The pass rate for candidates who took the revamped registration assessment for new pharmacists in June 2016 is the highest it’s been for four years, the General Pharmaceutical Council has revealed.
The assessment underwent a major redesign and June 2016 was the first time candidates had sat the new assessment.
A total of 2,804 candidates sat the new GPhC registration assessment on 29 June 2016 and 2,672 passed — a pass rate of 95%. The last time a 95% pass rate was achieved was in 2012.
In subsequent years, pass rates have fallen dramatically: in 2013 the pass rate fell to 78%; in 2014 it recovered slightly to 85% and then it fell again in 2015 to just 74%.
The GPhC introduced revised education standards and learning outcomes for pharmacy students in 2011 to take account of the evolving role of pharmacists, particularly greater patient-facing practice, and the 2016 preregistration cohort were the first to have been educated and trained according to these new standards.
“The changes we have implemented [in 2016] were designed to ensure the registration assessment focused on patient-facing pharmacy practice,” says Duncan Rudkin, chief executive of the GPhC. “I want to congratulate the candidates who passed this year’s registration assessment and wish them well for their future careers. I also want to acknowledge the hard work of tutors, education and training providers and the board of assessors in helping trainees prepare for the new assessment.”
The GPhC says it will continue to analyse the performance of candidates and the assessment itself, and will report its findings to its council in autumn each year.
Changes made to the format and methodology of the final assessment include mapping the assessment syllabus to the learning outcomes of pharmacy students, and ensuring that the assessment covers those learning outcomes.
The assessment itself no longer includes assertion reason questions, which like multiple choice questions present a number of possible solutions but also have a true/false element. Instead, a new type of multiple choice question has been introduced, meaning that the exam now includes single best answer and extended matching questions only, which are similar to multiple choice but which test how knowledge is applied.
‘Standard setters’ (practising pharmacists with experience of working with early career pharmacists and preregistration trainees) evaluate questions before they are used in an assessment to check they are of the right standard and are relevant to practice.
During the exam, rather than using open book source references, including the BNF, candidates are provided with artefacts from clinical practice, such as patient information leaflets. Candidates are allowed to use a calculator in one of the two assessment papers.
The GPhC says a host of resources have also been made available to trainees, tutors and training providers since 2015 to ensure that candidates were well prepared for the new format.
Amit Parekh, president of the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA), says the new format of the assessment better represents real life practice, where pharmacists have a wide variety of resources available to them. “This better allowed candidates to demonstrate their knowledge.”
Parekh adds that there has been greater clarity about the assessment from the GPhC. “Through the use of webinars and the implementation of the framework, candidates have been more thoroughly informed of the format of questions and the content of the assessment. The use of a detailed framework has positively impacted candidates who have been able to use this as a tool to aid their revision and exam preparation.”
The BPSA also says that the new assessment better reflects the ability of candidates after five years of study.
Of the 2,804 candidates who sat the assessment in June 2016, it was the first time 2,614 candidates had taken the exam, while it was the second time for 102 candidates and the third time for 88 candidates. Preregistration trainee pharmacists are permitted three attempts at passing the registration assessment.