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GPhC predicts 60% pass rate for first online registration exam

Around 3,200 candidates are expected to sit the exam in March
Around 3,200 candidates are expected to sit the exam in March

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) is "conservatively" estimating that it will record a 60% pass rate in its March exam, the first to be held in an online format.

The regulator is predicting a lower pass rate than previous years “due to the new nature of the exam and current climate”, according to council papers published ahead of its meeting this week (February 11).

In a statement following the publication of this article*, Mark Voce,  GPhC director of education and standards said the 60% figure “is definitely not a prediction; it is a conservative estimate designed solely for budget purposes to ensure we do not over-predict how many pharmacists may be on the register”.

“Pass rates are decided by the board of assessors based on candidate performance on the day. We are confident that candidates will have a good opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge and understanding at the March sitting and that everyone who meets the standard will pass,” he added.

Around 3,200 candidates are expected to sit the delayed online registration assessment on March 17-18, either at one of the Pearson VUE centres or remotely. This is the first of three assessments that the GPhC will hold this year, the regulator said.

As the provisional register is open until July, the GPhC expects that some prov-regs will opt to wait to sit the second assessment in the summer, it said.

Therefore, the summer assessment cohort of around 4,500 candidates “will be made up of 40% of candidates that have either chosen not to sit/or are re-sitting the March exam and the main cohort of candidates currently undergoing the pre-reg training” – approximately 2,815 pharmacist trainees, the GPhC estimated.

Taking into consideration the 2019 average pass rate – the record low of 72.3% reported for the June registration exam and the 69% pass rate for the September exam – the GPhC calculated a pass rate of 71% for this summer’s registration assessment.

It applied the same pass rate “to the additional circa 1,000 [candidates] that will potentially re-sit [the] final assessment for the year”, the regulator added.

“Based on historical trends, 90% of the passed candidates are expected to fully register, which is projected to be a year-on-year pharmacists’ growth of 7% on 2020/21,” the GPhC said in its council papers.

The regulator announced in March last year that it had decided to postpone the 2020 registration assessment due to COVID-19. In May, it told C+D that the pandemic had accelerated existing plans to move to an online registration assessment.

However, not all 2021 candidates will be able to sit the exam remotely. The GPhC announced last week (February 2) that 69 students who currently reside in countries with time difference to the UK of six hours or more will not be able to sit the assessment online or at a local test centre in their country of residence.

*This article was updated on February 10 to include the GPhC's statement, which was submitted after this article was first published.

What do you make of the GPhC's estimates?

david liam, Information Technology

I read it as they're chipping away at a (ideally) most pessimistic scenario premise, as probably, they need to design/spending limit with respect to the mid year tests... envision they said in a couple of months' time "not every person can sit this mid year, we lack room

How High?, Community pharmacist

Seems odd to restrict entry via the pre-reg exam after someone has studied for 5 years to get there, rather than have an intial "entry" exam or interview process to separate the chaff early on.

I've had pre-reg's that have been utterly brilliant and are making their way in the world, I've had others I refused to sign off as they were quite simply, appalling in every way. Such a shame to let a person waste their youth on a degree course that leads to a profession that they are simply not suited for.

Mind you, the ones we could really do with actually do their homework and avoid pharmacy like the plague.

5 years to get a £35k salary and 50 hour week...... Pass!



rogalio sabastian, Marketing

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M. Rx(n), Student

Good luck to all - it's been a turbulent time
for both Prov-regs and the GPhC.

I suppose the GPhC is doing the smart thing by managing expectations.

Andrew Martin, Primary care pharmacist

It just seems odd to me that we expect - and seem happy with - 40% i.e. two in every five to fail, at least at the first attempt. Something not right somewhere?

M. Rx(n), Student

I'm not sure what variables went into the GPhC's projection, but I suspect they've gone with the conservative end of the scale in order to pre-empt any to-be-presumed pandemic-related effects.

Still, in the end, one percent or 100 percent, I'd settle for both quality and quantity.

Getting Shorter, Community pharmacist

I read it as they're working on a (hopefully) worst-case basis, as presumably they need to plan/budget capacity for the summer exams... imagine they said in a few months' time "not everyone can sit this summer, we haven't got enough room".

M. Rx(n), Student

If the underlying issue is that there are too many Pharmacy schools and consequently too many graduates, I don't object. It is true.

As a Regulatory matter, I would start with shutting down those schools with consistently low pass rates.

And, perhaps, the introduction of an entry exam to do the initial gatekeeping may do a trick too.

Benie Locum, Locum pharmacist

The only aim of these schools is to have a healthy revenue stream to enable good salaries for themselves. Providing healthcare professions is simply collateral damage as it were.

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