The delayed pre-registration assessment for 2019/20 candidates will take place on 17 and 18 March 2021, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has confirmed.

Candidates will take the online exam at a test centre after concerns were raised by some about the suitability of their home environment and internet connectivity, the GPhC said.

In a letter published today (30 November), the regulator said the test centres have been made Covid-secure and the number of candidates who can sit on each day has been limited. 

‘As a result there will now be two sittings (each with different papers) and candidates will sit the two papers which make up the assessment on one day,’ the letter said.

The GPhC has faced criticism for failing to set a new date for the exam sooner, with the Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) and British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association previously describing the delay as ‘deeply troubling’ and causing ‘considerable anxiety’ for students. 

Mark Voce, GPhC’s director for education and standards, said in the latest update: ‘I appreciate it has taken us longer than we would have liked to finalise the arrangements.

‘We have worked through a number of issues relating to the overall security of the assessment and practical considerations to ensure the assessment is fair for candidates.’

Reasonable adjustments

The GPhC said candidates will need to apply to sit the exam through their myGPhC account and the regulator will confirm their eligibility when the application form opens in January.

Candidates previously granted a reasonable adjustment for the exam sitting in June will also need to reapply for this, as the GPhC will not be carrying over any requests, the letter said.

It added that candidates can request a reasonable adjustment if they believe they are not able to sit the assessment at a test centre due to a particular health condition, and the GPhC will provide further details on how they can sit the exam and whether it can be done elsewhere.

‘In the meantime, we would emphasise that although the way in which you sit the assessment will be different, the types of questions used and the standard required to pass are not changing,’ the GPhC said.

The test centre is run by Pearson VUE, the supplier overseeing the assessment this year.   

‘A stressful wait’

The RPS welcomed confirmation of the new date, but called for further details to be clarified.

Gail Fleming, RPS director for education, said: ‘Trainees will be concerned about reasonable adjustments especially when there may be a last-minute change such as a requirement to self-isolate at short notice.

‘We’re now urging GPhC to act quickly to publish the further details they have committed to providing. These are urgently needed to alleviate the ongoing concerns of those due to sit the assessment.’

She added: ‘We know how stressful it has been for trainees waiting for details of the exam, while working hard to support patients and the public during these difficult times.’