The BNF will remain “absolutely a core text” of the registration exam despite hard copies being banned from the assessment from next year, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has said.
The need for the BNF was “not going anywhere” and students would be provided with extracts that were relevant to specific exam questions, GPhC head of education Damian Day told a seminar on the registration exam last week (March 3).
The GPhC first announced that hard copies of the BNF would be removed from exams last year, and Mr Day explained that this would prevent students from smuggling in extra information.
“We don’t want to deal with ridiculously over-tabbed, grubby BNFs, with scrawls all over them,” he said.
The move would also mean students no longer needed to “speed-read” the BNF for information – a practice that pharmacists were not expected to do once they were registered, Mr Day said. Instead, it would be up to pre-registration tutors and pharmacy schools to test students’ use of the BNF, he explained.
Calculations and online
The new-look exam will also include other changes. The number of calculation questions will double from 20 to 40 and feature in a separate calculation paper, in which students will be provided with a calculator. There will also be more questions designed to test students’ decision-making skills.
Although students will still be given a paper exam, Mr Day predicted that “in a few years” the exam might only be available online. “The rest of the reference sources are moving online, and we can [then] choose a wider range of everyday sources,” he added.
The regulator would continue to make “minor tweaks” to the exam over the next six months ahead of the exam being introduced nationally in 2016, it added.
Last year, the GPhC explained that the assessment syllabus would be reformatted to align with the new standards for training pharmacists, published in 2011. The launch of the new exam in 2016 will coincide with the first cohort of students who have trained under these revised standards, which placed a stronger focus on patient outcomes.
A hundred recently qualified pharmacists are set to trial the calculations paper to test for any unexpected issues. The GPhC said it would be "working closely" with the British Pharmaceutical Students' Association (BPSA) to identify and recruit pharmacists in the coming weeks.