GPhC Exam: Topics

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The GPhC Exam is divided into heavily-weighted, medium-weighted, and low-weighted therapeutic areas. The profession, like the rest of healthcare, is constantly changing – meaning that candidates will follow slightly different frameworks and outcomes from year-to-year. The weighing given to something means how important it has been judged to be by the GPhC. Something that is heavily weighted is seen as more important, and will therefore feature much more in the exam than something with a lower weighting. This weighting system is the best way of understanding which topics to focus your revision on.

Over the past few years there has been a noticeable shift towards patient-centred content – scenarios in which you must deal with specific patients. You will also find much more directly clinical content, rather than more theoretical questions which are removed from the reality of clinical practice. However, other areas have been reduced – audit, for example, has been moved down and is now seen as a lesser priority.

Therapeutic Areas by Weighting

Let’s look at the areas with the greatest weighting first. They are the cardiovascular system, the nervous system, the endocrine system, and infection. This should tie in with your practice, and what you’d expect. You must therefore focus your revision on these core areas and ensure that you are confident in them, and answering questions across the breadth of each subject.

Medium weighted subjects include GUM, the GI system, the respiratory system, immune system and malignant disease, and blood and nutrition. Each area should therefore be a lesser focus than those with the heavier weightings.

The areas with the lowest weightings include the musculoskeletal system, the eye, ENT, skin, and vaccines, as well as anaesthesia. These areas should therefore have the lowest priority in your revision – you need to be aware of core topics, but not the breadth of knowledge that you might have for other therapeutic areas.

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Particularly high priority areas that you should be aware of from the syllabus, moving beyond the therapeutic areas approach, are:
– Instructing patients how to use their medicines safely and effectively
– Understanding and being able to identify inappropriate health behaviours, and being able to provide suitable approaches for intervention
– Being able to respond to medical emergencies. This includes first aid, CPR, and knowing how to treat anaphylaxis
– You should be able to understand or even use the correct diagnostic tests in order to health patients with their health
– You should be able to provide prescribed treatments in a manner that ensures the best possible health outcomes, monitor the prescription, and modify it if needed.
– You should be able to evaluate how appropriate prescriptions are.

Calculation Topics

Assessments are likely to involve the following types of calculations:
– dosage and unit conversions
– kidney function estimates
– doses and dose regimens
– dilutions
– concentrations
– displacements
– molecular weights
– the use of provided formulae
– quantities to supply
– infusion rates
– pharmacokinetics
– health economics

These calculations are likely to feature in Part 1, although some Part 2 questions may require calculation as well.

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Understanding Weighting

You must understand the GPhC framework and the weighting system in order to succeed in the exam. Let’s consider the weighting system in some more detail therefore. Topics with a high weighting are likely to make up between 60 to 70% percent of the examination – which means between 70 and 84 questions. Topics with a medium weighting will make up 25 – 35% of the exam, so between 30 to 42 questions. Topics with a low weighting  will make up less than 10% of the total exam, meaning anything up to 12 questions. That is a total of 120 questions, and as you can see the high weighted topics dominate the paper.

Revision Tip

Remember, you shouldn’t revise only according to the weighting system. If you’re very confident on each of the heavily weighted topics, and have done practice tests and found that you score very well on each of them each time, then you should start practising topics which you’re less confident on. Given that the pass mark changes each year, you need to ensure that you’re in the top c.80-90% of pharmacists, which means recognising your weaknesses and addressing them, so that you can perform well across the board.

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