In July, the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) said it had received “little or no positive feedback” from candidates on paper two of the June pre-reg exam.
A “substantial number of respondents” found paper two “not fair”, with 82% of respondents agreeing it did not accurately reflect the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC)'s registration assessment framework, the BPSA said at the time.
However, in council papers published this month (September 13), the GPhC’s board of assessors responded: “The framework is refreshed every year to ensure it reflects contemporary practice” and “many of the sample questions have been used previously in live papers”.
“For these reasons, the board is confident that the alignment between resources and live papers is good,” it concluded.
GPhC: Exam had “reasonable” expectations
The BPSA also reported that 45% of the 266 candidates who gave feedback were “concerned” that paper two “was not a true or accurate reflection of the day-to-day practice of a newly-qualified pharmacist”.
In response, the regulator said the practising pharmacists who set the standards of the exam ensure it “is calibrated to the reasonable expectations of a newly-qualified pharmacist”.
As part of its feedback report, the BPSA recommended the GPhC “review and remove all questions which are unnecessarily ambiguous” and “ensure there is sufficient information to inform a clear single, best answer”.
The GPhC pointed out that “having a ‘clear’ and a ‘best’ answer for the same question is incompatible”, as a “‘clear’ correct answer would not reflect the reality of practice in a pharmacy and the need for pharmacists to make critical judgements”.
“Single best answer questions are more nuanced in that they require candidates to demonstrate they ‘know how’ to apply knowledge,” it added.
Time and desk space
In response to the BPSA recommendation that candidates be allowed “sufficient time to complete all questions”, the board of assessors said: “The board does not have any evidence that there was insufficient time for candidates to complete the papers.”
The BPSA also said in its feedback that “a lack of sufficient desk space” left a “few” candidates “frustrated” – an issue mentioned in past sittings – and recommended the GPhC provide advice on desk space management.
The GPhC board responded: “It is the responsibility of candidates to manage desk space appropriately.”
Where did candidates struggle?
In part one of the exam, candidates “performed less well” in questions relating to the resource pack, “as some candidates omitted these questions and those requiring rounding within the calculation”, the board said.
In part two, candidates performed less well in questions which tested “decision making when patients present with symptoms in a pharmacy”.
“Candidates are expected to know when evidence-based treatment can be recommended and when patients should be referred,” it added.
The board also said that “some candidates did not fill in the answer sheets clearly”, giving two examples from the June exam where the marks were not awarded because the answers were unclear:
A petition protesting the “unsuitable” June pre-reg exam garnered more than 900 signatures in two days in July.