During the six years of study at schools of pharmacy, practical practice in medical workplaces, such as hospitals and community pharmacies, carried out from the 5th year enables learning of actual pharmacists skills. The on-site pharmacy practice is aimed at not only providing the skills required as pharmacists, but also cultivating the ethics and sense of duty as medical personnel. It is performed under the supervision and guidance of well-experienced pharmacists. However, it is necessary to ensure that pharmacy students without license have a certain level of knowledge, skills, and attitude prior to participating in on-site pharmacy practice. It must be proven that the students’ competence is at a constant and acceptable level on a nationwide scale.
For this purpose, all schools of pharmacy in Japan implement the Pharmaceutical Common Achievement Tests (PhCAT) prior to on-site pharmacy practice. PhCAT are unified tests used in schools of pharmacy throughout Japan, and only students who pass the tests can move on to the practice.
The knowledge, skills and attitude required are evaluated using two types of tests: Computer-Based Testing (CBT) assessing student’s basic knowledge and Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) for assessing student’s skills and attitude required in the medical workplace.
Why are the Pharmaceutical Common Achievement Tests Necessary?
The pharmacy experience in medical workplaces is the practical training in which students perform actual dispensing and are in direct contact with patients. Learning practical skills with the responsibility of a pharmacist is aimed at not only providing the skills required as pharmacists, but also cultivating ethics and sense of duty as medical personnel. However, that students work without qualifications in medical workplace and dispense drugs in the same manner as pharmacists is in violation of the provision of Article 19 of the Pharmacists Act stating “A person who is not a pharmacist shall not dispense drugs for the purpose of sale or administration.”
As a condition provided by the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare to enable practical training by students, “confirmation of standards of a pharmacy student” is required, and it is necessary that students “have reached a certain level in PhCAT.” Therefore, achieving a certain level in PhCAT is essential for students to participate in the pharmacy practice.
When are the Pharmaceutical Common Achievement Tests conducted?
The examinations are for guaranteeing that students have acquired knowledge, skills and attitude required for pharmacy practice. Therefore, taking the tests immediately before pharmacy practice is preferable. The Pharmaceutical Common Achievement Tests Organization coordinates the schedule to ensure the examinations are conducted between December 1 and January 31 every year, which is just before the on-site pharmacy practice is carried out. Makeup tests are also scheduled by the end of March.
Handling of Test Results
PhCAT are the examinations for confirming that pharmacy students have reached a certain level to perform on-site pharmacy practice. Each university decides pass or fail based on the results notified from the Pharmaceutical Common Achievement Tests Organization. The university informs the student only final decision without individual score.
Each university is responsible for managing the results and pledges not to leak or disclose them. If it is revealed that individual results have been leaked, the Pharmaceutical Common Achievement Tests Organization treats the university as having violated its confidentiality agreement.
Upon request by a university, “Pharmaceutical Common Achievement Tests Standard Level Certificate” for each student is issued by the Organization.