I’m a community pharmacist and independent prescriber based in South Wales. I first registered in 2002. After reflecting on the journey towards my registration, I noted that there was very little support and mentorship for pre-reg pharmacists from black backgrounds. This acted as a catalyst for me to start helping black pre-regs with their revision.
Initially, requests for help came from friends and family, but recently as mentor of the UK Black Pharmacist Association (UKBPA), I have been able to help pre-regs from all over the UK. I have since founded a company that helps pre-regs pharmacists with revision and preparation for the GPhC exams.
Preparing and revising for the GPhC registration exams can be stressful. Below are 10 steps that have worked well for some of the pre-regs I have worked with. They are not foolproof but, having coached and mentored many students for over a decade, I can confidently recommend them.
1. Look after your mental and physical health
I’ve put this right at the top because it is the most neglected yet the most important aspect of your revision. You need to eat well, have adequate rest and sleep and make time to exercise and recharge to avoid burning out.
2. Prepare a revision timetable and stick to it
A revision timetable is a must. But be warned, you should stick to it and be able to complete all the tasks listed. The timetable should be realistic and customised to your lifestyle.
You should try to include all content on the GPhC assessment framework, but it may not always be possible due to competing commitments around work and home life. Therefore, it is advisable to be strategic in your approach.
I would suggest focusing on all elements of the GPhC framework for part one: calculations. For part two, if time permits, include all the elements of the GPhC framework.
The trick is always to start your revision work early. If, for some reason, you have started your revision late, don’t stress. Use your GPhC framework to select high and medium weighted areas to revise first, followed by low weighted areas if time permits. Tick off completed sections to track your progress and motivate yourself.
3. Stock up on up-to-date resources
Make sure you acquire and organise the resources you will need for your revision in a format that you’re comfortable with, whether they are paper-based or electronic. The critical ones are: the BNF; National Institute of Health and Care Excellence (NICE) guidelines and clinical knowledge summaries; the electronic medicines compendium (emc); and resources available from the Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (CPPE), NHS Education for Scotland (NES) and Health Education and Improvement Wales (HEIW).
You can supplement these with other resources such as textbooks. Which resources you use is entirely up to you. The most important thing is to select the materials that work best for you.
4. Make your own notes
Making your own notes is the best way to reinforce your knowledge. The brain loves pictures, so using mind maps, diagrams and charts is a good way of learning and makes it easier to recall your revision.
It’s best to combine reading and note-making with other visual materials, such as videos and flash cards. If you feel exhausted from reading and writing, you could explore a different format of learning such as watching a video tutorial.
5. Practice questions regularly
Each time you complete a topic, you should assess your knowledge retention by completing appropriate practice questions. This will help you to understand how questions are structured and framed. They will also help you to pick up your mistakes and correct them.
You should follow up on your weak points and pay special attention to them. Rather than trying to learn facts from practice questions, I would advise that you focus on learning the topic content first and absorb the knowledge prior to tackling the questions and testing yourself.
6. Ask your pre-reg tutor to challenge you with problem-solving scenarios
Use every opportunity at your workplace to learn something new on the job, such as drug dosing regimens, indications, adverse effects, interactions, using resources and counselling points. You should discuss what you are doing with your pre-reg pharmacist tutor so that you have their support during the processes. Document what you have learnt and use the records to tick off your competencies if necessary.
7. Find a mentor
It’s a good idea to have a mentor who is not your tutor to guide you in your professional development and to increase your network capital. The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and UKBPA currently provide short and long-term mentorship for their members.
8. Join a revision group
Find and join a supportive pre-reg revision group. They can be found on many professional groups’ websites, such as the Pharmacists’ Defence Association (PDA), the RPS and the UKBPA.
These groups discuss questions and share links to free resources. They are a great way to discuss matters of mutual interest and to support one another.
9. Get familiar with resource packs
You should never wait to see the structure of a summary of product characteristics for the first time in the exam. Look at one or two summaries of product characteristics for major therapeutic categories, such as oral antidiabetic drugs, antihypertensives, insulins, or cytotoxic drugs.
The more you do it, the more you will become familiar with the structure and know where to find certain information quickly during the exam. You will also begin to notice patterns. For example, you’d only need to go through one summary in detail for a combined oral contraceptive such as Microgynon, and automatically predict the contents of a summary for another similar combined oral contraceptive such as Cilest.
10. Be kind to yourself
If things are not going well with your revision, take time out to have a walk and get some fresh air, or do something completely different. If necessary, speak to someone. Once you’ve cleared your head, get back to revision.
I hope this list will help you with your revision and soon you will be celebrating your success. Good luck in your exams.
This article represents the personal views of Mr Kumwenda and not those of the organisations he is associated with.