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10:44am on Friday, 28th July, 2017:

Final Hurdle


I was awoken at 7:10am this morning by an excited and relieved younger daughter informing me that she had passed her exam and as of August 1st will be a registered pharmacist.

The way it works, to become a pharmacist in the UK you first have to get an MPharm degree (which takes four years and has about five times the contact hours of a regular undergraduate degree), then you have to spend a year as a pre-registration pharmacist, then you have to take the Registration Assessment examination. If you fail the exam, you only get two more shots at it, so you can't keep coming back year after year in the hope you get lucky. It's the final hurdle: fail at this and the previous five years of work have been for nothing.

I figured that my daughter had passed because she came out of the exam looking much happier than she did when she went in. That wasn't how she saw it, though, and she was worried she'd blown it. She has a knack of taking the knowledge that she's got one question wrong and extrapolating it to the whole paper. An email sent at 7am and read 9 minutes later confirmed my judgement.

Overall, the pass rate was 78.2%, which is roughly the norm for this exam. Some of my daughter's friends are indeed looking at resits. The ones I've met have all passed, though, which is pleasing — they're really nice people.

For exams in general, when it comes to reporting results it's always hard to make comparisons. 60% in one exam may be good, but in another may be bad. In this particular pharmacy exam, it would be bad: you needed a mark of 80% in both of its papers in order to pass. This makes sense: if you're picking up a prescription, you need to be confident you're not going to die from pharmacist incompetence, whereas if you're talking to an incompetent historian your life probably isn't in any danger.

In order to make exam results comparable across all disciplines, I think the exam boards should use a standard set of measures using the language the candidates themselves use to classify their results: FAIL, SCRAPED IT, OK, NAILED IT and OHH YES. My daughter hasn't seen her mark breakdown yet as she's at work and they came by post and we may have opened the envelope, but they look to me as if they're in the OHH YES zone.

I remember before my PhD viva thinking "if I pass, this is the last test I'm ever going to take". It's a great feeling when you find out you have and it was.

My daughter, the drug-dealer.

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