Almost 600 student pharmacists complain about registration assessment

Candidates were concerned about the questions used in the exam they sat in June 2017, as well as the noisy assessment centre and the confusing instructions they received.


Almost 600 student pharmacists have complained about the length, complexity and relevance of questions in their General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) registration assessment, which they sat this June.

The British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA) said that by 8 July 2017, it had received 582 emails to an email address it set up specifically to receive feedback from candidates who sat this exam, with almost all of them critical of the process.

Candidates also complained about a noisy exam centre, cramped desk space and confusing instructions.

The vast majority of complaints were about paper 2 in the assessment. Of the 582 candidates who contacted the BPSA, “574 candidates had little to no positive feedback regarding the assessment”, according to the BPSA.

More than 500 students complained that the assessment was not a true or accurate reflection of real practice, and many said it did not reflect the practice of newly qualified pharmacists.

Others complained of the “unrealistic time constraints” of the assessment.

Ambiguity of some questions was also a cause for concern, and 147 candidates wrote to say that a number of questions were unclear in their wording and so could have been interpreted in different ways.

One question about counselling provided to a patient with oral thrush was highlighted by a number of students, who said there were two equally viable answers to the scenario.

Candidates also complained that the structure of extended matching questions (EMQs) in paper 2 bore no resemblance to sample EMQs in the mock assessments. They said they were expected to survey summary of product characteristics (SPCs) and other resources, which left them short of time.

The BPSA pointed out that of the 10 sample EMQs provided by the GPhC in the preregistration manual, only one of them required resources.

The BPSA has previously made recommendations to the GPhC in 2011, 2013, 2015 and 2016 on the registration assessment following feedback from members. All of the proposed changes were accepted by the GPhC, and Beenish Zafar Chaudhry, graduate officer at the BPSA, said this had led to “improvements in the assessment experience for trainees”.

The GPhC meets with the BPSA after every sitting of the registration assessment to discuss feedback, and a report on this June’s exam will be submitted to the GPhC’s September council meeting.

This article was updated on 28 July 2017 to include information on the GPhC’s response.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, July 2017;Online:DOI:10.1211/PJ.2017.20203292