Five top tips to help you nail the calculations paper in the GPhC exam
Calculations questions can be tough, says Micah Aniakor. Follow these easy steps to give yourself the best chance possible of passing the registration exam in November
In this article, I go over a series of practical steps to ensure a successful outcome for all trainee pharmacists sitting the upcoming General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) assessment on November 2 – including those who will be resitting the exam having failed the calculations paper in June.
I would encourage candidates who failed June’s assessment to take out time to reflect on your experience, seek help and support and, once you’ve decided to sit the assessment, follow the tips, hints and advice below.
As a former school maths teacher turned GPhC exam tutor at London Pharmacist Network (LPN), I have to say that one of the fundamentals to being successful in calculations is understanding.
Candidates must ensure that they have a thorough understanding of the various topics within the GPhC calculations framework before attempting the assessment. This is because, unlike with other subjects, you cannot guess or speculate with GPhC exam calculations questions. It is of paramount importance that candidates understand what the questions require of them as well as the steps to follow to arrive at accurate answers in a timely manner.
In addition, over the past couple of years, the GPhC exam has been modified to reflect current pharmacy practice, so it is important that candidates and tutors are up to date with these changes to ensure successful outcomes and to deliver safe patient care upon qualification.
By following the practical steps below, candidates will maximise their chances of a successful outcome.
1. Build a solid foundation
Obtain a comprehensive and recent list of topics that could be assessed by the GPhC in the exam and look at detailed feedback it has provided after the most recent assessment. Once you have the list of topics, you should go over it one subject at a time using up-to-date calculations workbooks covering the syllabus. This will ensure that you have a robust and formidable understanding of each individual topic, which will ultimately boost your confidence.
This is a new, bespoke style of doing calculations and it is a much more structured and effective style than trying to cover various topics all at once. Furthermore, this method will help you to identify individual areas where additional help is needed.
2. Avoid silly mistakes
Reflecting on my many years of tutoring trainees at LPN, the most common mistakes made by trainees in calculations questions include misreading or misunderstanding the questions, incorrect rounding, wasting time wasting by using long methods, using unapproved calculators, using incorrect methods, and the incorrect use of summary of product characteristics (SPCs).
By avoiding these common mistakes, candidates will have an increased chance of succeeding. Detailed advice and tips on this will be provided in an upcoming podcast with C+D’s clinical and custom content editor Nana Ofori-Atta. Watch out for it!
3. Practice under timed conditions
GPhC exam calculations questions require consistent practice either on a daily or a weekly basis – but you must be consistent. It is equally important to practice under timed conditions. The importance of timekeeping cannot be overstated.
By practicing regularly under timed exam conditions, candidates will become accustomed to the circumstances under which they will eventually sit the assessment.
4. Make use of available resources
There are a number of organisations that provide materials for trainee pharmacists, ranging from sample questions on the GPhC’s website to the charity Pharmacist Support. At LPN, we provide support via videos/ webinars on our YouTube channel and various social media platforms.
By accessing available support, candidates will be able to consolidate their learning and ensure they are in good stead prior to the assessment. Candidates who failed the recent June assessment can also obtain help from organisations such as the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA) and the National Pharmacy Association (NPA).
5. Test yourself
After following the steps above, ensure that you test yourself thoroughly using past papers and mock exams. Don't give up if you do not initially achieve the marks you would like. Always remember that learning is a journey, not a destination. So, enjoy the journey and bear in mind that the mock exams are often designed to be more challenging than the actual assessment.
Past papers and mock exams are also a good way for you to spot areas where your performance may need improvement. The confidence you build throughout this process will help you better handle the exam conditions and will ultimately reflect in a positive outcome.
In short, it is important to know and understand the GPhC framework, while also taking into consideration the advice, tips and hints in this article. This will help you narrow your revision to those aspects that are really important, saving you time and keeping you on track.
I do hope you find this information useful – good luck in your forthcoming exam.
Micah Aniakor is lead pharmacist and calculations tutor at the London Pharmacist Network