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Don’t panic! What to do if you’ve failed the pharmacist registration exam

Zhyar Said reflects on what to do once you’ve received your registration assessment results – regardless of whether you got the outcome you wanted

While running RevisePharma, a platform that educates trainee pharmacists, I have been fortunate enough to support students through many results days. The excitement from hearing of other people’s triumphs never gets old, and the empathy for the students who weren’t as successful never weakens.

Failing is never a pleasant feeling. I would be lying if I said I got through my educational career without failing anything, so I know exactly how it feels. It’s hard to imagine now, but everything tends to work out in the end. You might be delayed by a few months or a year, but when you’re 85 years old and sitting on the sofa watching TV, this little hiccup wont even come to your mind.

Read more: June registration exam pass rate drops to 77%, GPhC and PSNI announce

When it’s fresh, the disappointment may cloud your memories – but remember that you have already achieved a lot in life. Because a pharmacy degree has an integrated masters, we often forget that most people would consider holding a master’s degree to be a great feat in and of itself. For us, it’s masters or nothing. As pharmacy students, we are driven to understand that once you get your masters, that isn’t enough – you must do more. Working a full-time job while studying for an exam isn't meant to be easy.

If you want to be a pharmacist, then sure, you need to pass this general assessment. This really is if  you think the only profession that you can ever do is pharmacy. Remember, you decided that you “must be a pharmacist” when you were in your last year of A-levels submitting your UCAS forms. You were probably still a teenager.

Read more: After 14 years as a pharmacist, would I pass the GPhC registration exam today?

Being a pharmacist is something to be proud of, and it’s a great profession to be in, but it’s not that or nothing. There are many other options that I always encourage people to explore, but at the same time, I would also encourage people to finish off their registration process before doing so. It’s just good to know that if you have personally made the decision to not pursue pharmacy anymore, there are other great options available.


If you were successful


Congratulations – go and celebrate and don’t look back! You’re free… from revision, anyway. One bit of advice: don’t lose your clinical knowledge. If you don’t use it, you will lose it. Unfortunately, those joining the register this year don’t automatically qualify with an independent prescribing license as well, so you want to keep yourself fresh for when you get back into that. But well done! You’ve worked hard, and now you can kick back and relax.


If you weren’t successful


Take the weekend to recover. Reflect on what didn’t go to plan during revision, but it is also important to note what did help you answer more questions in the exam. Spend time with family or friends and just get the news out of your system.

Read more: Top tips for trainee pharmacists starting their placement year

Get yourself into the mindset that if you do want a career in pharmacy, you need to gather yourself together and give it another full-hearted attempt.


If you still have attempts left


You’re not starting from the ground floor. It’s especially painful to see if you missed out on passing by just one mark – but better that than failing by 30 marks. All you need to remember is that you have three months to learn enough to bump up your mark by one point. In that timeframe, people could easily bump up their scores by 10-20 points. If you only missed out by a few marks, you will most likely pass the November sitting and you will most likely be a pharmacist by the end of 2023.

Read more: NHSE announces 29% increase in pharmacist training places by 2028/29

Most times, you will need to do something a bit different for the next sitting. Sometimes, and this is mostly the case for calculations questions, you can get away with just doing more practise in timed conditions. But usually if you fail on clinical questions, you need to switch things around.

Some people may need to go back and restart their note-taking process. Maybe it wasn’t as in depth as you needed. Maybe your notes were taken from out-of-date materials. Reach out to someone who passed and ask what they did and try to replicate that. Don’t let pride or stubbornness get in the way of reaching out for help – you don’t have limitless attempts to sit the exam.


If this was your last attempt


You have already achieved greatness. You have a master’s degree in pharmacy. The world is your oyster. Do you think that people who have a bachelor’s degree in biology or chemistry are all unemployed? I don’t think so. So why would someone with a master’s degree in pharmacy see their entire career come to a halt?

Being a pharmacist is only one of the amazing professions you can achieve with your MPharm, but by no means the only one. Sure, it would have been nice to have that as an option too, but you may realistically also end up in a more comfortable career that has better benefits and a healthier work-life balance.

Read more: Workforce plan: Pharmacist degree apprenticeship under ‘consideration’

You may also want to consider contacting the Pharmacist’s Defence Association (PDA) for some advice to see whether you can sit one more time before completely finishing that chapter in your life.

With that being said, I wish everyone the very best in their future endeavours, and I hope everyone has access to all the available support groups, including but not limited to the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS), the PDA and Pharmacist Support, as well as general wellbeing support services including Samaritans (116 123), emergency services (999) or your local GP. 

Zhyar Said is a healthcare analyst and the owner of a trainee pharmacist educational platform on Instagram called @Revise_Pharma

Want to hear what the foundation year is really like? Listen to C+D clinical and content custom editor Nana Ofori-Atta's candid chat with Marvin Munzu of Pre Reg Shortcuts in this podcast, where they share trainees' experiences of what the foundation training year is really like.

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