Candidates who sat June’s pre-registration exam felt the assessment was skewed towards hospital pharmacy, a student body has told the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC).
Students told the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) that ‘the assessment was more hospital themed than community, with a lack of OTC and law and ethics questions’, according to the BPSA’s feedback report on the exam.
The GPhC registration assessment, which comprises two separate papers, is part of the overall criteria for students to register as pharmacists.
BPSA graduate officer Jessica Watt said: ‘We recognise that this year's pass rate is a record low and are keen to learn which areas were particularly challenging.
‘The pre-registration assessment should always be fair and written in such a way as to ensure all competent and safe to practice students can demonstrate their skills and enter the profession.’
A GPhC spokesperson said: ‘The board of assessors will be considering the points raised in the BPSA’s report – and we will publish their response in September.’
All questions and papers are mapped on to the GPhC’s registration assessment framework to ensure they reflect the practice of a newly-qualified pharmacist, the spokesperson added.
‘Not a true representation of practice’
Many candidates felt that ‘unreasonable’ time pressure meant the assessment did not reflect pharmacists’ day-to-day practice, according to the BPSA.
Over half (53%) of the 166 students who provided feedback to the representative group said timing was an issue in paper one, while 45% said this was the case in paper two.
The BPSA said: ‘Respondents felt that the unreasonable time pressure within the assessment meant that they were unable to make safe and informed decisions, which is not a true representation of practice.
‘Commonly, most respondents felt that it was not appropriate, nor acceptable, to perform a clinical check within 1.25 minutes, as “this added unexpected pressure, leading to decisions that are not realistic or representative of real life”.’
The BPSA added that candidates felt the exam was ‘a test of speed rather than… clinical knowledge and competency’.
Last year, the student body similarly reported that students felt the June 2018 assessment was ‘not a true nor accurate reflection of real-life practice’.
‘Distracted’ by birds
Almost 70% (69%) of respondents commented on the fact that there were question amendments during both papers but that candidates were only compensated with extra time in the second paper.
However, this extra time was not consistent across assessment venues and varied between three and ten minutes, according to the BPSA.
Candidates who sat the exam at the London ExCeL centre added that they were ‘distracted’ by birds flying around the assessment hall and their time management was impacted by a broken clock throughout the first paper, according to the BPSA.
The BPSA stressed its ‘strong working relationship’ with the GPhC and said it was ‘confident’ the regulator will take its recommendations seriously, following a meeting last month (16 July).