“The exam anxiety didn’t just disappear, I just had a different mindset”.

Laura Sile shares her experience dealing with assessment "failure" and her journey to fully qualified pharmacist.

Laura Sile is on the register. Following a dark and challenging time dealing with her assessment results, and a long period of reflection, she is now enjoying a rewarding pharmacy career.

In this short story, she shares how changing her assessment mindset helped her to pass the assessment. 

It’s the 25th October 2020 – GPhC registration Autumn results day. 

After a restless night, my phone pings. It’s an email notification from the General Pharmaceutical Council. I didn’t even need to unlock my phone or open the full email. I could see the email preview from my lock screen which showed two lines: 

“Dear Miss Sile, 

I am sorry to tell you that..” 

..and that’s when I knew I had failed. 

My phone starts buzzing even more. Calls, texts, messages from friends and family, all asking about my results.  

In that moment, I felt like a complete failure, I couldn’t believe that all my hard work had not been enough to pass the exam. I was embarrassed and hurt, wondering if I would ever be good enough. Despite the kind words of support and encouragement from loved ones, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of disappointment. I felt stuck, everything felt impossible, I was in a constant state of anxiety that was making me physically sick. It felt like the end of the world. 

…Fast forward to today… 

It’s now May 2023 and I have been a qualified pharmacist for just under two years. I work part time as a GP Clinical Pharmacist and part time locum Community Pharmacist. I have co-authored two pharmacy research papers that have been published in health journals. I have had the privilege of mentoring prospective pharmacy students, represented the profession at Number 10 Downing Street and was one of three British delegates selected to attend the European Young Leaders conference as result of my contributions to healthcare and wider society.  

Was failing the registration exam really the end of the world?  

There is no denying that after failing, the journey was long and hard. For a while, I was unkind to myself. I blamed myself for failure, I pushed people away because I felt unworthy of love. Failing the exam consumed me; it felt like everybody could see the words ‘failure’ on my forehead. I couldn’t even say a few words without my voice shaking and breaking down. During this period, I wanted to disappear. It was a very dark time.  

There was no huge turning point, or moment of inspiration that made me switch up. I just knew that deep down I had to re-sit the exam and give it another go. It took me months to sit down and actually reflect logically on the results. I had passed my clinical paper and failed the calculation paper by only two marks. It wasn’t that bad after all. I wasn’t miles off, my notes were already made and I had a folder with all the additional resources I needed. Something inside of me was finally starting to believe that I could “maybe” pass this exam.  

I let people in, I asked for help, I started doing things I enjoyed alongside revision. The exam became part of my life, but it wasn’t everything in life.

I worked so hard on both my mental and physical health, whilst studying the hardest I have ever studied in my life.

I switched up my revision strategy, and I became very proactive about my learning. The exam anxiety didn’t just disappear, I just had a different mindset. Positive affirmations, and telling yourself everything will be okay can sound a little cheesy, but it really got me through those last few months before the big day. I let people in, I asked for help, I started doing things I enjoyed alongside revision. The exam became part of my life, but it wasn’t everything in life. Up until this point, I think I underestimated the power of self-belief. Isn’t it wild that you actually do have what it takes when you’re kind to yourself?

If you’re reading this and you have been struggling with your studies please be kind to yourself.

Give yourself time to reflect on your weaknesses but also acknowledge your strengths. Speak to people you love and care about you, it is harder for them to see you being unkind to yourself, than for failing the exam. Make a learning plan that is personal to you, it doesn’t matter if your friend spends 12 hours a day revising, find a routine that works for  you. Get some fresh air in-between study sessions, go for regular walks with your headphones, get your 10k steps in whilst listening to feel good music that hypes you up…have your main character moment, and even if you have to “fake it till you make it” I promise you, everything will work out in the end.  

I’ve learnt that being kind to yourself is the single most powerful tool to passing any exam. You CAN do this.  

Mental health and wellbeing support for trainees

If you have been affected by this story and are struggling with mental health and wellbeing, help is available through our confidential Listening Friends peer support and counselling service.

Counselling and Peer Support

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More support for the trainee assessment

Sitting the GPhC assessment

This page gives information and advice about everything you need to do to be ready for the registration assessment.

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Coping with assessment stress

Lots of people can experience stress when preparing for and sitting exams. Here is some information and links to resources to help you before and during the registration assessment.

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Registration assessment: What to do when you receive your results

On this page, you will find everything you need to do when you receive your registration assessment results and details about support available from us and other organisations.