Less than half of students passed the latest pharmacy registration exam, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has revealed.

Only 41% of candidates passed the registration assessment in September, compared to 64% of those who took the exam last year.

September marked the second sitting since the regulator revamped the exam earlier this year, introducing a new format.

But June’s exam saw a much higher success rate, with 95% of students passing, the highest proportion in four years.

In its review of the results for the GPhC, the Board of Assessors noted a significant numbers of the first-sitting candidates in September took that assessment because they were unable to in June for reasons such as failing their first sitting of the MPharm finals.

In addition a higher number of candidates sat the exam for the second or third time in September (41%) compared with June (7%).

“The registration assessment remains an important tool for us to ensure that only those candidates who have the knowledge and skills to practise safely and effectively can join the register,” GPhC chief executive, Duncan Rudkin said.

The changes to the assessment were brought in “to make sure the assessment takes advantage of current education best practice to enable trainees to better demonstrate the competencies set out in the learning outcomes,” Rudkin said in 2015.

Changes to the exam included using clinical practice information instead of source references, allowing calculators to be used in one of the papers and introducing a new type of multiple choice question. The assessment syllabus was also replaced with a framework, which explains what will be tested in the assessment.

Alice Harrold