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BPSA hits out at registration exam

Education The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) has criticised this year’s registration exam for failing to test practical knowledge and skills.

The British Pharmaceutical Students' Association (BPSA) has criticised this year's registration exam for failing to test practical knowledge and skills.

The student body praised this year's venues and open-book exam, but argued at a meeting with the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) last week (July 23) that the closed-book exam failed to test "essential areas of the syllabus".

The GPhC argued that the exam tested everyday pharmacy practice in a number of different contexts and was required to contain a specific number of questions on each syllabus area.

The BPSA received concerns from 387 pre-reg trainees about the closed-book exam

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The pass rate for this year's exam, which was designed to put a stronger emphasis on clinical practice, was 78 per cent – down on last year's 95 per cent.

The BPSA received feedback on the assessment from 387 pre-reg trainees and concerns about the closed-book exam were mentioned by all "without exception".

"Many [candidates] stated that the paper did not test their competency in being a pharmacist, neither did it assess their decision-making ability with regards to pharmacy practice," the BPSA reported.

Candidates queried the relevance of certain parts of the assessment, such as questions on how many parts per million of carbon monoxide were needed in air, or the required levels of platelets and haemoglobin in test results. Students also reported "a lot of ambiguity" in some sections, which they claimed would depend on personal perception of a scenario.

The BPSA said students had felt unprepared for the exam based on the sample papers, which they believed focused too much on clinical questions and "did not reflect any of the non-clinical questions posed in the exam". It called for the syllabus to be made clearer to avoid confusion in future exams.

The GPhC said it was clear that the topics in its sample papers would not necessarily be covered in the actual exam and reported that this year's assessment had included more clinical questions. But it agreed to work with the BPSA to make the sample papers and syllabus clearer to candidates.

"We are pleased that candidates overall thought the venues were appropriate, that the sittings ran to time and that the registration process went well," said GPhC chief executive Duncan Rudkin. "We have addressed each of the BPSA's recommendations in our response and will continue to work closely with the BPSA to make further improvements."

Read the BPSA's report on the registration exam in full.

Does the GPhC need to alter the registration exam to make it more applicable to practice?

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Ahmed :-), Community pharmacist

I'm recently out of pharmacy school and my life would have been DEVASTATED had I failed all attempts at the pre-reg exams. This is a possibility for many students who were guinea pigs for the GPhC's exams. Their tinkering has apparently created an ambiguous exam with a certain amount of worthless information, producing a measurable result of 17% less students passing. Thousands of pounds in debt, heart broken and the genuine possibility of future mental health problems are all serious risks for these students who fail these exams. But at least the GPhC are content their venues and timing ran smoothly...bravo...bravo!

Freelance Pharmacist, Academic pharmacist

This is what happens when the incompetent GPhC hire incompetent question writers who have no idea about the profession. Quite frankly every practicing pharmacist should submit a question as part of their CPD and the exam should consist of those questions. That will reflect real practice. Dear GPhC it ain't that difficult so stop paying some of your employees £500 per day for sitting around and listen to people who do the work at grassroots level. That is where we will start to see a change in the profession. You can't use academics to write questions for a profession they have no idea about.

Dorothy Drury, Locum pharmacist

May I ask this academic pharmacist what your recent experience is of working in
1) a community pharmacy and b) a hospital.

Naveen Khosla, Pharmaceutical Adviser


This is a very effective review of what happened and from the feedback we received from our pre reg students we concur with most of the findings. However what is to happen to the large number of competent pre regs who failed as a result of the many changes that arose in the exam through no fault of their own other than misguidance from the gphc. Surely we need to know what we are going to do about these individuals before they become disgruntled with the profession.

Sharon Sanghera, Community pharmacist

The report is a very good summary of the feedback that myself and my peers had after the exam. I know a few of my peers and myself missed out by two marks on the closed book, and I am left to wonder whether we lost these marks on the ambigously worded questions or on questions that covered areas of the syllabus that werent so clearly communicated.

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