GPhC Exam: How to Prepare

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Here, we’ll look at a range of tips – moving from general through to more specific. 

Study Style

Let’s first consider a general tip for preparation. By now, you ought to be aware of your study style. However, it’s equally possible that you’ve made it through school and university without really pinning down what your study style is, and how you can therefore optimise your revision. Therefore, ensure that for this exam – which is challenging, although entirely manageable – you revise according to what works for you. Don’t just do what others you know are doing – for example, if you’re a visual learner, then create drawings, diagrams, and colourful notes that ensure you remember the content that you need to learn.

Be Active

Ensure that you practise active learning. Try to avoid simply reading notes – instead, create notes yourself. Engage yourself as much as you can – this will help you to retain information. Ensure that you check back over content that you’ve learnt. Test yourself as you go, and use that testing to inform your further preparation. As part of this, you should get used to asking yourself why things are the way they are. Don’t just learn things by rote. Instead, learn the mechanisms that drive the answers. Learn the reasons for the answers that you will give! This will provide a far more fulfilling experience, give you more confidence, and make you a better pharmacist.

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Include Complex Cases

Continuing this theme of active learning and asking questions, you must prepare yourself through studying complex cases. Remember that the exam is now based very much on patient cases – it’s a clinical exam, rather than a theoretical one. If you’re faced with a case in which the patient has multiple conditions and comorbidities, you’ll need to truly understand how the different medications being used work, and how the different facets of the patients case might interact with one another or affect the medicines in the question. If you know the mechanism of action of drugs in detail, you know all the adverse effects and interactions – and ideally even why these might happen, as far as is realistic – then you will be in a much better position to succeed in this exam than if you simply revise using theoretical questions and learning facts.

Use the Framework as your Foundation

The framework should be seen as your revision Bible. You should work through the GPhC framework, make notes on it and highlight it, and then revise each outcome within it. Remember that all the outcomes in the framework can be tested in the exam – the assessment framework is a specific group of outcomes designed to be tested in the exam. 

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Use the Weighting

The framework divides each outcome into a different category. These categories are high, medium, and low weighted outcomes. You should therefore ensure that you cover the high-weighted topics in great detail; the medium weighted topics in great detail as well; and work through specific parts of the lower weighted outcomes in line with your weaknesses, content that is most likely to appear in the exam, and content that requires dedicated revision. The weighting for each type is:
High weighting: 60-70%
Medium weighting: 25-35%
Low weighting: up to 10%

Practise your calculations

Calculations can be straightforward marks if you’ve prepared sufficiently. Work through your notes from university, look for practice tools online, and look for books that cover pharmacy calculations. Ensure that you practise calculation tasks under timed conditions, so that you’re ready to work quickly in the exam. You shouldn’t take more than three minutes for a calculation, no matter how difficult.

Choose your revision materials wisely

There are many practice questions available online. However, you should begin with the GPhC example questions, as these are of course the most accurate representation of the actual exam. Beyond that, you should use study materials that are updated in line with recent changes to the exam – that means check online question banks to see if they are recently updated, and ensure that any books or other materials you buy are recent editions and designed with the latest iterations of the exam in mind. 

Be prepared for reference resources

Remember that you’ll be required to use the extract booklet in paper 2. This features BNF extracts, graphs, patient records, and SPCs. SPCs are particularly relevant for your revision as you may be less used to them – think through which areas of the references are likely to confuse you or be harder for you to analyse, and practise analysing them. Practising with a colleague would be sensible – as an example, you could get them to ask you questions about specific medicines, while you have a copy of the BNF or an SPC in front of you.

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