Practice Exam Now Available for the New PANRE

Sep 19, 2018 | Customer Solutions

Over the many years we have been serving Physician Assistants, PA Students, and PA educators, we often were asked the question, “What’s different between the PANCE and the PANRE?”  Our response tended to fall between the not very helpful, “Not Much”, and the equally unhelpful, “Very Little”.

Both the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam (PANCE) and the Physician Assistant National Recertifying Exam (PANRE) have been based on the same or very similar NCCPA (National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants) exam blueprint.  While the exams have differed somewhat in terms of numbers of questions, the body systems that were covered and the proportion of the exam devoted to each body system tended to be the same or very similar between both exams. The cardiovascular system, for example, has always been heavily weighted on both the PANCE and the PANRE.

Because these exams were so similar, we have always offered a single collection of resources for our end users and PA program clients for both PANCE and PANRE.  Whether these were question banks or our popular practice exams, our PANCE/PANRE resources were organized essentially the same, and they featured clinically-oriented questions organized by body system and task.  There have traditionally been seven tasks.

PANCE and PANRE parting ways

As many in the PA community now know, in 2019 the PANCE and the PANRE will be parting ways to some extent.  The PANRE is changing in part because of a multi-year initiative by the NCCPA and its collaborators to identify the core medical knowledge deemed important for all certified physician assistants.  Based on a profession-wide survey, practicing PAs and stakeholders were asked to provide detailed feedback on which specific diseases and disorders they thought were core to their practice and role as Physician Assistants.  We have seen this approach used in many disciplines, including dentistry, where a complete overhaul of the dental board exams (NBDE/INBDE) is being implemented based in part on detailed surveys of practicing dentists.

What appears to be new to the PANCE/PANRE framework, at least explicitly now, and now covered under the PANRE, is the delineation of different levels of cognitive complexity to which exam questions are to be developed.  These levels are associated with the different diseases and disorders and are as follows:

  • Level 1: Recognize most likely diagnosis using signs, symptoms, and risks; refer appropriately.
  • Level 2: Make appropriate diagnosis by recognizing signs, symptoms, risks and/or interpreting results of diagnostic studies, and have knowledge of first-line treatment.
  • Level 3: Make appropriate diagnosis by recognizing signs, symptoms, risks and/or interpreting results of diagnostic studies and have knowledge of first-line treatment. In addition, have knowledge required to manage well-known comorbid conditions, contraindications, and complications.

We’ve got you covered

Accordingly, to reflect this new change for the PANRE, we have developed a new simulated PANRE practice exam that encompasses these different clinical levels assigned to the questions.  Both the PANCE and PANRE are including Professional Practice areas as well, and so we have our eye on that, too. The advent of a new certification or recertification exam always creates a bit of anxiety and uncertainty in the community to which it corresponds.  Practicing PAs do have the challenge of preparing for a recertification exam often many years after completing their formal education and training or after taking their last certification or recertification exam. It does not appear to us that these changes to the PANRE will be unduly disruptive or cause hardship, but it makes sense for us to keep our resources as relevant as possible so that we can properly support the many folks who rely on Exam Master to help them prepare.  More information on the PANRE is available here.

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