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GPhC predicts 60% pass rate for first online registration exam

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is "conservatively" estimating that it will record a 60% pass rate in its March exam, the first to be held in an online format.

The regulator is predicting a lower pass rate than previous years “due to the new nature of the exam and current climate”, according to council papers published ahead of its meeting this week (February 11).

In a statement following the publication of this article*, Mark Voce,  GPhC director of education and standards said the 60% figure “is definitely not a prediction; it is a conservative estimate designed solely for budget purposes to ensure we do not over-predict how many pharmacists may be on the register”.

“Pass rates are decided by the board of assessors based on candidate performance on the day. We are confident that candidates will have a good opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding at the March sitting and that everyone who meets the standard will pass,” he added.

Around 3,200 candidates are expected to sit the delayed online registration assessment on March 17-18, either at one of the Pearson VUE centres or remotely. This is the first of three assessments that the GPhC will hold this year, the regulator said.

As the provisional register is open until July, the GPhC expects that some prov-regs will opt to wait to sit the second assessment in the summer, it said.

Therefore, the summer assessment cohort of around 4,500 candidates “will be made up of 40% of candidates that have either chosen not to sit/or are re-sitting the March exam and the main cohort of candidates currently undergoing the pre-reg training” – approximately 2,815 pharmacist trainees, the GPhC estimated.

Taking into consideration the 2019 average pass rate – the record low of 72.3% reported for the June registration exam and the 69% pass rate for the September exam – the GPhC calculated a pass rate of 71% for this summer’s registration assessment.

It applied the same pass rate “to the additional circa 1,000 [candidates] that will potentially re-sit [the] final assessment for the year”, the regulator added.

“Based on historical trends, 90% of the passed candidates are expected to fully register, which is projected to be a year-on-year pharmacists’ growth of 7% on 2020/21,” the GPhC said in its council papers.

The regulator announced in March last year that it had decided to postpone the 2020 registration assessment due to COVID-19. In May, it told C+D that the pandemic had accelerated existing plans to move to an online registration assessment.

However, not all 2021 candidates will be able to sit the exam remotely. The GPhC announced last week (February 2) that 69 students who currently reside in countries with time difference to the UK of six hours or more will not be able to sit the assessment online or at a local test centre in their country of residence.

*This article was updated on February 10 to include the GPhC's statement, which was submitted after this article was first published.

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