If you’re not a Physician Assistant you probably want to tune out right now.
If you are, these 5 dreaded letters tend to haunt your existence around the 5 or 6 year mark after graduation (or 9/10 years if you’re on the new recertification cycle) . The Physician Assistant Recertification Exam (PANRE) is a recertification exam that all PA must take in order to maintain their certified status. No matter how you slice it-taking a large standardized test sucks. I find it especially daunting if you work in a speciality. The PANRE covers all aspects of medicine, not just the one you work in. For me, a whopping 5% of the exam was in Dermatology (woo hoo!) Even if you work in Family Medicine, there is going to be a significant amount of studying involved.
During PA School, your only job was to study. Once your career kicks off, you must find some significant time to study while working a full time job, adult responsibilities, having a family, etc… It’s not impossible, but in my experience I realized I had to shift some things around to devote time to my studies. I started studying 3 months prior to my exam date and studying about 1 hour a day for the first 2 months. Then, I increased the time spent daily as the exam drew closer. Two weeks prior to the exam I studied 2-3 hours a day with a few 5 hour stretches on the weekends.
Here are a few tips may help you pass:
1. Study when you can- For me, long gone are the 8 hour marathon study sessions in Starbucks. I found studying in 10-15 minute increments can be very effective too. Down time between patients? Do a few practice questions. Kids playing bath? Park it on the floor and watch an 10 minute review video on your iPad. Don’t make lack of time an excuse to study. Everyone has a limited amount of time, it is a matter of how you prioritize it (Instagram can wait)
2. Pick a date and pay for your exam- Having the pressure of an exam date will light a fire under you to get you motivated. It’s easy to keep putting things off when there is a 2 year window to take the test. Just get it over with, you will be glad you did.
3. Focus on the “big sections”- The PANRE is weighted by organ system just like the PANCE. Spend more time studying the organ systems that will be more represented on the exam like Cardio, GI, Pulmonary and Ortho. I honestly spend zero time on Dermatology and still got 100% on my Derm questions so I’ll take my 5% Derm of the exam as a gift.
4. Make sure you study all topics from the NCCPA Blueprint. They really will pull from all of these topics. There are A LOT of topics too .
5. Purchase a study guide. This pays for itself 10fold. I don’t know about you, but my notes from school are long gone. I needed something that was easy and convenient. A study guide allowed me to watch review videos on my lunch break and practice questions between patients. There are many programs/services that lay out all of the information you need according to the NCCPA blue print. A few of them I’ve personally heard good things about:
HIPPO Education PANCE/PANRE Review– This is the one I used. The videos are entertaining, concise and to the point. Lots of great practice questions and 50 Category 1 CME credits. $495
PA Board Review with Joe Gilboy– I had several friends attend this in-person 3-day course in Irvine, CA and really enjoyed it. $295
Please feel free to share in the comment section any tips you may have as well…good news is I passed my re-certification a few weeks ago! It can be done even with a full-time career, husband, kids, and while enduring 1st trimester morning sickness!