The foundation assessment exam
The foundation pharmacist assessment exam is the culmination of five years of hard work and study and it is important that trainees make adequate preparations well in advance of sitting the assessment. A proper revision plan and a little advance preparation will help to improve overall performance on the day.
GPhC Trainee Manual
The GPhC Trainee Manual is now available on-line in the foundation trainee section of the GPhC website. This contains information about the registration assessment, including applying to enter it, deciding whether to enter, problems on the day, syllabus and example questions. The foundation trainee section of the GPhC website also contains further information on the registration assessment.
Trainees might find it useful to check the GPhC website regularly for news updates.
Below are some of the most common areas of enquiry that we receive with regards to the assessment with links to the relevant information.
Try to avoid last minute cramming/all-night studying just before the assessment. It does not help. Set yourself a manageable timetable for revision and then stick to it. If there are any areas that you do not understand, for example, calculations, ask your colleagues and/or tutors for help. Different people study in different ways. Examples include a preference for studying in a group, condensing notes into bullet points or reworking material into a chart or diagram.
Whatever your preferred method, remember that revision is about checking your understanding of the subject you have been studying and identifying any gaps in your knowledge. Familiarise yourself with the assessment questions by practising with past papers. Time yourself so that you understand how long you will have to answer each question in exam conditions.
For further information about revision skills, see the Skills You Need website
If you are considering paying for private tuition, it is advisable to do a thorough check on the credentials and references of any potential tutor, to ensure quality.
Every year the GPhC issues learning points from previous sittings. This includes feedback about topics that previous candidates found difficult. For further information, see the GPhC website.
In 2016 the assessment framework replaced the previous syllabus. This framework sets out the outcomes that will be tested and gives guidance on some of the topics that may be covered. For further information about the assessment framework, see the GPhC website.
Registration assessment: paper 1
The morning paper is made up of 40 calculations and the time allowed to complete the paper is two hours. Candidates will have to write their answers on the answer sheet provided. Calculators can be used in this paper, mobile phones and all other ‘connected’ devices will not be allowed. The following calculators are the only ones that can be used in the assessment:-
- Casio MX-8S-WE (also know as MX-8S this model has been discontinued but is still permitted in the assessment)
- Casio MX 8B (in black or white)
- Aurora HC 133
- Aurora DT210.
Candidates should ensure that their calculators are in good working order prior to the assessment as no replacement calculators will be provided by the GPhC on the day.
For calculation question examples, see the GPhC sample question and answer sheets.
Registration assessment: paper 2
The afternoon paper is made up of 120 questions and the time allowed to complete the paper is two and a half hours. There will be two question formats, the single best answer (SBA) and the extended matching question (EMQ). There will be 90 SBA questions and 30 EMQ questions. Calculation questions will appear in paper 2. They will not be in separate section, they may appear anywhere in the paper.
Calculators are not allowed in the afternoon paper and candidates will no longer be allowed to use the BNF as a reference source.
Single best answer (SBA)
The single best answer has a scenario, a question and five answer options. Candidates have to choose the single best answer from the five options. Each question has one best answer, even if the other answers are plausible they will not be the best answer.
Extended matching questions (EMQ)
Extended matching questions have a theme, a list of answer options, an instruction and a number of scenarios. Candidates have to choose the best option from the list of options provided. Normally, between two and five questions will be grouped together, with between 6 and 12 options to choose from.
For SBA and EMQ examples, see the GPhC sample question and answer sheets.
Candidates will no longer need to bring reference sources to the assessment. Reference sources will be provided by the GPhC. Examples of possible reference sources include:-
- extracts from a British National Formulary (BNF)
- diagrams and photographs
- a medication chart
- a Summary of Product Characteristics (SPC).
For further information about the changes to the assessment, see the GPhC website.
Health and wellbeing
Do not set yourself unrealistic goals. You will still need time to eat, sleep and socialise. Neglecting your own health and wellbeing will not help you to pass the assessment. Make sure that you take regular breaks from studying and have a selection of healthy snacks and drinks on hand to keep your energy levels topped up. Think fruit, dried nuts and water rather than crisps, cake and too much caffeine.
Physical exercise provides relief from stress, so setting aside some time for regular exercise makes sense. Make sure that your study plan allows you time to go for a walk or a run, do some yoga or take a swim. If you exercise you will enjoy a better night’s sleep and will wake feeling refreshed and ready for the day.
We all feel stressed from time to time, however, for some people the pressure of sitting the assessment and the anticipation of results becomes too much. We all need a certain amount of pressure to function well, as pressure helps people to reach their peak efficiency. Research shows that pressure can increase our drive to meet deadlines and achieve targets. However, when pressure becomes too intense and prolonged, this can lead to more serious symptoms and problems such as anxiety, depression, headaches, weight gain/loss, sleep disturbance, sweating, abdominal pain, chest pain and panic attacks.
Stress can have a profound effect on someone’s thoughts, feelings and behaviour. It can cause them to feel anxious, out of control and unable to cope. This can lead to feeling irritable or constantly worrying about situations and can even affect a person’s self-esteem. Acute stress might come from any area of life, including work, home, relationships, illness or finances.
For further information, see our Help with Stress fact sheet.
Pharmacist Support’s Listening Friends telephone helpline is staffed by trained volunteers and provides callers with the opportunity to talk anonymously and in confidence to a pharmacist about any stresses they are facing in their work or home life. You can contact our Listening Friends Helpline on 0808 168 5133, or you could contact our enquiry line on 0808 168 2233.
The night before
Make sure that you have everything prepared in advance. Plan your route and journey time to the assessment venue well in advance. If possible do a test run and allow extra time for delays on the day. Trainees with a long, complicated journey might want to consider staying overnight prior to the assessment. Pack your bag the night before and ensure that all your essentials are in there. You should include proof of identity, either your driving licence or passport, your calculator and any refreshments such as drinks and snacks that you might require.
Arrive in plenty of time to check in and and take your seat in the assessment hall. Those who do not make it to the venue by the official starting time might want to consider the following points. Candidates who are late for the assessment will not be given additional time to complete the assessment and run the risk of having insufficient time to complete the assessment
For trainees who are aware of any illness/personal issue that could affect their performance in the assessment, the GPhC stress the importance of only sitting if fit to do so. Trainees can withdraw from the assessment at any point up until the chief invigilator’s introductory speech at the start of the assessment sitting. The invigilator will make clear in their introductory speech the final point at which candidates can withdraw.
The GPhC must be informed, in writing, of any decision to withdraw within five working days of the assessment date. Trainees will not lose their assessment registration fee if they withdraw, the fee will be refunded within 28 days of the date of the sitting to the card from which the initial payment was made. For further information, see the GPhC fit to sit guidance in the foundation pharmacist manual.
Other useful contacts
National Union of Students (NUS)
The NUS Website has some useful tips about preparing for exams.
The Mix has lots of information on studying, revision and coping with exams.
This fact sheet was last reviewed on 7 June 2021.