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Oriel application process should take more note of work experience and extracurricular activities, BPSA report finds

The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association has said that the Oriel application process should put more emphasis on work experience and extracurricular activities after less than half of the respondents to a survey thought their experience had helped.

Oriel recruitment tool


Oriel is the UK-wide online portal for recruitment to postgraduate medical, healthcare and pharmacy training programmes

Multiple mini interviews (MMIs) — short, face-to-face interviews held at assessment centres as part of the Oriel pre-registration application process — should take greater account of applicants’ work experience and extracurricular activities, the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) has said.

The recommendation is made in the Association’s Oriel Feedback Report 2019, published on 14 January 2020, which provides responses to a BPSA survey on candidates’ experience of the Oriel process.

Fewer than half (43.5%) of the 140 respondents thought their previous work experience had helped with MMIs. The BPSA has recommended that the interview questions are reviewed to “ensure they take a larger account for the candidate’s experience”. The Association adds that it “maintains that any current indirect consideration of work experience and extracurricular activities is not enough”.

Current Health Education England (HEE) advice to candidates confirms that information relating to employment history is not used to assess applications.

Less than half (46.2%) of the 143 students who responded to this question, said that the overall experience of applying for a pre-reg through Oriel was “good” or “very good” — but this is a significant increase compared to the 2017 survey, when 21.8% of respondents gave the overall process a positive rating.

A spokesperson for HEE told The Pharmaceutical Journal  that “although the MMIs do not specifically ask for a portfolio of work experience, all of the questions are framed within a practice or real-world setting, and so candidate responses are far richer and more nuanced when the candidates are able apply the learning from any work experience or relevant activity”.

“This application of learning into practice allows candidates to display insight by demonstrating the value of their work experience or activity, as reflected by some candidate comments on page 18 and 19 of the BPSA report.

“HEE will endeavour to emphasise these points in the 2020/2021 applicant handbook and ‘Train the trainer’ materials for school of pharmacy tutors to deliver to their students”.

The spokespeson added that all MMI materials are “reviewed yearly by HEE, in conjunction with evaluation partners, and new material is written and tested by pharmacists from all areas of practice to ensure relevance and appropriateness”. 

“HEE will ensure the BPSA feedback will be considered during this review and creation process. The BPSA forms an important and valued part of the Pre-registration Pharmacy Operational Group, which has oversight of the end-to end recruitment process, and we are grateful for their ongoing support and representation on behalf of their student body”. 


Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2020.20207582

Readers' comments (1)

  • As a former BPSA member who’s been through the Oriel process, I strongly disagree with the Association’s position that job experience should have more impact that it already does. My view is that the interviews should better assess what a person is like and how they think. Whether they’ve got it from a prestigious placement program, weekend volunteer work at the local chemist’s, or simply painful group projects is irrelevant. By contrast, if a person who’s “done pharmacy” all their life failed to score high, does that not mean they did not manage to develop the skills- or failed to express such- sought after by the Oriel rankings?

    Also, as the BPSA has over a thousand members and nearly 2000 students went for Oriel, 57% of 140 students who thought their work experience did not help would be less than 5% of the total population. Even ignoring the statistical tools given to us throughout our degree, I have to doubt the statistics as presented.

    Finally, I want to stress my agreement with the decision not to take into account employment history, as I believe this has a bias towards people who were fortunate enough to get employed and places stress on other candidates to find unpaid “placements” in order to compete. Again, it’s not the experience a person has, but what they took from it, that should be factored in.

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