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Registration assessment

Pharmacists’ registration exam set to become more clinical in 2016

New assessment process designed to produce more clinically competent pharmacists.

General Pharmaceutical Council announces revamp of pharmacists' registration exam

Source: General Pharmaceutical Council

The General Pharmaceutical Council’s registration assessment for pharmacists will require candidates to apply knowledge to real clinical situations

The General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) has announced plans to make the assessment papers that pre-registration pharmacists take to qualify more clinical in focus in order to produce more clinically competent pharmacists.

The one-day assessment, which has retained more or less the same format since it was introduced in 1993, will require candidates to apply knowledge to clinical cases, moving away from a focus on facts alone.

“The scope of pharmacy practice and its role in healthcare have changed very significantly since the assessment was first introduced in 1993,” says General Pharmaceutical Council chief executive Duncan Rudkin. “The changes agreed by the board of assessors will enable trainees to demonstrate their ability as more clinically competent pharmacists.”

Pre-registration pharmacists will not be able to bring in copies of the British National Formulary (BNF) and the BNF for Children to use for reference. Instead, they will be expected to rely on information from photographs, patient information leaflets and other “artefacts”, such as patients’ medicine charts, as part of the exam.

David Miller, chief pharmacist at City Hospitals Sunderland NHS Foundation Trust, welcomes the changes and says their focus on outcomes will benefit patients, as well as pharmacy. “The more that the exam reflects true practice and the ability to put knowledge into practice then the better the outcome for the patient, the students and the profession,” he says.

For the first time, candidates will be allowed to use calculators in the assessment. The move follows changes to the content of A-level mathematics.

The GPhC also intends to introduce new types of multiple choice questions to reflect current evidence about the best way to assess clinical judgement. Out go multiple completion and assertion reason questions. In their place come two different kinds of multiple choice questions: one type will ask candidates to give a single answer; the other will present candidates with a scenario in order to test his or her understanding of a variety of clinical applications.

“Clinical practice isn’t black and white,” says Miller. “It’s the reasoning that we want to determine. If the new assessment can measure the journey and can show that the pharmacist followed the right journey and has applied their knowledge then it’s a good way forward.” 

The assessment changes reflect the recommendations from the GPhC board of assessors — the independent body that sets and moderates the registration assessment. 


Citation: The Pharmaceutical Journal DOI: 10.1211/PJ.2014.20067441

Readers' comments (5)

  • I only pray it's well structured and planned. The least we want is a situation where the pioneers will be victims.

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  • The pre reg exam is nothing more than a cash cow. How many pharmacists are practicing that haven't even sat the exam? (not to mention how many people at GPhC headquarters?) AND how many poor souls have failed it three times who would have made more than competent pharmacists if they could only be adept to sit MCQ style exams? (How many terrible pharmacists have passed it because their MCQ exam technique was the only thing they were good for?)
    Face it: this exam (which is marked by a computer!) is helping to pay for cushy new offices in Canary Wharf for an organisation that has done nothing to quench the swell in numbers of pharmacy graduates (£££ for you know who...) which is one of the leading causes of degradation in our once great profession

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  • I will be apart of the 2017 cohort, so I will have first hand experience of this 'new' exam.

    I agree with the comment stating, "The scope of pharmacy practice and its role in healthcare have changed very significantly ".

    Yes the exam should reflect current pharmacy practice. Pharmacy practice is more clinical now and it is great that the GPhC have recognised this.

    However not being able to bring your BNF to the exam is ludicrous. How many pharmacist's out there use there BNF on a daily basis to double check clinical information.

    “The more that the exam reflects true practice and the ability to put knowledge into practice then the better the outcome for the patient...". Pharmacist's utilise the BNF and other resources in practice, thus it is not reflecting true practice.

    Furthermore, "It’s the reasoning that we want to determine". If this is the case, in context of clinical reasoning, why don't the GPhC set competency based exams (e.g OSCEs) during the pre-reg to fully test the clinical reasoning behind the pharmacist and not just an MCQ test.

    Pharmacist's undergo 5 years of training and the determining point of registration are MCQ exams. It's insulting to say the least. The GPhC should not just change the content of the MCQs, they should change the entire assessment.


    Craig (3rd Year Pharmacy Student)

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  • The fact that they're taking away the BNF as a's such a blatant attempt at 'hey look! We're doing something important! Look at us! Change!'. Pharmacists use the BNF in everyday practice. On paper, online. Doesn't matter. They use the BNF and to take that away for starting out pre-reg students even stupider decision than not capping pharmacy student numbers.

    I also completely agree with the comment above. Ask better questions. Don't take away the tool that even registered and experienced pharmacists need.

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  • GPhC should get things right. Pre- reg programme can be better structure than this.

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