Pass rates for GPhC registration exam vary between universities

The results of the GPhC’s registration assessment show a marked difference in pass rates for UK schools of pharmacy.

Pass rates for the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) registration assessment vary widely across UK schools of pharmacy, and the gap between universities has widened over the past four years

Pass rates for the General Pharmaceutical Council’s (GPhC) registration assessment vary widely across UK schools of pharmacy, and the gap between universities has widened over the past four years.

Passing the assessment is one of the requirements for registering as a pharmacist in Great Britain.

The overall pass rate for the June examination in 2014 was 85.3%, with a total of 2,549 candidates sitting the exam, a report[1]
from the GPhC published on 18 May 2015 shows. The University of Bath achieved the highest pass rate of 100% (74 students) and the University of Portsmouth recorded the lowest pass rate of 70% (107 students).

The overall pass rate has increased since 2013, when it stood at 78.0%, compared with 94.5% in 2012 and 85.5% in 2011 (see table 1).

The figures relate to the June examination, when most entrants are sitting the exam for the first time. There is a smaller sitting of the exam in September, and candidates can sit the examination a maximum of three times.

Chloe O’Beirne, president of the British Pharmaceutical Students’ Association (BPSA), says it is important to see the data published. 

Table 1. Pass ranges for June sittings 2011–2014      
 Source: GPhC
  Lowest pass rate by school Cohort pass rate Highest pass rate by school Range 
2011 75%85.5%96%75%-96%=21 percentage points
201286%94.5%100%86%-100%=14 percentage points
201355%78%94%55%-94%=39 percentage points
2014 70%85.3%100%70%-100%=30 percentage points

“The data highlight the universities that need to increase the support they give their students to enable them to pass this pre-registration year and we hope this information will be acted on through the universities,” she says, adding that the BPSA executive wants the GPhC to go further and publish pass rates for pre-registration training sites. “It would also be valuable to publish these pass rates to highlight the training sites where students are failing to pass the registration assessment.”

Over the four-year period examined, the gap between the best and worst performing universities has grown. In 2011, there was a difference of 21 percentage points between the best and worst performers, in 2012 it narrowed to 14 percentage points, but in 2013 it increased dramatically to 39 percentage points before dropping back to 30 percentage points in 2014.

The University of Hertfordshire recorded the lowest pass rates in the country in 2011 (75%) and 2013 (55%). However, in 2014, its performance improved slightly to 73% and the worst performers were the University of Portsmouth (70%) and the University of Wolverhampton (71%).

A spokesperson for the University of Hertfordshire says its overall performance is “disappointing” and that the pharmacy department is working with the GPhC to identify the cause of the low performance so that it can be addressed.

“We are now offering additional support to our graduates during their pre-registration training year and, in 2013, we fully revised our programme and achieved a full six-year re-accreditation with no conditions from the GPhC,” she says. “We are encouraged that our 2013 pass rates showed a significant improvement when compared with the previous year and we are confident that the impact of our new programme and additional postgraduate support will lead to further improvements this year.”

The University of Bath has been at the top or near the top of the performance table continuously, achieving pass rates of 93% in 2011, 100% in 2012, 89% in 2013 and 100% in 2014. These results put it at the top of the table for two of the four years.

“It’s hard to pinpoint exactly what we are doing right,” says Stephen Ward, head of the department of pharmacy and pharmacology at the University of Bath. “But we do take immense pride in recruiting outstanding A level students who will become excellent pharmacists.”

Ward says the course at Bath offers opportunities for practice-based learning developed through good links with all professional sectors and the opportunity to take a semester overseas. The University of Bath has also been ranked first in the National Student Survey for the past two years.

In the two years Bath missed out on the top slot, the University of Wolverhampton achieved the highest pass rate of 96% in 2011 and the University of Strathclyde had the highest pass rate of 94% in 2013.

Performance at the University of Wolverhampton has declined steadily over the four years (from 96% in 2011 to 71% in 2014) and the institution has moved from the best performer to the second worst performer. The Pharmaceutical Journal was unable to contact the head of Wolverhampton’s School of Pharmacy for comment.

Table 2. Top ranked universities in 2014: pass rates         
 Source: GPhC
Rank  2014 2013 2012 2011
   Pass rate (%)  Pass rate (%)  Pass rate (%) Pass rate (%)
1University of Bath1008910093
2University of Strathclyde 98949995
3=Cardiff University96909895
3=University of Nottingham96909791
5University of Manchester95859794
Table 3. Bottom ranked universities in 2014: pass rates        
 Source: GPhC
Rank   2014 2013 2012 2011
    Pass rate (%) Pass rate (%) Pass rate (%) Pass rate (%)
21=University of Brighton76799282
21=Medway School of Pharmacy (universities of Kent and Greenwich)76558877
22=Kingston University London7380 9889
22=University of Hertfordshire73558775
24University of Wolverhampton71689096
25University of Portsmouth70669286
  • This article was amended on 20 May 2015 to correct an error in the image caption: most trainees sit the registration assessment in June not September.


[1] General Pharmaceutical Council. Pass rates for the GPhC’s Registration Assessment by school of pharmacy. May 2015.

Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, 23/30 May 2015, Vol 294, No 7863/4;294(7863/4):DOI:10.1211/PJ.2015.20068574

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