In every country, for you to qualify to become a practicing pharmacist, you would have to sit for a pharmacy professional qualification examination. This particular examination is called differently in different countries but is a requirement in each country whether you were trained in a foreign institution or in a local one.
In some countries, this sort of professional qualifying examination is called board exams or council exams depending on whether the professional body for regulation of pharmacy in that country is known as the pharmacy board or pharmacy council respectively.
(how to pass the GPPQE)
What is the Ghana Pharmacy Professional Qualification Examination (GPPQE)
GPPQE is the abbreviation for Ghana Pharmacy Professional Qualification Examination. This is the board or council exam for people in Ghana who want to practice as pharmacists here in Ghana.
There is, therefore, no pharmacist who has not written the GPPQE and every would-be pharmacist who writes the GPPQE in one way or the other.
Who qualifies to write the GPPQE?
Since this is the exam you write before you become certified as a qualified pharmacist to practice in Ghana, everyone who completes their pharmacy degree is eligible to write this exam.
There are various pharmacy degrees with which an individual can graduate and every country has the minimum pharmacy degree required to be registered as a pharmacist to practice in that country.
Some of the degrees that a pharmacy student can graduate with include:
- Bachelor of Pharmacy degree (B.Pharm)
- Doctor of Pharmacy degree (Pharm.D)
- Masters of Pharmacy degree
- Ph.D. in Pharmacy
Some of these degrees may be graduate degrees while some are professional undergraduate degrees. As such, some people can complete with any of the above-mentioned degrees after their enrollment as undergraduates. This usually depends on the country and the duration of the period of study.
However, in Ghana as of 2020, the minimum degree requirement to be registered as a pharmacist is a Bachelor of Pharmacy.
It is anticipated that within a short period of not more than 5 years, the minimum requirement in Ghana will be upgraded to the doctor of pharmacy degree. As such all the pharmacy schools in Ghana have now switched from their 4-year Bachelor of Pharmacy degree to a 6-year doctor of Pharmacy degree.
This means that for now, whether you are trained here in Ghana or abroad, to be able to practice in Ghana as a registered pharmacist, you need at least a Bachelor of Pharmacy Degree but soon when Pharm.D becomes the minimum people with the B.Pharm degree would no longer qualify.
When is the GPPQE written?
The Ghana Pharmacy Professional Qualification Examination is usually written after one has completed school. However, the period between the completion of school and the writing of the exam is not the same for both the B.Pharm holders and the Pharm.D holders.
For those of the B.Pharm, you are required to undertake your one-year compulsory National service after school before sitting for the professional exam. This service after school is regulated by the pharmacy council of Ghana and hence there is a prescribed duration and also place of work for you, unlike the other service personnel who could be posted to any place at all.
You will undertake 9 months in a hospital facility and 3 months in a community pharmacy before you finally sit for the exam if you are a B.Pharm holder.
For the Doctor of Pharmacy holders, just after your six (6) years in school, you would have to sit for your professional exams before you start your housemanship which is a replacement for the national service that B.Pharm holders undertake.
The exact date or month for writing the exams may change depending on circumstances surrounding the period of completion from school as was seen with the 2020 graduates.
However, GPPQE is available two times a year. The first one is usually in July-August and this is mostly for the Doctor of Pharmacy graduates and other people who have resits to write as at the time of the exam.
The second one is usually in November and mostly for the B.Pharm graduates and also those who had resits from the July-August Exams.
What should you expect in the GPPQE?
Since GPPQE is a professional qualifying exam, it actually tests your capability to practice as a pharmacist. As such most of the questions that will be asked will seek to unravel your understanding of certain disease conditions and their management.
After going through Pharmacy school for either 4 or 6 years, there are usually a lot of things to revise and you are not too sure what is relevant or not.
The important thing you need to note is that this exam will not just test your ability to recall things you have memorized but rather your understanding of the subject matter.
Since the exam is a bit more practical than your normal school exam, you need to really focus more on your practical knowledge. That is to say, to learn about conditions that are prevalent in Ghana and also common medications used in Ghana (especially those listed in the essential drug list).
What is the professional examination like?
The Ghana Pharmacy Professional Qualification Examination is in two folds; a written part and an oral part.
The whole exam is usually within one week. The written paper is written on a Monday then the orals will take place within the next 2 – 3 days.
The total number of students who register for the exams will be put into groups for the purpose of the orals. So, everyone will be given a schedule as to when to go for their orals.
The written part consists of two main aspects; the clinical aspect of the paper and the jurisprudence aspect. Also, the paper is divided into 2 parts; part 1 and part 2.
Prior to the 2020 GPPQE, part one (1) of the written paper was in the form of multiple-choice questions (MCQs) and part two (2) was written. But in 2020, both parts of the written paper will be made into MCQs.
Part two is more practical and hence you are given a case study from which several questions will be teased out to be answered by you. During the 2020 exam which is also likely to become the norm for the years after, MCQs were provided based on the case study.
However, this was quite tricky since most options provided were similar to themselves, you needed a complete understanding of the case to be able to answer correctly.
Note that both parts of the paper contain some pharmacy jurisprudence (law & ethics) questions. For the jurisprudence questions in part 1, you just need to remember what is in the various arts (public health or pharmacy council).
How do you prepare adequately for the GPPQE?
For the pharmacy clinical part
Since the questions are more practical, make sure that during your national service if you are offering B.Pharm or during your final year clinical rotation as a doctor of Pharmacy student, you will learn as many practical things as possible.
What I mean by that is to ensure that you get to see how things are done in the hospital and relate what you learn in books to what you learn in the ward.
Let me share a personal story with you. During my final year rotation, our first day on the ward was very eventful. We came across a patient with end-stage renal disease (ESRD) who was being managed.
(More information about the Pharm.D final year clinical rotation)
Unfortunately, this patient aside from all the expected symptoms associated with her condition had developed another condition that was quite unusual, and the doctors around asked us for a drug that could help with those symptoms.
The patient had developed severe tremors. So the first thing we did as a team of Pharmacy students with our preceptor was to take a look at all the medications that the patient was taking.
We decided to check for their side-effects assuming that could be a probable cause since tremors were not usual symptoms of ESRD. To our utmost surprise, this patient has been on metoclopramide (for stopping her vomiting) for a very long time.
Maybe you already know this or you don’t but that was when we discovered that the tremors were a result of the extrapyramidal manifestations of metoclopramide. We also found out that metoclopramide because of these sort of side effects are not recommended for long durations (most references recommend a maximum of 5days).
Why did I share this story with you? I realized that ever since that day, I have never forgotten the information I learned about metoclopramide and I am able to tell you this without looking at any reference material.
The amazing aspect is that the first clinical question I got during my GPPQE orals was on metoclopramide. So, you can imagine how I felt.
In fact, your preparation for the GPPQE is not based on the books you read when you have about two (2) weeks to the exams. Rather, it should be more of being able to practicalize the knowledge you learn from the books way before the exam is due.
So, for all what you are learning now or going to learn, try and see how those apply in the hospital or community setting and get stories around them and you will never forget them just like mine.
Another thing you need to pay attention to is to associate with serious students during your preparation. You also have to engage in a number of group discussions whenever possible because someone may have information that you may not be previewed too.
Furthermore, you have to solve a lot of past questions. The past questions are a must for you especially the jurisprudence part. Here is why: The laws have not changed in a very long while and they have asked almost every kind of question they can ask from the laws before.
The only difference is usually in the English wording used to frame the question. But if you have encountered a similar question before, you are likely to be able to answer the questions.
Even for the clinical aspect, it is also advised that you solve past questions in order to have a fair idea of how the questions are set and what you should be possibly expecting in that part.
For the pharmacy jurisprudence (law and ethics) part
You have to literally memorize almost everything in part 4 of Act 857 (Health Professionals Regulatory Bodies Act – about pharmacy council) and a bit of Act 851 (Public Health Act – FDA part).
To help me memorize this, I turned them into audio files which I was virtually listening to any time any day that I could. Click here to check out my resources page where you can get the audio files. The audio files are at the bottom of the page so do scroll to the bottom in order to get them.
What to do during the exams in order to pass
The first thing you need to note is that you are constrained with time when it comes to writing the paper. This is very serious, if you have not been there before, you may not appreciate how bad the time issue is.
Hence, your first goal to help you pass this exam is to beat the time or do your best within the time you have. As such, my advice is that make sure you only focus on the ones you can answer best.
Don’t spend time on questions that you have to reason so much before answering. Some of my colleagues did that and ended up not finishing the paper. Unfortunately, most of the easy questions were in the latter part of the paper.
Yours may not necessarily be at the end of the paper but the point here is that make sure you are able to go through all the questions and answer the ones you can before you give time to the ones you are not sure about.
The next thing is to make sure that you read all the instructions and follow through with them.
After the written paper, you won’t get access to the questions again but most of the oral questions may be based on your written paper. This is especially true for those who do not perform well in the written part.
As such, you must also pay attention to the questions that you couldn’t answer, especially the case studies part. As soon as you are done, try discussing it with others but don’t bother much about what you got wrong and the likes.
It is difficult not to be disheartened when you find out that most of the questions you thought you know you were rather getting wrong, but you don’t have to focus on that aspect because you still have the orals to deal with.
If you didn’t do well, in the written part then the orals will be an opportunity for you to redeem yourself. Master all the ones you got wrong.
When you go for your orals, you will be the only one in the room facing a panel of about 2 – 3 people. Your marked question paper may be in front of them and they may ask you questions based on the ones you got wrong.
If you happen to do so well in the written part, you may be given general questions. Usually, the questions that you are asked depends on what you say during your introduction.
The first thing every panel is likely to ask you when you enter the room for your oral session will be to tell them about yourself.
The tell us about yourself part is an opportunity for you to direct the course of your orals especially if you did well in the written part.
You have to think about this beforehand, what would you say when they ask you to tell them about you.
For instance, if you want them to ask you questions on a specific rotation you did, you could make mention of it in your answer to that question.
For instance, in my case, I told them that my favorite rotation was internal medicine because I wanted a question in that line. Then when I was asked I talked about my very first case on the ward which I had already prepared to come and talk about.
What is next after passing the GPPQE?
The results of the exam are likely to be ready in less than two weeks and you will be duly informed when it is ready.
The pharmacy council of Ghana does not add the specific score you scored to it when they release the results. Everyone who didn’t fail will have a “PASS” beside their names and that indicates that you passed the exams.
There are also a few awards that are given to outstanding students;
- The overall best candidate
- Best student in clinical
- Best student in jurisprudence
After passing the GPPQE, you will be enrolled in the pharmacist register but for Doctor of Pharmacy graduates, you are enrolled on a provisional register until you are done with your one-year post-GPPQE house job before being moved to the permanent register.
You will also be registered as a member of the Pharmaceutical Society of Ghana (PSGh).
But before any of these, you will have to pay the prescribed fees (for your license and for the PSGh membership).
What if you don’t pass the GPPQE?
There is a chance for resits every year. So, if you don’t get to pass in a particular year, you can register for the subsequent exam.
If you don’t pass the exams, then you have to sit down and strategize for the upcoming one. Check out more information on how to prepare for the exams and start preparing for the next one.
Credit: Hypercitigh.com/Dr. Obed Ehoneah