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BNF to remain core part of pre-reg exam

Students will no longer be able to use hard copies of the BNF to bring extra information into exams, says the GPhC

Removing hard copies of the BNF from the assessment is no reflection on its importance, says the GPhC

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.


What do you think about the changes to the registration exam?

We want to hear your views, but please express them in the spirit of a constructive, professional debate. For more information about what this means, please click here to see our community principles and information


Abbasali Bhimani, Pharmacy

With the majority of pharmacy resources (BNF, MEP, Drug Tariff) available online, it’s a natural move away from paper-based resources. However, the skill of looking for specific pieces of information, as opposed to using a search engine, will be lost (I wonder what will happen on that day when communication systems are down). How many more skills can this profession afford to lose in times where we have to prove our worth?

G S, Hospital pharmacist

Everyone should be going towards using the online BNF now, it is available in two places Medicinescomplete and NHS evidence, as well as the mobile apps. The NHS evidence version is completely free to anyone in the UK. The online versions are the only versions guaranteed to be up to date now, as they are updated every month. The paper version will continue to go out of favour, hospital departments are already ordering less copies and only once per year instead of twice.

Leon The Apothecary, Student

I've seen BNFs used for exams, and they are typically full to the brim with notes and information. Utilisation of this text is definitely important to the day-to-day practice of a Pharmacist, and the exam should reflect this methodology.

Gerry Diamond, Primary care pharmacist

Well, what would you know about that? Are you in the exam hall hardly think so.......!

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