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The value of key/buzz words on the PANCE?

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Immediate pattern recognition is exceptionally low.  PANCE goes out of its way to make simple if/then reasoning completely useless.  Annoyingly so, in my experience--specifically as it relates to pharmacology, where the usual and customary drugs in a class can be roundly ignored in favor of drugs that no one actually uses.

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Keyword/buzzword association is important though.

This is formative learning. Need to have those basics to then synthesize, apply and create.

So the answer to your question is keyword studying should continue all the time, from the moment you enter your program to the day you graduate.

But that is only part of the equation.

Have to take those keywords and put them to use. It's called scaffolding.

Look at what you already know and use it to build your improved understanding.

Rev has alluded to this above.


For example you may keyword this:

Cellulitis-keflex(or 1st gen cephalosporin)


But the question is this:

Middle aged female pt presents with 1 day onset well demarcated erythematous warm painful area to left maxillary area of face. Oral temp is 101 but pt is nontoxic with otherwise normal vital signs. She has an anaphylactic reaction to cephalosporins documented. Pt is determined to be safe for d/c home. The oral antibiotic regimen to choose for this condition is:

a. aminopenicillin b. fluoroquinolone c. sulfonamide d. tetracycline


What you have to develop is an illness script. You diagnose the patient with erysipelas based upon acute onset, fever and demarcated facial cellulitis. While oral cephalosporin could be appropriate, it is not based upon her anaphylactic allergy. Since you know erysipelas usually has a strep etiology, you could easily choose aminopenicillin over the other choices.


This is a combination of formulate the most likely diagnosis, some basic science concepts thrown in and pharmaceutical intervention, all task areas of the PANCE while erysipelas is from the derm organ system. Bam, 4 areas tested with one question. Keywords dont get you there.


The only way to study for the PANCE is to correlate organ systems with task areas and develop that matrix. 

Dont highlight and dont reread. Dont keyword or relentlessly flashcard.

Take ownership and know.

Good luck.

G Brothers PA-C

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  • 2 weeks later...

I feel that there was a huge emphasis on buzzwords when I was studying during PA school, as well as on many practice exams - but for the actual PANCE, I would not rely on buzzwords alone. In my opinion, the Kaplan question bank has practice questions most similar to the PANCE, and these do not rely on buzzwords (for the most part).

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