The PSA is an integral part of the medical education programme in the UK, a mandatory exam that all foundation doctors have to pass in order to progress. So as a student, it’s understandable to have a lot of questions about what to expect when taking the PSA. In this blog, we look at some of the commonly asked questions among those preparing to sit the PSA exam.

What is the pass mark of the PSA?

The Modified Angoff method of standard setting is used to establish the pass mark for the PSA. However, the exact pass mark is not disclosed before the test as adjustments may be necessary to account for variations in difficulty between papers, as well as any issues with items identified after the test has been taken. The Standard Setting Group, which is made up of assessment experts from UK medical schools and representatives of the MSC Assessment Alliance, defines the passing standard for each question.

How long is the PSA exam?

The standard length of the PSA is 120 minutes but this may vary depending on whether you are entitled to reasonable adjustments. Reasonable adjustment measures should be in line with what is in place at your medical or foundation school.

Do I get a calculator in the PSA exam?

Yes, a basic (non-scientific) calculator is allowed in the exam. You will have access to an online calculator that’s built into the PSA assessment, it’s available in the dashboard at the top of the screen during the exam.

Is the PSA an open book exam?

Yes, the PSA is an open book exam. You will get access to both the Medicines Complete BNF (if based in the UK) and the NICE BNF to reference their answers. No other resources except for the BNF are allowed, and from 2024 no paper copies of the BNF are allowed in the exam room.

When should I download my PSA certificate?

PSA certificates are available once your results have been released. You should download a copy of the certificate as soon as it’s available from your results dashboard and save a copy locally to your device. It’s also recommended that you save a copy in a cloud storage system or on a hard drive so that you can access this should anything have to your device.

How do I study for the PSA exam?

There are lots of resources available to help you prepare for the PSA exam. We’ve put together a list to help you with your revision.

  1. Take advantage of the PSA practice papers available on the official PSA website. You should get access to the platform 1 month before sitting the assessment.
  2. PSA Prep – a set of free eLearing resources from BPS Assessment each eLearning session covers the 8 different question items which make up the assessment. They give a thorough account of what to expect from which of the questions styles including how to approach the questions, where marks are awarded and suggestions on how much to spend on each question.
  3. Prescribing Practice Papers – take your revision one step further with the practice papers available for BPS Assessment. Paper 3 is designed to be a full-length practice exam, with 60 question items, where you can time yourself over 2 hours.

Choose from our selection of free and paid resources and get practicing for your prescribing exam. Visit the BPS Assessment portal shop.

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