PA Program graduates pass board certification exam with 94% pass rate


The PA Program’s class of 2023 passed the Physician Assistant National Certifying Exam, a board-certifying exam, at a 94% pass rate. In line with the trend set by previous cohorts, the December 2023 graduates of the JMU PA Program have achieved a pass rate over the national exam pass rate, continuing the program’s tradition of excellence.

Over the past five years, graduates of the PA program have passed the PANCE exam with an average pass rate of 98%.

The exam is “300 multiple choice questions, in blocks of 60 questions, for a 5-hour exam,” covering topics on “all medicine broadly,” according to Jerry Weniger, associate professor and program director of the Physician Assistant program.

When asked about how the program has successfully trained students to pass the board-certifying exam, Weniger credits the excellent faculty and students, along with the program’s approach to preparing for the exam.

“We have really good faculty,” Weniger said. “We have a good team and good cohesion.”

In regards to the students in the program, Weniger and other PA Program faculty are hands-on during the admissions and acceptance processes.

“We do all our own admissions,” Weniger said. “We had 597 applications for 32 spots” for the 2023 graduating cohort. The PA faculty took lots of time to sort through the applications and organize on-campus interviews for student candidates. “If you bring in good students, you’ll have a good output,” Weniger said.

Weniger explained that other PA programs may host preparation weekends in advance of the exam, but the PA program at JMU focuses on thoroughly equipping students to be successful PAs throughout the entire program.

“We tell them that the entire program is PANCE prep,” Weniger said. “As we approach graduation, we do discuss strategy, finding a testing center, and preparing to take the test.”

Although the National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, who issues the PANCE exam, is protective of their scoring systems to ensure the integrity of the exam, the PA program utilizes released information from previous students’ exams to get a help students assess their strengthens and weaknesses to prepare for the exam.

“Every student is going to have different deficiencies, depending on their interests or specialties,” Weniger said. Students in the PA program are guided in creating their own individualized study plan after taking a practice test.

After successfully passing the PANCE exam, graduates will then go on to receive state licensure and pursue careers as physician assistants in various healthcare specialties.

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by Lindsey Park

Published: Friday, March 1, 2024

Last Updated: Thursday, March 14, 2024

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