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Consternation, alarm after 1,400 California pharmacy exam scores cancelled over leaked answers

For many pharmacist candidates, it was the last step on the road to a pharmacy license. But unfortunately, when thousands of people took the California Practice Standards and Jurisprudence Standards in late July, a problem arose.

Allegations that more than 100 questions, along with answers, had been exposed online in advance, surfaced and proved correct. The state Board of Pharmacy was faced with a difficult choice.

The board launched an investigation about the alleged leak and announced that exam scores would not be released. While the board initially hoped the subversion involved limited acts, the board found instead “numerous acts that resulted in widespread exposure of the exam questions.” More than 100 test questions were compromised, the investigation showed, through the sharing of exam questions on the web.

The board’s decision—after several months of delay in releasing results— was to invalidate 1,400 tests from the batches deemed compromised and require that those prospective candidates retake the exam. Its letter to candidates stated: “In September 2019, the board obtained credible information about acts subverting the examination, which also indicated the validity and reliability of the CPJE may have been compromised.”

As a result of the significant public exposure of the test questions, those scores were cancelled. “Those questions no longer validly measure applicants’ knowledge, skills, and ability to safely practice as pharmacists.”

“Although we recognize the difficulty this delay presents for applicants, the Board’s priority is to ensure applicants can reliably demonstrate they possess the proper knowledge, training and skill necessary to provide competent pharmacy care for consumers.”

Protests from pharmacist candidates and groups like the California Pharmacists Association included accusations that the board had failed to do its job of securely administering the exam and criticized the broad-brush punishment of the many for the suspected misbehavior of a few.

Said the association: By further delaying the process and penalizing those who are not under investigation, “The action taken by the Board does not allow pharmacists who completed their exam ethically and satisfied all other requirements for licensure to receive their license.”

The board offered candidates the option of re-taking the examination at no charge at two later administrations of the test.