SAN FRANCISCO — Students’ grades in science courses such as pathophysiology and biochemistry can predict their future scores on the Physician Assistant National Certifying Examination (PANCE), researchers reported at the American Academy of Physician Assistants 2015 meeting.

“Identifying predicting factors of PANCE passage may help to identify a student’s ability to pass the PANCE early in the curriculum, as well as improve program quality and graduate success,” stated Renee Andreeff, EdD, PA-C, DFAAP, and colleagues.

The researchers sought to validate a previous single-site study that investigated the association between academic performance in specific undergraduate science courses and students’ scores on PANCE. The new study was expanded to include an additional PA program, and age and gender were also included to identify predictive factors of the students’ passage of PANCE.

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The retrospective cohort study included student records of first-attempt chemistry I, pathophysiology, and biochemistry course grades, as well as first-attempt PANCE scores for PA graduates from two private, not-for-profit colleges located in the northeastern United States (n=204) from 2006 to 2010.

The researchers found that pathophysiology and biochemistry had significant positive regression coefficients, predicting higher PANCE scores of 59.21 and 50.17 points, respectively, for every one unit increase in pathophysiology course grade (i.e., B to A) after controlling for age and gender. Age had a significant negative regression coefficient, predicting lower PANCE scores of 4.4 points for every unit increase in age (i.e., 30 to 31).

“The results of this study support results found in the previous single-site study, which indicated that higher grades in specific undergraduate science courses — pathophysiology and biochemistry — predicted higher PANCE scores,” reported Andreeff, an assistant professor at D’Youville College Physician Assistant Department in Buffalo, New York. “In addition, an increase in age was found to be predictive of lower scores.”

Andreeff pointed out that external variables such as student pre-professional preparation cannot be controlled for and can vary widely based on the course instructor.

“PA programs should analyze their own curriculum to determine which courses they offer that are most predictive of PANCE success,” she stated. “Specific examination of science course grades and admission criteria needs to occur to determine additional variables that may be predictive of PANCE passage. Faculty should also examine their own institution’s minimum grades required in pre-requisite classes to determine which may be predictive of PANCE success.”


  1. Andreeff R et al. “Predictors of PA Student Success on the PANCE: An Expanded Look.” Presented at: AAPA 2015. May 23-27. San Francisco, California.