Ten Things You Should Do To Prepare for the BCACP Exam

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Anusha McNamara
Ten Things You Should Do To Prepare for the BCACP Exam
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by Anusha McNamara, Pharm.D., BCACP and  Lindsay Sorge, Pharm.D., MPH, BCACP

The Board Certified Ambulatory Care Pharmacist (BCACP) examination is intended to distinguish pharmacists who possess a breadth of knowledge and have unique expertise in ambulatory care pharmacy practice.  The ambulatory care pharmacy specialist should be able to address a variety of medication-related needs, develops sustained partnerships with patients, practice in the context of family and community, and apply the biomedical literature to make well-informed decisions. If you are considering taking the BCACP exam, here are the top ten things you can do to prepare:

  1. Study Smart: Know your learning style and preferences …  and design a study plan that’s right for you.  If you require a “classroom-based” approach, the live course might suit you.  If you are an auditory learner, the online lecture recordings might be helpful. Study groups are also very helpful because they can offer multiple perspectives from each participant’s experiences and the discussion can enhance your retention.
  2. Get the BCACP exam content outline.  Commercially available workbooks and study materials are not all-inclusive.  Make sure you review the exam outline provided on the BCACP website (http://www.bpsweb.org/) so you can complete your own research to fill in the gaps.
  3. Get Ready to Take the Exam on a Computer!  Unlike a traditional paper and pencil test, you can’t underline and circle potential drug interactions and important lab values.  You’ll be reading the questions on a computer screen.  The folks at the testing center will provide you with writing tools and some scratch paper, but it’s just not the same!  If you’ve never taken a computer-based test before, taking the online practice tests may help prepare you.
  4. Understand the Testing System.  There are a few tricks within the system that you would only understand if you have used it. The testing company has an online tutorial available online and on demand.  It is to your advantage to understand how the system works. For example, there is a “flag” function, which you can utilize to identify questions that you want to jump back to review later.
  5. When it Comes to Therapeutics, Stick to the Important Stuff.  The direct patient care domain constitutes 50% of the exam.  However, the questions are very fair; they test what every ambulatory care pharmacist should know. While it may be tempting to dive deep into topic areas you may not be as familiar with (e.g. cancer, HIV, or scleroderma), it is better to be very knowledgeable about the stuff you see in practice every day.  It is important to understand less common conditions purely in the way an ambulatory care pharmacist would be expected to understand them.  For example, you should be able to identify the major drug-drug interactions with tamoxifen; you won’t be asked to select the best treatment for a 36 year old woman with stage 3b breast cancer.
  6. Know Practice Management: Practice management, public health, and patient advocacy topics make up a massive 35% of the exam. It is imperative to understand how to start and maintain a practice, billing codes, Medicare Part D rules, and the alphabet soup of quality organizations (what they measure, what they care about, who they represent). Surf the web and research all of the topics provided in the BCACP exam outline.
  7. Review Stats and Study Design: Retrieval, generation, interpretation, and dissemination of knowledge comprise 15% of the exam, though it may feel like its much more. A simple two-page sheet of notes that you fully understand is probably all you need to correctly answer most of these questions. Know the types of variables, what statistical test should be used on each variable, how to interpret the results of statistical tests, and which study design would be most appropriate based on the study objectives and disease states.
  8. Reflect on Your Experiences: Much of what you’ll see on the exam will likely match what you see in practice.  The exam questions were, after all, created by other ambulatory care pharmacy specialists!  Review patient cases that you learned a lot from and talk with colleagues about their patient care experiences.  Similar patient cases may show up on the exam.
  9. Be Methodical and Take a Break: The time allotted to complete the exam is very reasonable, so take advantage of it and check your work. Pay attention to important details (medications the patient is already taking, allergies, lab values, etc.) as you apply your patient care process. The exam is administered in two 2.5-hour blocks with 100 questions per block.  This is a long test.  Try preparing for the exam by studying in stretches that last at least 2 ½ hours.  There is an optional 45-minute break – but it will be a savior for your melting mind.  Take the break!
  10. Remain Committed and Confident: The exam is challenging, but it tests everything that defines ambulatory care pharmacy practice.  The distinction is important as the healthcare system evolves to include ambulatory care pharmacists in an increasing number of primary care practices.  The profession of pharmacy needs to maintain high standards. If you put your heart and mind into preparing well, the best thing you can do on exam day is to relax and remind yourself that you have the knowledge and expertise to earn this credential!  Go for it!

If you've taken the BCACP exam, what recommendations do have for would-be exam takers?   [Note:  It is a violation of BPS policy to discuss specific questions that may have appeared on the exam.  However, suggestions regarding study materials and general content areas that should be emphasized to help prepare for the exam is acceptable]