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Best Options & Prep for PA Recertification

Best Options & Prep for PA Recertification
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“Which exam should I take?”, is a question you may be asking yourself if you are a physician assistant who is required to recertify in 2024-2027. The National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants (NCCPA) now provides two recertification options:

  • The Physician Assistant National Recertifying Examination (PANRE) is taken every 9-10 years.

  • The Physician Assistant National Recertifying Examination-Longitudinal Assessment (PANRE-LA) is a new option starting in 2023, and it is taken over 8-12 quarters in a three-year period.

We have the answers for everything you need to know about taking the PANRE versus the PANRE-LA if you are a PA looking for a hospital career or if you are a currently practicing PA who is recertifying. For many PAs, the thought of recertification may evoke a range of reactions from excitement to anxiety. However, the process doesn't have to be stressful. We've compiled the information you need to know to help you select the best recertification option. In this article, we'll help you narrow down your exam choice, and we’ll share valuable resources to help you prepare for your exam.



If you are a busy PA starting to think about recertification, you should consider your schedule, study time, and the exam prep resources you’ll use in preparation for the exam. We’ll cover each exam’s specifics to help you determine whether the traditional PANRE or the new, more flexible PANRE-LA is right for you.



The PANRE is administered throughout the year at Pearson VUE test centers. The PANRE may work best for you if you prefer to take the exam at a physical location and if you want to complete the exam in one sitting. The exam can be completed in one five-hour session on one day. This gives you time to schedule the exam around your current workload and assignments. Plus, you won’t have to commit to 8-12 quarters worth of questions like the PANRE-LA, and you have the option to retake the PANRE if you don’t pass the first time. Here is a breakdown of the PANRE exam.


On site at a Pearson Vue test center



Exam Length: 

Completed in one 5-hour session 

4-hour test 

45-minute break 

15-minute tutorial


240 multiple-choice questions


Open Book:  

No outside materials allowed

Score Results: 

Scores are typically available within 2 weeks

Passing Score:


Option to Retake:


CME Available

Category 2 credits for time studying

The Recertification Cycle for the PANRE is available for PAs in the 9th and 10th years of their certification maintenance cycle. To pass the PANRE exam, you must reach or exceed the passing score of 379, which is determined through a process called standard setting. PAs can take the PANRE a maximum of four times, including two times in their ninth year and up to three times in their 10th year. You’re allowed to take the PANRE once in a 90-day period. A separate examination fee is incurred with each examination.



Starting in 2023, the PANRE-LA is an alternative exam assessment offered by the NCCPA and administered online. PAs are required to apply in the 6th year of their recertification cycle. To arrive at the decision to add another exam option for PAs, the NCCPA researched current recertification assessment trends, knowledge retention, adult learning, and feedback from various stakeholder groups. A key driver in adding the PANRE-LA, was feedback from the PA profession-convening focus groups. After reviewing profession-wide surveys, a Pilot assessment was implemented and PA assessment takers provided feedback.  The resultant data collected helped create the framework for the more flexible, open book PANRE-LA assessment, which is more representative of how PAs practice and utilize diagnostic and treatment resources in the field. 

According to NCCPA President and CEO Dawn Morton-Rias, Ed.D., PA-C, “The PANRE-LA process helps PAs identify and close knowledge gaps. It reduces the stress and anxiety that come with taking a test. PAs don’t have to schedule time away from work to travel to test centers and can take the exam at their convenience.”

If you don't have time for hours of studying and want to avoid test anxiety and stress of the PANRE exam, the PANRE-LA may be right for you. Since the PANRE-LA is open book, you can use outside sources and materials to answer questions with up to five minutes to answer each question.  Answer PANRE-LA questions online by logging into your NCCPA account. Here is a breakdown of the PANRE-LA exam.


Anywhere online on your own device



Exam Length: 

8-12 quarters total (spans 2-3 years)

Up to 5 minutes per question

Up to 125 minutes per quarter


Consists of 240 questions

25 per quarter

200 per 8 quarters

300 per 12 quarters

Open Book:  

Outside source materials allowed

Score Results: 

Scores are available at time of online submission

Passing Score:


Option to Retake:

No, but if you don’t pass, you can take the PANRE

CME Available

(2) Category 1 credits for each quarter in which you complete 25 questions 

The PANRE- LA recertification cycle is administered in 12 quarters over a 3-year period, beginning in the 7th year of the certification maintenance cycle. Board Certified PAs can apply for PANRE-LA in the 6th year of their recertification cycle and start the exam in January of their 7th year.

To pass the PANRE-LA, you must reach or exceed a score of 1150. The NCCPA states, the passing standard is not anchored to a specific raw score and the final score uses the best 8 of 12 quarters. PAs who have not met the passing standard after 8 quarters can continue participating in the PANRE-LA process until the end of the three-year assessment period. If they do not meet the minimum passing standard within the 12 quarters, they have three attempts to pass the traditional PANRE.



Once you choose the exam that is right for you, make sure you apply in advance of the exam start date. See the NCCPA application requirements and deadlines to apply. For the PANRE, the administration window for the 2023 PANRE exam is from January 3, 2023, to December 16, 2023. For the PANRE-LA, if you are due to recertify in 2027, you must apply for the PANRE-LA between July 5, 2023, and November 30, 2023. The exam will start in January 2024.


PANRE Exam Prep

When you have selected your exam and completed your online application, you’re ready to study for the PANRE. You’ll need a solid study approach that incorporates PANRE-like questions and performance features that help you identify weaknesses by exam topic. PA exam prep learning platforms provide everything you need to prepare right at your fingertips. Look for a PA Prep QBank subscription that comes with access to a mobile app and digital study tools like flashcards, notebook, video content, and expertly written medical questions and explanations, so you can study and get through your daily routine without missing a beat.

We recommend using a trusted resource like the UWorld PA QBank. The UWorld PA QBank features exam-level questions across all PANRE topics that are written at or above the exam level difficulty, an exam-like interface, and integrated study tools. Look for a PANRE prep tool that includes robust reporting features. The ability to identify knowledge gaps quickly will save you a lot of time studying for the exam. 

Most PA online learning tools provide a free trial with access to practice questions, so you can preview the quality of the questions and the included study tools. To save study time, select a QBank that includes detailed explanations for both the correct and incorrect answers. The detailed rationale should explain the “why” behind each answer choice; guiding you through the logic behind the correct answer choice as well as helping to identify where conceptual similarities might lead to selecting the incorrect answer. If all the content you need to know is located within the rationale you won’t have to use external sources to understand the clinical question. 


Image Source: UWorld PA


PANRE Study Tips

Have a Study Plan Set aside specific times each day to study. Allocate enough time for each study session to cover your chosen topics for the day and make sure to take regular breaks. 

  1. Start Early Begin studying at least three months in advance and map out a plan that tackles all of the material on the PANRE. This will help you master each topic and avoid last-minute cramming.

  2. Test Your PA Knowledge Daily and Weekly To truly master the concepts, test your knowledge by answering PANRE-style practice questions regularly. This proven active learning approach helps solidify difficult medical concepts faster. According to a study on learning-centered approaches to education, people learn more when they participate in the learning process. The Neuroscience of Active Learning suggests that active teaching styles may lead to improved outcomes and Cornell University outlines some compelling reasons to use active learning. 

  3. Use a PA Prep Mobile App  The app allows you to study on the go and in moments between hospital rounds, at break, and during down times. Studying in small increments or reviewing a few flashcards on the go is a tool in your arsenal that will help you avoid hospital burnout. Plus, a mobile app helps promote microlearning and active learning skills. Look for a mobile app that includes performance metrics, so you can see which topics you are excelling at and which topic areas need improvement. 

  4. Stay Focused Find a quiet, comfortable study space, eliminate distractions, and turn off digital devices that you’re not using to study.

  5. Build exam day stamina Practice in exam-like conditions with timed sessions at least 3 months before the exam. Use a PA QBank that includes an exam-like interface and allows you to create and take timed practice tests. 

When you study with practice questions and detailed explanations that cover every rotation and clinical topic encountered on the test and in real-life practice, your exam will feel like just another practice session, and you’ll complete it knowing you’ve passed.


Image Source: UWorld PA


Taking the PANRE or PANRE-LA Exam

Overall, choosing which test to take is a personal decision that depends on your learning style, lifestyle, and test-taking style. For the most efficient study and exam preparation, choosing the best prep resources and PANRE QBank will help you develop the knowledge needed to confidently achieve a top score on the PANRE or PANRE-LA. With regular study, including daily and weekly question practice and mock exam practice, your exam will feel like just another practice session, and you’ll complete the exam knowing you’ve passed with ease.


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