students who don’t pass or do well, that’s the sad reality of it. It doesn’t mean they’re not smart, they just must adjust to taking a test. Do yourself a great service and do what’s best for you. Check how you’re scoring on your practice test; find patterns in questions you get wrong and alter your studying appropriately.

p.s.s.s: the passing score of 350 from last year exam will not yield a 350 this year according to the information regarding the 2019 PANCE. That means the PANCE was harder this year, which has put alot of people on edge. It is neccessary to stress, because you want that “C” bad, but don’t let the stress stop you from effectively studying and learning to be a better tester.

The 2019 PANCE was a real one, from my experience and the passing rate nationwide.

 

7 Tips to Create a Competitive Transcript for PA School

PA school has evolved from the first class at Duke University 50 years ago. PAs today can now hold a masters degree in the profession and students as young as high school graduates begin their journey toward earning the most expensive “C” of their life. A lot has changed and will continue to. Prior to applying to programs, I did alot of research, like many people do. The initial part of my research focused on my transcript. I knew I wanted to be a PA from high school, so I tailored my classes toward meeting my prerequisites as well as taking classes that I had interest in, although not neccessary for PA school (i.e African American Lit, Drama & Women Fiction). As of 2016 when I sent in my applications, schools began to increase necessary classes to have, such as requiring and not recommending biochemistry on your transcript. This pattern of requiring more from applicants would only increase as schools tries to create a more competitive pool of applicants.

So how can you create a competitive transcript?
  1. Start early and be patient. Check out requirements for multiple PA schools. If you’re just starting college, that’s great. You have a blank canvas, so create and plan accordingly. Anatomy, Physiology, General and Organic Chemistry, Psychology, Statistics and/or Calculus, English Composition and Microbiology are the most common basic requirements for the program. Work with an advisor to anticipate when you will take these classes if you’re still an undergrad. If you’re a post grad student, check your transcripts and make sure you have the most basic requirements the school ask for. If you don’t, enroll and give yourself enough time to get those classes before applying. Most schools accept one or two prerequisite to be in process if you’re applying for the current cycle. If you’re going to be a PA, don’t put a time stamp on when you must achieve it.
  2. Advance science courses such as Biochemistry, Histology, Molecular Biology, General Physiology, Genetics, Embryology, Analytical Chemistry should be considered. Schools look for students who have more than the minimum requirements. Some of these classes are going to be part of your curriculum if you’re a Biology or Chemistry major anyways.
  3. Take classes outside of your major that can help to reflect a well rounded student. Take an additional psychology class that you find interesting, or an advance writing class. It helps to add character to your transcript.
  4. Check if your prospective PA schools have an advisement committee for incoming students or open houses. Some schools hold advisement during open houses for students to see if they do have the correct requirements and allow their staffs to give advice. Some schools will look through your transcript, so inquire if you need to.
  5. Seek help with your classes. If you’re struggling with a class, ask for the help of tutors. Putting in your best effort in each class will yield great results at the end of the semester. Most undergraduate school have learning centers and since you’re already paying tuition, might as well make use of your money.
  6. If you’re a post graduate student and you need to re-take a class because of a low grade, do so. Retaking the class & working hard to earn a better grade is important. It shows that you’re determined and learn from your mistakes. I don’t recommend withdrawing from a class if you’re in progress, but if you need to, do it. Life happens and you must always make a decision that will benefit you. Better to retake the class and give it your all, than to finish half baked.
  7. Look up your professors prior to taking their class. I used ratemyprofessor site while in undergrad and it saved me from alot of heartache. Ask your seniors about the professors, tips to help with the class. Remember a closed mouth doesn’t get fed.

Bonus : Make sure your classes are still within the time frame for your perspective program. Some schools have limited course life, some up to 5, 7, 10 years since you took the class. Check with the schools you’ll like to attend to make sure your courses are still in good standing. Applications are expensive and you don’t want waste your time and money.

PA school applications are much more than your transcript and grades. They’re looking at the overall student, but making sure you are solid on areas that may easily be fixed prior to applying is crucial. Double, triple check your transcript and plan ahead. If you’re not prepared for the long journey of PA school, you’ll be frustrated and discouraged very easily.

If there are other tips or ideas to help someone with creating a competitive transcript, share!!!

And don’t forget to share and comment if this post was helpful.

Get Comfortable being Uncomfortable as a Pre-Pa

In everything that you do, be it as a student, volunteer or liscensed professional, do it with grace. I have had the opportunity to be each one in my short life and while each role has different responsibilities, I always try to give do my best. While you’re applying to schools, you’ll have to be a volunteer shadowing a PA/MD. Your responsibilities are very limited and the day may seem to drag. It can be tempting to not pay attention to what is going on because your job may seem meniscal to that of the preceptor but it isnt.

Use the time in the clinic/hospital start learning your History & Physical skills. Get comfortable with asking questions, performing physicals and learning how to evaluate the lab results. Some people are not as social as others and struggle with this. It takes a few tries to really know how to direct a question and get the information you need from your patients. I’m still learning how to take a great history and I’ve been doing this for a while. You’ll still go over these skills in school but knowing how to interact with your patient is a skill that takes time. Starting early only gives you a great advantage and gets you out of that awkward few encounters