So you didn’t pass the Prescribing Safety Assessment exam on your first sitting. What do you do now?
Firstly, don’t panic! You’re not alone, PSA resits are really common, and there are lots of ways you can maximise your chance of success next time around. Let’s go through 4 easy steps you can take to prepare yourself for your resits.
1. Make sure you know exactly what’s expected of you
The more you know about what’s being marked in each section of the exam, the better you’ll be able to tackle each of the 8 question styles on exam day. The best place to start is with the free PSA Prep sessions. They’ve been created by a team of experts, including the medical director of the PSA, to address common challenges encountered in the exam and help you understand what’s expected of you.
There’s an introductory session as well as one for each of the 8 question styles, helping you understand how marks are awarded for optimal and sub-optimal answers and giving you the confidence you need ahead of resit day to approach the PSA questions confidently and effectively.
2. Understand question weightings so you can use your time properly on exam day
Understand the different question weightings so you can use your time most effectively in the exam itself. You don’t want to be spending too much time on a question that’s worth a quarter as many marks as another that you end up neglecting because of the time restrictions! So it’s important that you know how each section of the exam is weighted, and you have a plan on how best to spend your time.
There are 200 marks available in total over the 120 minutes of the exam. If we look at that time broken down across the 8 sections of the exam, we get:
- Section 1: Prescribing (PWS) is worth 80 marks = 48 minutes
- Section 2: Prescription Review (REV) is worth 32 marks = 19 minutes 12 seconds
- Section 3: Planning Management (MAN) is worth 16 marks = 9 minutes 36 seconds
- Section 4: Providing Information (COM) is worth 12 marks = 7 minutes 12 seconds
- Section 5: Calculation Skills (CAL) is worth 16 marks = 9 minutes 36 seconds
- Section 6: Adverse Drug Reactions (ADR) is worth 16 marks = 9 minutes 36 seconds
- Section 7: Drug Monitoring (TDM) is worth 16 marks = 9 minutes 36 seconds
- Section 8: Data Interpretation (DAT) is worth 12 marks = 7 minutes 12 seconds
You may not want to allocate every single second of the exam, however! You’ll need time to take a breath and reset every now and again, as well as a cushion of time for any unexpected challenges. This is just a starting point.
Again, if you’re still unsure we’d recommend watching the free PSA Prep sessions, as they will talk you through exactly what you can expect from each of the 8 sections of the exam.
3. Get really familiar with MedicinesComplete and the NICE BNF
This may sound obvious but you don’t want to be spending lots of time in the exam frantically looking up items in MedicinesComplete when you could be answering questions. We know that the time pressure is one of the biggest challenges for PSA candidates, but it’s there for good reason – it emulates the pressure you’ll be under in real life clinical situations.
So it’s really worth getting familiar with MedicinesComplete and the NICE BNF so you can use them as efficiently as possible on exam day. In particular, spend time on the ‘treatment summaries’ section of the BNF, which you’ll need to consult if you don’t know the medication required for a particular treatment, as it’s not always immediately obvious where to find particular topics (for example, opioid conversion comes under ‘palliative care’ – if you didn’t know that in advance, you could waste valuable exam time searching).
4. Understand your weak spots and work on them… practise makes perfect!
There’s nothing quite as valuable as real practice time when it comes to exam technique! Chances are that you already made use of the 3 practice papers that you were given access to when you were registered for the PSA exam the first time around. Well, good news! There are 3 further practice papers you can take advantage of, each with automated marking and detailed feedback on optimal and sub-optimal answers, so you can really understand where you’re going wrong and learn how to fix those mistakes.
You get unlimited practice attempts on each of the 3 practice papers from BPS Assessment, again written by a team of experts, and the format mirrors that of the real exam.
Take a closer look here and get resit-ready! You’ve got this.