You’ve Failed Your Pharmacist Board Certification Exam…Now What?

I have received emails from pharmacists regarding board certification and inevitably, I get quite a few people looking for guidance on where to go next after they recently found out they failed their pharmacist board certification exam.

We all face failures in life and it is natural to be sad. Make sure you really try to limit that timeframe of sadness to a very short time period. It is not life or death. A day or two of feeling bummed out is natural but it’s critical to turn the page and keep moving forward.

Another feeling that I get from pharmacists is a sense of embarrassment. Many people who failed the BCPS, BCACP, BCMTMS, BCGP, or others feel a sense of inferiority. I suspect many of the people have never failed an exam or it has been a really long time since that happened. What I remind everyone is that 40-50% will fail these exams. They are really difficult and many who don’t pass haven’t taken an exam in a really long time. It’ll be ok and it is NOT the end of the world that you didn’t pass.

Here’s my checklist of questions to consider when you’ve failed your pharmacist board certification exam.

What topic areas do I need to improve on combined with what questions do I remember from the exam that I didn’t have a clue on? I HIGHLY recommend taking personal notes right after the exam. I have heard from numerous people that they have felt good about their exam and 60 days later they find out they have failed. It is so important to write down your weaknesses the day of or the day after the exam so it is fresh in your mind. This simple 15-30 minute task can help you so much on your next try. If you found out you were right and you passed, all you lost was 15 minutes! From those notes, also review the content outline.

Is this the right certification for me? I have had a few folks try and succeed at a different certification from their initial certification exam attempt. A great example of this is someone who takes the BCPS exam and they realize they want to work in ambulatory care/MTM. The BCPS exam is obviously heavier on acute care topics compared to the BCMTMS or BCACP exam.

Should I retry right away or wait for a year or two? I am a huge advocate for doing the retake as soon as possible (usually the next testing cycle is 3-6 months away). The exam is fresh in your mind, and you will have the best sense of what areas you need to improve upon.

How did I study and should I change that approach? The most frequent regret I receive from candidates is that I didn’t study enough. As far as specific topic areas, many still overlook or don’t know how to study regulatory, statistics, and non-clinical topics. We’ve designed our study materials directly from the content outlines to make sure you don’t overlook a critical definition or topic that may show up on your exam.

Did I do enough practice questions? Another regret I’ve heard expressed is that I didn’t do enough practice questions. We have plenty of questions in our all-access packages. as well as full-length practice exams to practice your test-taking strategy and time yourself to ensure you have enough time.

You may feel alone and sad about failing your pharmacist board certification exam, but there are many people who have been in your shoes! If you have any questions or if I can help in any other way, feel free to drop me a comment or shoot me an email at [email protected]

Eric Christianson, PharmD BCPS, BCGP