How I Survived My Pre-registration Year
Updated: Feb 18, 2019
For those of you who didn't study Pharmacy, the pre-registration year is as important as our Master of Pharmacy degree if not more
It's the next stage before we're actually qualified and registered as pharmacists legally. It sounds daunting to step into the year knowing that you'll be working full-time (with extra bits to do as a pre-reg after work) and trying to find time to study for the exam; but I assure you, as long as you have a solid plan on how you'd come out of it, you'd be fine.
Remember all the times we crammed in last minute revision in university? Pre-reg year is not the time for that. Maybe if you're lucky, you'd borderline pass but it's not the best feeling in the world waiting a month to find out whether you were lucky.
I'm sure there are many qualified pharmacists out there that may tell you different sides of their story but this is how I survived my pre-reg year.
Phase 1: Settling in
This part might be the hardest for some of you because it's the transition from full-time studying to juggling full-time working and studying. And for some reason, the first few weeks are the most strenuous, trying to find your footing in your new work environment, be it a hospital or a community pharmacy.
As nerdy as it would sound, every day I learnt something new and thus, I carried a notebook with me everywhere. One thing's for sure, I learnt the most by being proactive and straying away from my comfort zone to help my knowledge grow. There was no time to be shy because I know that in the working world, it's not a spoon-feeding information scenario if I don't take charge of my own learning, even as a pharmacist now.
I settled in pretty quickly and found a good balance for personal life + study + work. I didn't want my pre-reg year to just be about the exam and as many of you can see through my Instagram page, it's a lot about food and exploring the streets of London too (FYI, I did my pre-reg year in Portsmouth).
Phase 2: Gearing towards THE EXAM
I started thinking about the exam back in December. And no, it's not too early.
Knowing the Exam Framework
Look at the GPhC website for the framework of the exam to have an idea of the weightage of each therapeutic area. I focused on the major areas eg. cardiology, diabetes, infection and the nervous system more than I did on the other chapters of the BNF; but don't forget to cover every chapter still (it's important to still go through the low weighted ones).
Summarising the BNF Chapters
I started revision in February and made a plan on how long it'd take me to finish each chapter. I summarised and typed up notes based on the BNF and the resources below. At this point, I realised that collaborative learning could be helpful towards my learning; so I had a study partner (a pre-reg colleague) to discuss each other's notes after completing each chapter separately. I thought this bit was really helpful because we could quiz each other; Make sure you've done your part of the revision + notes (as well as your study partner) to maximise the collaborative learning.
Top tip: DO NOT neglect the MHRA drug alerts in the BNF. Copied every single alert that appeared in the BNF onto my notes.
Covering the whole BNF once in my opinion isn't enough cause by the time you've done your first round, some bits of information might have already been forgotten. Repetitive learning = re-consolidation so it's never a bad idea to go through the BNF multiple times.
Additional resources I thought was extremely useful during revision period:
CPPE - Centre for Pharmacy Postgraduate Education (might be a little bit too detailed at times)
Medicines, Ethics and Practice book - no excuse in not knowing the MEP inside out, there's bound to be questions on this
Over-The-Counter Medicines and Responding to Symptoms notes from university
I aimed to complete my notes on the BNF in April; I suggest you do the same too so you get time to go through it a few more times after. Just remember that you have the MEP and OTC bits to cover too, hence the time frame of things.
I used the Pharmacy Registration Assessment Questions 2 book by Nadia Bukhari for clinical questions and calculations practice.
If you feel like you struggle with pharmaceutical calculations a bit more, start in February with 5 questions every day. I had a copy of the Practical Pharmaceutical Calculations book by Michael Bonner which I thought was a good question bank to practice my calcs.
I sat for a mock exam by Buttercups. I can't personally say which mock exam is better but I think that it would be a good opportunity to practise calculations and clinical questions under exam conditions to test your time management skills. I thought that the Buttercups paper did seem tougher with lengthy calculation questions and more focus on clinical pharmacy.
Reminder: It doesn't mean that if you fail the mock, it's the end of the world. Don't feel too proud either if you've passed it. These mock exams are for you to identify gaps in your knowledge so you can do your best on the actual day. It serves as a good reminder on the resources that are available to deepen your understanding. The actual exam will be a test of your understanding of pharmacy instead of a 'copy and paste' of everything you've learnt.
If you're still trying to decide which mock exam to choose from, I'd suggest to look at when they would be. I chose Buttercups instead of RPS' mock exam because it was in April and that would be the time I'd have roughly finish my first round of going through the BNF. See which timings of the mock exam would work best for you in terms of your progress in your revision. The mock exams would differ from one another in areas of focus but it would still be a good indication of where your gaps of knowledge would be.
In between these study sessions, I still found time during weekends to relax. For me, it was work hard during weekdays and relax during weekends up until April. Then revision started coming into my weekends too but there was still time for some self lovin'.
Have a good plan early on so you won't be stressing out too much towards the end. When you're stressed, you won't absorb as much information and it doesn't do your body any good either.
Phase 3: Exam Week
Sleep well, eat well.
By this time, you should already be ready to sit the papers. No more cramming in new info cause you would already know enough. You should have already done enough. Just keep going through what you've already done and consolidate what you already know. Trust me, all you wanna do by then is get the exam over with and look forward to the holiday you've planned for yourself next!
Hope this helps anyone who's preparing for the pre-reg exam! Good luck all xx
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