Following concerns raised by some candidates in relation to sitting the exam at home – on issues including internet connections, available technology and the suitability of home environments – the regulator will hold its registration exams on two separate dates at a Pearson VUE test centre, it said in an update to candidates yesterday (November 30).
The venues are “COVID-secure”, the GPhC said, and for this reason only a limited number of candidates will be able to sit the exam on each day.
“There will now be two sittings – each with different papers – and candidates will sit the two papers that make up the assessment at a Pearson VUE test centre on one day, either March 17 or March 18, 2021,” GPhC director of education and standards Mark Voce wrote in the update.
Mr Voce said he “appreciates it has taken us longer than we would have liked to finalise the arrangements”. Earlier this month (November 6), the GPhC announced that it had selected Pearson VUE to deliver its registration assessments from next year.
The regulator confirmed to C+D today (December 1) that the exams will only be held in an online format because it "is not possible" to hold the assessment with paper copies and large numbers of candidates in the same venue due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Apply to sit assessment
Provisionally registered pharmacists, pre-regs and those who need to re-sit the exam can apply to do so through their myGPhC account in January if they are eligible to sit the exam.
Candidates who think they cannot sit the assessment at a Pearson VUE site due to, for example, “a particular health condition” need to ask for a “reasonable adjustment”, Mr Voce said.
“We will provide you with further details about how you can sit the assessment and whether it is open to you to sit at an alternative location other than a test centre,” he added.
“At the earliest opportunity” … if fit
Earlier this year (May 21), the GPhC said that provisionally registered pharmacists must sit and pass the registration assessment “at the first opportunity if they are fit to do so” in order to remain on the register.
However, Mr Voce wrote in yesterday’s update that the GPhC recognises “that many of you have experienced significant pressures and demands over recent months as you have helped to deliver vital services to patients and the public or have otherwise had to deal with the impact of the pandemic”.
He said that while the GPhC expects candidates to sit the exam “at the earliest opportunity”, candidates should only sit it they are “fit to do so”.
“If you are concerned that you may not be fit to do so in March, I would like to reassure you that the next assessment will take place in the summer and planning is already underway for that,” Mr Voce added.
As of December 1, there are 2,588 provisionally registered pharmacists on the GPhC register.
RPS: Clarify details
The Royal Pharmaceutical Society welcomed the GPhC's announcement but said further details are needed urgently.
RPS director for education Gail Fleming said: “Trainees will be concerned about reasonable adjustments, especially when there may be a last-minute change, such as a requirement to self-isolate at short notice.
“We're now urging GPhC to act quickly to publish the further details they have committed to providing. These are urgently needed to alleviate the ongoing concerns of those due to sit the assessment,” she added.
British Pharmaceutical Students' Association (BPSA) president Sean Brannen said in a statement that the BPSA welcomes the GPhC announcement. However, it expects the GPhC to clearly state that those provisionally registered pharmacists who do not feel fit for the exam dates in March will not be removed from the provisional register by choosing to postpone the exam.
"While the GPhC announcement today brings clarity on the dates of the assessment and answers several questions about the assessment sitting, we would urge the GPhC to ensure the additional information that they have promised is released as a matter of urgency," Mr Brannen added.
On March 26, the GPhC announced that it had decided to postpone the 2020 registration assessments due to COVID-19. In May, it told C+D that the pandemic had accelerated existing plans to move to an online registration assessment.
GPhC CEO Duncan Rudkin told C+D that an online assessment would help the GPhC “address travel issues” and other “practical logistical issues” some pre-reg trainees face with the way the exam is traditionally taken.