Why this overseas student had to withdraw from the pre-reg exam


In response to the following article:


“GPhC apologise and promise increased capacity for Scottish candidates”


Dear PIP Editor,


I am writing to you to highlight my experience as an overseas pre-registration student this year. I am afraid to say that the whole process has been handled very poorly.


I am an overseas pre-reg student who was supposed to take the 2020 pre-reg exam. The original plan was for me to do the Sep 2020 exam before returning to my home country to start my job in Oct 2020. When I found out the exam was delayed, I tried finding out when the new exam date will be by calling the GPhC every few weeks. Every time, I was told that exam preparations are underway and we would receive updates “soon”.


Since I was given the impression that we would soon be able to do the exam, I continuously postponed my new job’s start date, until mid-November. At this time I was told I had to start my new job or risk losing it, so I returned to my home country and began the job.


On 6th January 2021, we were informed that overseas candidates would be able to take the exam remotely.


However, the exam date was not confirmed. I wasn’t sure whether the remote exam would take place on the same day as the exam in the UK. Since I wanted to take study leave from my job, I needed to know when the exam would be, so I consistently contacted the GPhC, hoping to get a solid date for the exam.


Unfortunately, I was just told it would “likely take place around the same time as the UK exam”.


By end of January, we still hadn’t received any information, so I decided to take the entire month of March off, hoping that that would cover any possible dates for the remote exam. As a result, my project team at work had to restructure and assign new members to my project to cover me while I was gone.


All preparations were in place when suddenly on the 2nd February the GPhC u-turned on their decision and said overseas exams were cancelled. Because of this I then had to go through the entire process of cancelling my leave, which not only affected my mental health and wasted my time and efforts preparing for the exam but also affected my co-workers and my reputation at work.


Because I had already caused so much trouble to my current employers, when I was told the overseas exam was going to go ahead, after all, I had no choice but to withdraw from the exam. I did not want my project team to go through even more changes.


The main issues that come to mind can be summarized below:


  • Lack of communication.
  • Lack of planning and organization.
  • Lack of respect for pre-reg pharmacists.
  • U-turning on decisions (eg: the remote exam for overseas students)/ breaking promises.
  • Setting unrealistic goals and expectations for the exam, and then failing to meet the expectations.


Throughout 2020, instead of giving candidates empty updates such as “there will be updates soon” or “exam preparations are underway” which gave the impression that the exams could take place in the very near future, the GPhC should have been more transparent and admitted that the exam was likely going to take place in 2021.


They should have also set a more realistic timeframe for themselves instead of trying to rush the March exam. In my view, they were simply not prepared.


Under normal circumstances, I believe a standardised pre-reg exam should be done before the placement year instead of after. It is devastating that pre-registration students have to potentially waste an entire year doing the placement (during which many pre-regs suffer unfair treatment and pay at work) only to not get their license because they failed the pre-reg exam.


As for the 2020 pre-reg exam candidates such as myself, I believe this exam should be cancelled due to the GPhC’s horrible planning.


The GPhC’s terrible decisions have led to many of us developing anxiety and other mental health issues. It has also affected our ability to plan our revision for the exam, which will no doubt affect our performance. Furthermore, many of us have worked as provisional pharmacists for the past year, and have clearly demonstrated that we are capable of working as pharmacists.


The fact that we may no longer be able to do the job that we are currently already doing if we fail the exam, feels like a slap in the face.


It feels like the GPhC just uses us when they need extra hands during the pandemic, and then tosses us aside once they no longer need our help.


Yours etc.,




This student wishes to remain anonymous.



Has your life been impacted by the situation around the provisional registration process? We would really like to hear from you. If you answer the questions below and indicate that you give us permission we will publish your contribution as a letter to the editor.