The variation in pass rates between students who undertake pre-registration training in community and hospital settings is linked to the ‘quality’ of pre-registration tuition, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has said.

The 1,904 candidates who completed placements in community pharmacies achieved an average pass rate of 68% in the June 2019 pre-registration exam, compared with a 93% pass rate for the 748 with hospital placements, according to the GPhC’s September council papers.

The overall pass rate for the June 2019 exam reached a record low of 72% since the regulator took responsibility for the assessment in 2011.

Minutes from the regulator’s September council meeting, published last week (8 October), said: ‘[Council] members noted that the variation [in pass rates across sectors] linked back to their earlier discussion about the role and quality of pre-registration tuition.’

Hospitals ‘provided more support’ in some cases, they added.


Quality of students?


However, GPhC chief Duncan Rudkin told The Pharmacist in an exclusive interview last month that ‘a number of factors’, including the quality of the students themselves, can affect performance in the pre-registration exam.

He said: ‘It’s not necessarily a reflection of the quality of pre-registration training in particular places, although in some cases, of course, it might be. But equally, one needs to look at the inputs in terms of the candidates that are going into different sorts of placements.’

The September council meeting minutes added: ‘Students were selected into pre-registration places in hospitals, whereas they were recruited into community.’

Meanwhile, a pharmacy student body told the GPhC in August that some candidates felt the assessment was skewed towards hospital pharmacy.


Blind proof check


The GPhC added that errors found in the June 2019 exam paper – also referenced in the student feedback on the exam – were ‘unusual and concerning’.

A ‘blind proof check’ was to be introduced before the September sitting of the exam, to allow pharmacists who had not previously seen the questions to check them for accuracy, the board papers said.