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Some pre-reg tutors ‘caught off guard’ by record low exam pass rate

This June's pass rate was the lowest since the GPhC took over the assessment in 2011

One pre-registration tutor was “caught off guard” by the low pass rate for June’s exam, while another was “surprised” by the result.

The pass rate for June’s assessment dropped to 72.3%, the lowest since the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) took over responsibility for the exam in 2011, it revealed last month.

Khalid Khan, head of training and professional standards at Imaan Healthcare, said the result came as a surprise to his organisation, as it did not reflect the experiences of his pre-reg trainees.

“Most years you get a sense of how trainees feel the exam went when they come out,” he told C+D last week. “You can tell if it was really bad – in 2015, when the pass rate was 74%, we and the pre-regs knew it hadn’t gone well.”

But this year, apart from timing issues, none of the eight Imaan Healthcare trainees who sat the exam “felt it was unreasonably difficult”, Mr Khan said.

Two of his pre-reg trainees did not pass. Both sat the exam in Aintree, Liverpool, which experienced a fire alarm requiring candidates to evacuate the hall.

The GPhC told C+D last month that “past experience shows that even if a centre is affected in some way, candidate performance is not”.

Tutor Aamer Safdar, lead for education, training and development at Guy’s and St Thomas’s NHS Foundation Trust, agreed the low pass rate had not been predicted.

“Any drop in pre-reg results is a surprise, because you expect the exam to have a tolerance around the 80% mark.”

However, Mr Safdar stressed that “we can’t judge it too quickly, because we’ll also need to look at what the September results will be”.

“You do find peaks and troughs in terms of exam performance and candidates,” he added.

How have June pass rates varied since 2011?

"Calculations paper is not a maths exam"

Simon Harris, head of education and training at Green Light Campus, had 10 candidates sit the June exam, with nine passing the assessment.

There are many reasons why pre-regs may not be successful, Mr Harris suggested, and “it tends to come down to exam technique”.

Candidates should stop looking at the calculations paper as a maths exam, he advised.

“The calculations questions need to be looked at in the context of pharmacy practice, and too often [pre-regs] round in a way that doesn’t make sense in real life,” Mr Harris said.

He advised pre-regs planning to sit the exam in September to look at areas where previous candidates have not performed well and use the “range of GPhC resources” to focus their revision there.

If you passed, this podcast explains how to prepare for life as a pharmacist:

If you were unsuccessful, this podcast describes how you can come back from a setback:

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