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Trainees told to wait until November to retake exam after technical fault

Exams with computers

By Beth Gault

11 Aug 2021

A number of trainees who were unable to sit the full registration assessment due to a technical fault at an exam centre have been told they have to wait until November to retake the exam.  

The Royal Pharmaceutical Society (RPS) has written to the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) with ‘serious concerns’ about the assessment, which took place at the Redditch centre.  

During the test, the clinical paper could not be seen on the screen, which meant a number of the trainees could not sit the exam.  

The RPS letter said that there was a ‘lack of a timely solution’ and a ‘lack of any adequate contingency plan for IT failure of this type’.  

It said: ‘Given the devastating impact for those trainees who will be unable to work as pharmacists for three months through no fault of their own, I urge you to develop a fairer solution (such as a sitting as soon as possible, only for the paper for which there were problems), alongside any appropriate compensation. 

‘Since universities and royal colleges have been able to plan for potential issues with online exams and arrange alternative sittings, including on the same or next day, it is completely unacceptable that the GPhC has left trainees in this upsetting, stressful and unfair position.’ 

The GPhC confirmed to The Pharmacist that three individuals were affected by the issue, and that those affected would have their fees refunded and they would not be charged for the next sitting.  

The GPhC initially reported the issue on 30 July after the training exams on 29 July. Almost 3,000 (2,915) candidates sat the assessment, with the vast majority doing so in test centres and 34 doing so remotely.  

It said: ‘A small number of individual candidates did experience some technical issues during the sittings. Several candidates sitting remotely were unable to sit the online registration assessment, with initial analysis suggesting this was due to internet connection issues they were experiencing.   

‘A small number of candidates sitting in test centres also experienced some technical issues which were largely resolved by the test centre staff.  

‘A maximum of four candidates were not able to sit the second paper, due to a system failure in one test centre. We are sorry that it has not been possible for these candidates to complete their assessment, and understand how distressing this has been for them. We have contacted the candidates involved directly to apologise.  

It added that it is working with IT company Pearson VUE to investigate the issue and prevent similar issues happening in the future.

Earlier this year, pre and provisionally registered pharmacists who sat the registration assessment in March achieved an 88.2% pass rate, according to GPhC.

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