Preparing for the BCPS exam is stressful. There’s a bit of added stress and mystery for those looking into the 2021 BCPS Exam. The content outline changed in the second half of 2020 and so the exam going forward may be slightly different than in previous years. I discussed those BCPS content outline changes previously and you can find that full article here. The bottom line. You still have to focus greatly on statistics if you are not comfortable in that area. It is a huge portion of the exam that you can’t overlook.
Over the years of creating study materials, I’ve gotten numerous questions in relation to the exam and wanted to share some of those answers.
Lab Values for the BCPS Exam
Do we get access to normal lab values? I would not anticipate getting access to normal lab values and thus you should have them memorized. Many of you will know the approximate common values from clinical practice, but if you don’t know lab values very well, I would focus on memorizing major/common labs such as electrolytes, renal function (BUN and creatinine), CBC, labs within a CMP, A1C, TSH, lipids, urinalysis, and ABGs.
Do I Need to Know Brand or Generic Names for the BCPS Exam?
Are brand names or generic names on the BCPS exam? While the NAPLEX tends to traditionally include quite a few brand names, the BCPS exam is going to be primarily generic names. Here’s the exact statement on this from BPS “Official United States Adopted Name (USAN) generic names are used on all BPS examinations for all drug products, when possible.”
What About Calculations?
What do I need to know about calculations? First, I wouldn’t worry about complex calculations. As far as math problems in general, I would focus primarily on biostatistics. The 2021 BCPS Exam content outline lists these items: RRR, ARR, NNT, NNH, CI, HR, and p-values specifically. I would strongly encourage you to recognize how these terms are derived, what they mean, and how they are calculated. In addition to having practice questions on statistics in our question bank, we explain these terms and many others in our statistics study guide, both of which are included in our All-Access Package.
You Will Get Some Wrong
If you don’t know the answer to the first question, don’t panic. It is important to realize that you will get some wrong and you will not know some answers. It won’t feel good, but you CANNOT let it affect your attitude and your focus on the rest of the exam. When you don’t know what the correct answer is, be sure to throw out answers that you don’t think are right. It may give you a 50/50 shot (or at least 1/3 chance) of getting it right.
Pharmacotherapy Sections – What to Study?
This is probably the most challenging question I get asked. You have to remember that knowing a topic inside and out can help you in clinical practice if you deal with that patient population, but having a highly specialized knowledge base isn’t great for the BCPS exam. At most, you will probably be asked 2-3 questions on a given disease state. That’s not a very high percentage. So you really need to focus your efforts on knowing the most important clinical pearls. Here are a few questions that you should think about with each disease state and the medications that are used for that disease state.
- What are the first-line agents and alternatives?
- What are the reasons I wouldn’t use a medication (i.e. contraindications, drug interactions, adverse effect profile, Beers’ list, etc.)?
- What are the reasons I would use a medication (i.e. compelling indications, potentially beneficial adverse effect profile, guideline-directed therapy, etc.)?
- Are there any unique clinical pearls with the agents that can treat a disease state (i.e. boxed warnings, REMS, recommended titrations, notorious drug interactions, patient populations to avoid such as pediatrics or geriatrics, lab monitoring prior to or during therapy, etc.)?
I also have this Free BCPS Study Schedule that may be helpful in developing your study plan based upon your expertise area(s).
BCPS Study Materials for the 2021 BCPS Exam
I’ve spent a lot of time in content creation focusing on some of the questions above. I get a lot of emails and questions about ACCP study materials and High-Yield Med Reviews. Obviously, I’m biased, but here is where and how I differentiate our content and the pluses and minuses of ACCP and High-Yield.
I have had frustrated pharmacists write to me to say that things were on the exam that were not in the ACCP study materials. I can attest that it is difficult to cover every possible topic that may come up on the BCPS exam. While the ACCP study materials are a decent resource, the practice questions are ridiculously difficult and in my opinion not representative of the BCPS exam. Also, after hearing from exam participants, I think we do a much better job of writing practice questions to the level of the exam. Do not feel like you are a horrible pharmacist if you can’t get all of those questions right on the ACCP materials. They are very difficult. I struggled with some of the details on those questions and still passed my BCPS exam. I also think ACCP goes over-the-top in their inclusions of dosing. Don’t get me wrong, dosing in clinical practice is important, but I spent more of my time memorizing why you would or wouldn’t select a drug and felt that it was the most successful approach to preparing for the exam.
The biggest complaint I get about High-Yield Med Reviews is that the lectures and practice questions focused much more on the disease state, pathophysiology, and assessments than on the medications that manage the disease states. This makes sense to me because High-Yield was originally created for medical students and since adapted for the BPS certification exams. I’ve created our content with the sole purpose of preparing pharmacists for a pharmacy (medication focused) exam. As one individual wrote to me about the High-Yield content, “I feel like I’m studying for the USMLE.” While the content may be solid information and help you become a better clinician, it may not help you focus on the information needed to best prepare you to pass your exam. I have also heard frustrations with the money-back guarantee in that it is virtually impossible to meet the criteria in the event you do fail the exam.
As I do every year, I have completed updates on over 20 of our videos, mock exams, comparison tables, and our statistics and regulatory content for 2021! Here’s the link to all of our study materials (including BCPS, BCACP, BCGP, BCMTMS, and NAPLEX)!
Feel free to shoot me an email @ [email protected] or leave a comment below if you have further questions about the exam or study materials.
Hopefully, this helps guide you on your preparation for the 2021 BCPS exam! Good luck!
Eric Christianson, PharmD, BCPS, BCGP