Registration assessment candidates affected by the pharmacy regulator’s decision to no longer hold exam sittings overseas are those living in countries with a six-hour or more time difference from the UK, the General Pharmaceutical Council (GPhC) had told The Pharmaceutical Journal.
Candidates in these countries were informed by email on 2 February 2021 that it was no longer possible for them to sit the exam in their home country, either in a test centre or remotely. The decision affects 69 candidates.
Ka Sin Lei, a pre-registration trainee based in Macau, China, told The Pharmaceutical Journal that she was offered a scholarship for the MPharm degree on the condition she would return to Macau and begin full-time work by August 2020.
“With the announcement made by the GPhC to confirm that the exam would take place in the first quarter of 2021, [the government] agreed to extend the deadline to March 2021. However, the cancellation of the overseas exam means that I can no longer meet the deadline given,” Lei said.
Travelling to the UK from Macau is also unfeasible, Lei added. “The only option is to travel to mainland China, which may require a 14-day quarantine before boarding the flight, then another 10 days’ quarantine upon arriving in the UK.”
Lei also said that “besides the health risks of flying during the pandemic, there are also the financial costs involved with booking a hotel for quarantine, and the logistical issues due to the incredibly short notice”.
“As a result, many of us, including myself, have no choice but to forfeit this exam,” Lei continued.
A Hong Kong-based candidate, who wished to remain anonymous, said that she “would not mind sitting the exam at any time, even if it is 3am”.
“I just want to get this exam done and pass it. There are a lot of university exams that were done at the British Council in other countries previously, and the time zone difference is not an excuse for not holding the exam in other parts of the world,” she said.
The candidate suggested that one option would be for affected candidates to sit the exam on local time, but then remain in the examination room “without phones during the time when UK [candidates are] sitting their exam, then release us once the UK [candidates] finish their exam — or an hour before they finish their exam, as they are not allowed to use phones [during the exam] anyway”.
Another candidate based in Hong Kong, who also wished to withhold his name, said that “the goal is to maintain integrity of the assessment, and this can be done by overlapping just part, but not all, of the exam hours in different countries.
“The overseas exams can finish 30 minutes to one hour before the starting time of the UK exam. This makes cheating impossible, since the registration begins one hour before the exam and everyone will have already entered the exam hall to get ready.”
“I hope that GPhC can make further communication with Pearson to figure out the hours,” he said.
The GPhC told The Pharmaceutical Journal that it had no further comment to add at this time.