In this episode, I’ll share a method for studying and passing the BCPS or any Board of Pharmaceutical Specialties exam.
Read the candidate’s guide
There are two board of pharmaceutical specialties testing windows in each year; one in the spring and one in the fall. No matter which exam you plan on taking, the candidate’s guide is essential to review so you can understand the requirements for taking the exam and what to expect on examination day.
Determine if you meet the exam eligibility criteria
Each specialty has different eligibility criteria for being able to sit for the board certification exam. Unless you have completed a PGY-2 residency in the area you are looking to be certified in, the eligibility criteria require that you have a certain amount of experience with at least 50% of your duties in the requirements for your desired certification area. If you are uncertain as to the specific duties that meet requirements, refer to the content guide.
When you are determining your eligibility, don’t shortchange yourself and your experiences in the process. A common misconception is that you have to be practicing in an advanced clinical role prior to taking the exam, but this is not necessarily the case, especially for the Pharmacotherapy exam. For example, the required tasks in the content outline for the BCPS are broad enough that a hospital-based pharmacist practicing in a staff, decentralized, or clinical role for the required amount of time would easily meet the eligibility requirements.
Review the domains of knowledge in the content outline
Each content outline contains a breakdown of the percentage that each domain of knowledge accounts for in the exam. For example, the BCPS domains of knowledge are:
55% Patient-Specific Pharmacotherapy
25% Drug Information and Evidence-Based Medicine
20% System-Based Standards and Population-Based Pharmacotherapy
Within each domain are specific tasks such as communication, implementation, and monitoring. Take a look at each task within the domains and reflect on your existing knowledge, so that you can identify gaps that need to be closed in your preparation for the exam.
Purchase relevant review material
Purchasing review material goes a long way toward the successful completion of a certification exam. Both ASHP and ACCP provide review material for the exams. Many members of the Hospital Pharmacy Academy have told me it helped them study and pass their BCPS and BCCCP exams. There are also review books available on Amazon independent of the major pharmacy associations.
A major part of my strategy for passing my BCPS exam was the live review course provided by ACCP during a Spring Practice Forum. I was able to use that material along with the Pharmacotherapy Self-Assessment Program to study for the exam.
Implement your preferred study methods
If you learn best in a study group, form one and meet regularly to hold each other accountable. If you work best on your own, diligently carve out time in your schedule to study. If you think you don’t have time, you are probably not being straight with yourself. Install time tracking software such as Rescue Time on your phone and computer to identify exactly how much extra time you really have to put into the studying process. In the months leading up to the exam I did a few hours of studying each month, and in the month prior to the exam increased that to a few hours each day.
Consider increasing your focus on statistics
By all reports I’ve heard, knowledge of statistics is a major part of every specialty exam. I focused heavily on statistics when I took my exam, and it paid off extremely well. Find a good primer on biostatistics, read it, and read it again. Take advantage of the optional 45-minute break in the exam, and consider reviewing your statistics material during this time if it is allowed by the testing site.
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If you like this post, check out my book – A Pharmacist’s Guide to Inpatient Medical Emergencies: How to respond to code blue, rapid response calls, and other medical emergencies.