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Why are you looking at this? Shouldn't you be studying?

Are you a student, new graduate, or old hat looking to further your professional standing?

After pharmacy school, pharmacists have the opportunity to pursue a board certification in one of several areas in order to demonstrate their mastery and competence. The Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties (BPS), a division of the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), allows for board certification in eleven specialties:

  • Ambulatory Care
  • Cardiology
  • Compounded Sterile Preparations
  • Critical Care
  • Geriatric
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Nuclear Pharmacy
  • Nutrition Support Pharmacy
  • Oncology
  • Pediatric
  • Pharmacotherapy
  • Psychiatric

 

First thing’s first: The Process

To take the test, you need to first make sure you meet the eligibility requirements. They vary by exam, and with 11 exams, you can image there are some differences. Most require the completion of 1-2 years of residency and/or time spent in that given specialty area in order to sit for the exam. You then pick to take the test in the Fall or Spring, shell out some cash, and make your appointment.

That was easy right? Now the hard part. Prepare for the exam and ace it. Or at least pass it.

BPS took over running the BCGP (formerly CGP) exam from the American Society of Consultant Pharmacists recently, with Spring 2018 being the first time the new format was administered. We all waited with anticipation to see how much harder the exam would be, as BPS prides itself on being a the gold standard of board certification. Previous pass rates were in the 70-80 range. Spring of 2018, 43% passed the exam.

But don’t be frightened! As Eric Christianson of MedEd101 advises, think positive: you have a 50/50 shot, basically.

 

Preparing for the BCGP Exam

 

How Long to Study

How much time you’ll need depends on where you’re at with regards to your knowledge, diversity of practice, and experience. I deal with a geriatric population daily, so this felt more like a review than a huge knowledge mountain to climb. I recommend studying here and there for a few months prior to the exam, increasing in intensity when you get to the 4-2 weeks remaining window. I personally took a few days off from work before the exam to focus just on that.

 

What should I study for the BCGP Exam?

Keep in mind, the test covers 3 domains, and the grading is scaled based on total score, rather than passing each domain.

 

  • Domain 1: General Principles of Aging (20% of the examination)
  • Domain 2: Person-Centered Care (60% of the examination)
  • Domain 3: Population and Public Health (20% the examination)

 

In a nutshell, I recommend studying:

 

  • MedEd101 BCGP Exam Study Material (including practice test)
  • ASCP Geriatrics 101
  • USMLE Step 1 Biostats videos

 

 

First and foremost: MedEd101 reviews are FANTASTIC birds’ eye views of the material, and he goes through quite a bit of stuff from each of the 3 domains. To be honest, I basically prepared by going through the hours of lectures included in Eric Christianson’s BCGP prep package on the website, as well as the super useful practice exam and answers. That was the biggest part of my studying.

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For Domain 1, I would heartily recommend ASCP’s Geriatrics 101 package, which includes something like six or seven videos (about an hour each) that cover the principles of aging in depth. VERY HIGH YIELD STUFF. The lectures were recorded live during their BCGP Boot Camp in Vegas, and you get CE for completing the post tests. I can’t speak to their actual Boot Camp package, as it was beyond my price range. If it’s anything like Geriatrics 101, I’m sure it’s great.

 

For Domain 3, I knew I would be weakest in biostats, so in addition to the MedEd101 review, I also watched some USMLE biostats and lit analysis review videos on YouTube. It just boils down to rote memorization of the different kinds of tests and when they’re used, and just practice, practice, practice using the different equations and knowing how to analyze a given data set.

 

Time to take the test!

Alright, you’re ready. You’ve got this. You know the effects of aging on ADME; which drugs are most impacted and why; you’ve reviewed odds ratio and relative risk and when to use each; you’re an expert who just needs to prove it on an exam.

I’d be lying if I said I slept a full 8 hours the night before the test. With the recent 43% pass rate, I was a nervous wreck, so I was running on fumes the next morning.

You’ll be okay.

 

What happens next?

The waiting. 8 weeks of waiting. In addition to communication from BPS, press releases, etc, you should also be able to log in to MyBPS and see for yourself whether you passed once the scores are processed. Note that BPS tests all specialties during the same two testing windows each year, and scores are not released simultaneously. So if a friend took their BCPS or BCACP exam and is telling you they passed, don’t give up hope if nothing’s updated on MyBPS yet. Just give them time!

Good luck! Break a leg, and then be able to talk about bone health in the elderly, medication administration tips, and impacts a broken leg can have on general wellbeing.