How You Will Know if You Passed the Physician Assistant Exam - dummies

How You Will Know if You Passed the Physician Assistant Exam

By Barry Schoenborn, Richard Snyder

You’re likely concerned with your total Physician Assistant Exam (PANCE or PANRE) test score and whether it’s high enough to pass. Each question can yield either a 1 (correct) or a 0 (wrong) — you get 1 point for each correct answer and nothing for wrong or unanswered questions, so there’s no penalty for guessing. A raw score of 300 on the PANCE or 240 on the PANRE is a perfect score.

However, you’ll never see the count of questions you got right or wrong. The test-makers have a complex system of weighting the questions based on difficulty to produce a scaled score. For test-takers, there’s no way to correlate the raw score to the scaled score.

Your scaled score will be somewhere between 200 and 800, and NCCPA will tell you whether your score is high enough to pass. The details, if any, will be available to you when you see your exam results.

Some sources suggest that you need at least 60 percent correct answers, and it is speculated that 62.5 percent is a good figure. However, analyze the math here. If you don’t know which questions have less weight and which ones have more weight, the percentage of correct answers doesn’t mean much. The following can be said about your score:

  • A good performance on “easy” questions can increase your number and percentage of correct answers, but you don’t know which ones NCCPA considers to be easy.

  • A good performance on “hard” questions can increase your scaled score. Again, you don’t know which questions NCCPA considers to be hard.

  • A good performance in one subject area can offset a poor performance in another area. You can move faster and more confidently through subject areas you know very well, leaving you more time to ponder items you don’t know as well.

  • Although all subject areas are important, certain topics (heart, 16 percent; lungs, 12 percent; bones and joints, 10 percent; and gastrointestinal, 10 percent) account for almost half of the test questions.

Your goal isn’t to slide by, so don’t worry about any minimum passing score. Your goal should be to answer all the questions you can correctly.