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Preparing for the PANCE

Mental health issues like anxiety or depression can affect student's schoolwork, and can be identified with screenings by the MSU Counseling Center. The Center will be hosting free screening at different locations around campus on Thursday. Lauren Wood/The State News

I have been asked many times, how to prepare for the PANCE.  I thought I would write a post detailing my strategy, so that everyone can take a look and benefit.  Taking the PANCE can be very scary, seeing as how this test will determine your entire future.  Pass, and you can start working as a physician assistant.  Fail, and well, back to studying!  There is a lot of pressure for students.  The good thing is that you have been prepping for this test for the past 2-3 years.  The bad thing is you didn’t know it.

So, you graduated, or are close to graduation, and you need to start prepping.  The first thing is to write down a plan of action.  Yes, write it down, and post it somewhere you can see every day.  This way, you wake up, and are reminded of what needs to be accomplished that day.  If you don’t write it down, you won’t do it.  Plain and simple.

First, I would take a practice exam.  This way, you can identify which areas will require a little extra work.  Next, realize the big four are cardiovascular (16%), pulmonology (12%), muskuloskeletal/rheumatology (10%), and gastroenterology (10%).  If you are deficient in one these four areas, then a big emphasis will need to be placed on this subject matter, as these four organ systems make up 48% of your exam!  Also, realize that only 10% of your exam will be testing the basic sciences.  These questions are made up of anatomy, physiology, microbiology, and biochemistry.  Study these things, but don’t kill yourself, as these topics are not high yield.

The key here is not the amount of hours you are putting in, but the quality of the hours.  If you can review 6 hours a day, instead of 8-10, why wouldn’t you?  The problem is, people like to study with distractions.  Make sure the television, music, social media, whatever, are not interfering with your study time.  Look at these things on your scheduled breaks.  The problem is, although it may only take 2 minutes to check your facebook, it will take some times to readjust your brain back into the studying mentality.  This is a waste of your time.  Therefore, I emphasize quality over quantity.  Make your hours count!

I would suggest dedicating four weeks to review.  This is just my recommendation, some people feel ready immediately, and others will need more time.  Whatever you choose, make a schedule, write it down, and stick to it.  I would choose two study guides (max 3) and begin reviewing high yield information.  This is not the time to bust out Harrisons.  You do not have the luxury of reading 50 pages on the pathophysiology of influenza.  Thats what your two years of school were for.  This month is dedicated to reviewing high yield information.  You need to PASS.  You need to maximize your hours so that you do not waste them reviewing things that are unnecessary.  Now, why do I say two study guides?  Well, there is such a thing as having too many options.  It can be overwhelming, and again, will take away from moving on to the next subject.  Two or three will allow you to cross reference to make sure the information is valid, without overwhelming you with extra information.  Which review sources do I recommend?  Unfortunately I didn’t like many review books, which is why I decided to create this website.  I honestly feel that the information I provide to you on the ExamPrep section is the best resource you can use.  Obviously, this wasn’t around when I was studying, so what did I use?  I mainly used Kaplans review books for USMLE 2 and 3.  Obviously this was not ideal, as they do not follow the PANCE blueprint, but I liked the way the information was presented.

After reviewing the content, make sure to do practice questions.  Questions allow three things to occur:

1. It allows you to practice reading a question, extrapolate the needed information, and then choosing the BEST answer.  Practicing is key to success.
2. It also allows you to see why certain answers are NOT correct.  Realizing why not to choose an answer is very important in your review.
3. Lastly, it allows you to make sure you can answer questions in the time allotted.  This means you should time yourself whenever you do these practice tests.

What question bank did I use?  I used Kaplans q bank for the PANCE, and thought it was decent.  I also tried exam master, but the questions on there were nothing like when I actually had to take the PANCE.  Exam master simply made me feel inadequate lol.  Their questions are definitely more complicated than what you will see on the PANCE.  So, practice questions every day, focused on the organ system you are reviewing .

The two days up to the exam, you need to close your books, and just relax.  You have been studying for two years.  You have been reviewing high yield information for the past month.  You have dedicated that last four weeks, studying six hours a day, six to seven days a week for this.  You have learned everything you are going to learn to pass the exam.  An extra day or two of cramming will only lead to test anxiety.  Why?  Because you will constantly bump into things you didn’t know, which will make you wonder what else you didn’t know.  The problem is, this never ends.  I still bump into things I don’t know and I took the PANCE two years ago!  Medicine is just an endless pool of knowledge.  By relaxing the last couple of days, you give your mind a break, so that you can tackle the exam and crush it!  A good nights sleep the day before is essential.

Lastly, and most importantly, believe in yourself.  Go into the exam confident and visualize yourself passing.  You WILL pass the PANCE.  It will all be worth it, I promise.


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