Hundreds of students have complained about the June 2018 General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) preregistration assessment, describing it as “complex”, “wordy”, “ambiguous” and “misleading”, according to a report from the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA).
The BPSA, which represents pharmacy students and preregistration trainee pharmacists, said it had received 266 emails about the exam — representing 9% of the 2,950 candidates — at the time it compiled its report on 11 July 2018.
The BPSA said that although it had more respondents following the summer 2017 paper, it had been able to identify regular trends from this year’s feedback.
Damian Day, head of education at the GPhC, and Joanne Martin, quality assurance manager of education at the GPhC, met with BPSA president Junel Ahmed and graduate officer Abdallah Alkhalf on 16 July 2018 to discuss the report.
In a statement, Ahmed and Alkhalf said they were confident that the regulator would take the recommendations seriously “and will provide evidence where necessary to demonstrate that they have met the recommendations, or provide a response to recommendations raised in the report”.
The BPSA said that it had “had little to no positive feedback” on paper 2 of the June assessment and that, overall, 235 respondents said they felt the exam was a test of speed, rather than a test of clinical knowledge and competency.
According to the BPSA report, there was confusion with the wording of some of the questions, some candidates felt they had little to no time to review their answers while others commented that there were too many complex calculation questions that were time consuming without a calculator.
More than 100 candidates told the BPSA that they felt that hospital preregistration pharmacists had an advantage because many of the questions were hospital-based scenarios and only a small number of over-the-counter medication questions were included, and just under 200 candidates said they felt misled by the GPhC sample paper and mock assessment because they felt it was not as difficult as the actual paper.
There were also comments about the conditions in the assessment centres, in particular that the centres were too hot and, in some cases, too noisy.
In its report, the BPSA recommends that the GPhC ensure that the resources published and made available to candidates to prepare for the assessment are better aligned to the actual paper.
It also says the GPhC should ensure an adequate distribution of questions, equating to an average of three minutes per question, to allow candidates sufficient time to complete the paper.
A petition, which has collected more than 1,500 signatures and was circulated anonymously by a preregistration trainee under the moniker ‘Pre-reg complaints’, also highlighted significant concerns with the exam and claimed that “pharmacy students [were] being let down and set up to fail by examination governing bodies”.
The individual behind the petition — who sat the preregistration exam for the first time in June 2018 and wanted to remain anonymous — said the GPhC had “not changed [its] ways” despite concerns being raised after the summer 2017 preregistration assessment.
A protest is planned at the GPhC headquarters in London on 23 July 2018.
“[The GPhC] are brushing [the issue] under the carpet … something needs to happen and this is the only way we can get our voices heard,” they said.
A spokesperson for the GPhC said: “After every sitting of the registration assessment we meet the BPSA to discuss the feedback they have received from their members about the sitting, which they summarise in a report.
“We will be producing a report for the September 2018 council meeting setting out our responses for the issues raised by the BPSA in this year’s report.”