Prior Learning Assessment and Recognition (PLAR) - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
1. Are all of the courses PLAR-eligible?
No. The PLAR Challenge process is available for three courses only: Management of Drug Distribution Systems, Pharmacology and Product Preparation.
The Professional Practice course is mandatory for all participants and is not eligible for PLAR since it provides an essential foundation for the pharmacy technician’s new and expanded role.
2. What does the PLAR Challenge involve?
To earn credit for any one of the three Bridging Education program courses that are eligible for PLAR, a candidate must successfully complete the Challenge Examination that has been developed for the course. Standardized PLAR tools for the eligible courses are provided to the educational institutions involved in delivery of PLAR Challenge Examinations. Challenge examinations are offered at regular intervals by several educational institutions involved in the delivery of Bridging Education.
Processes associated with administration of PLAR Challenge examinations for the Bridging Education Program vary from one delivery institution to another. Challenge Exams may be given both in person and online. In some locations, where demand is strong, “PLAR days” are scheduled and students assemble in a group to challenge any of the three PLAR-eligible courses. In other locations, examinations are scheduled on an individual basis.
In some instances, candidates may be responsible for arranging their own proctor/invigilator and any costs associated with these arrangements. (A proctor/invigilator is someone who supervises students as they write exams.) Educational institutions should make sure that all faculty are aware of the procedure in place for PLAR examinations at their institution. Students interested in PLAR exams should contact one of the authorized PLAR delivery agents listed under Course and PLAR Schedules for details on the procedure that is in place for PLAR examinations at that institution.
3. Is the Challenge Examination the only requirement to earn the course credit?
For the Management of Drug Distribution Systems course, a successful outcome in the Challenge Exam will earn the course credit. However, for the Product Preparation and the Pharmacology courses, additional requirements apply before a candidate may attempt the Challenge Exam.
For Product Preparation, the candidate must demonstrate competency in both non-sterile and sterile product preparation using checklists established for this purpose. The candidate should arrange to demonstrate their product preparation skills in the workplace, or in some other practice site (e.g. former employer, college laboratory).
For the Pharmacology course, the candidate must demonstrate competency in the use of a variety of medical devices (EpiPen, blood pressure monitor, etc.). Demonstrations must be completed in the workplace, under supervision, using the checklist provided for this requirement.
Candidates are not allowed to write the PLAR Challenge Exam for Product Preparation or Pharmacology without submission of the completed checklists.
Each checklist requires the signature of an authorized assessor, ideally a pharmacist registered with the pharmacy regulatory authority. In situations where it is not possible to have a pharmacist complete the documentation, a registered/licensed pharmacy technician may assess and sign off on the demonstration, provided that he or she has demonstrated expertise in the skills to be demonstrated (i.e. both non-sterile and sterile product preparation for the Product Preparation requirement, and use of medical devices for Pharmacology). In the rare instance that this is not possible, alternate arrangements need to be agreed upon by the candidate and the educational institution according to the guidelines in the Student Guide and Program Guide for Administrators and Faculty.
4. Can the sterile product preparation checklist be completed in a community pharmacy?
Candidates pursuing the PLAR Challenge option for Product Preparation must be able to demonstrate skills in both non-sterile and sterile product preparation. This means that candidates should have previous experience working in a hospital or other sterile product preparation practice site at some point in the past. If they are not currently working in a hospital or other sterile product preparation practice site, it is the candidates’ responsibility to use their personal network to find a practice site where they can demonstrate the competencies required for sterile product preparation.
NAPRA will accept a simulation done under the supervision of an authorized assessor, provided that the conditions under which the demonstration is completed replicate as closely as possible actual working conditions in a sterile product preparation practice site. Candidates must be able to demonstrate appropriate set-up, gowning and gloving techniques; and must have access to the necessary ingredients (placebos, talc, sterile water, etc.) and equipment (vials, ampoules, IV bags, etc.) that enable them to perform a final check on the finished “sterile product”. If the candidate does not have access to an actual laminar air flow hood, the simulation must be completed using a cardboard replica or partitioned desktop or some other simulated component that enables a demonstration of the appropriate positioning of ingredients, and accepted aseptic technique. Demonstrations should occur in a hospital or sterile product preparation practice site. Demonstrations completed in a community pharmacy are acceptable only if the above conditions can be met. The educational institution may ask for clarification or may refuse to accept the checklist if there is any doubt as to whether the appropriate conditions have been met. If you are not sure whether your proposed practice site or proposed assessor are acceptable, please contact the Program Coordinator at the educational institution where you plan to register for the PLAR Challenge Exam to verify prior to completing the checklist.
5. Is there a fee for PLAR?
Yes, a fee applies for each of the Challenge examinations. Candidates should consult the educational institution where they intend to register for the PLAR Challenge Exam for information about fees and exam schedules. Please note that PLAR candidates may incur additional costs associated with proctoring/invigilation/facility rentals, etc.
6. How should students prepare for the Challenge Exam?
The expectation is that the work and life experience of candidates applying for a PLAR Challenge Exam have already prepared them for a successful outcome. Therefore, minimal preparation should be required for the examination.
The Course Outlines provide an overview of the knowledge and skills that are equivalent to what is expected in the course. Particular attention should be paid to the Learning Outcomes and Learning Elements which provide the standard that the candidate has to meet for that course. In addition, the amount of time allocated in the course for particular modules/topics will provide a clue as to the emphasis that a particular topic should have in the PLAR exam. It is the responsibility of the student to find the appropriate resources should he or she decide to review a particular topic before the exam.
Both students and educational institutions should note that the National Pharmacy Technician Bridging Education Program addresses competencies required in both community- and hospital-based pharmacy practice settings. It is not wise to attempt a PLAR Challenge exam in the Management of Drug Distribution Systems course, unless the student has relatively recent work experience in both areas of pharmacy practice. Similarly, success in the PLAR Challenge for Product Preparation requires experience with both non-sterile and sterile product preparation.
7. What grade is required to pass the PLAR Exam?
70% is the minimum required grade for successful completion of the PLAR exam for each of the eligible courses. However, results will only be transmitted using a Pass/Fail or Satisfactory/Unsatisfactory designation.
8. What happens if a student fails the PLAR Challenge Exam?
A PLAR Challenge exam can be attempted only once for each eligible course, regardless of the mark achieved. There is no opportunity for any supplemental examination. Students who fail a PLAR Challenge Exam are required to take the course either online or in a classroom. The delivery institution will notify the appropriate pharmacy regulatory authority (PRA) of all PLAR attempts so that the PRA can monitor the results of PLAR Challenge exams received from the various delivery institutions to identify any instances of repeated attempts to secure credit for the same course. Candidates who fail to comply with this requirement may jeopardize their ability to continue with the registration/licensure process.
Before attempting any PLAR Challenge Exam, candidates are required to sign an Information/Privacy Waiver and Confidentiality Agreement acknowledging that they are aware of these conditions, and confirming that they will not share any details of the content of the examinations with others.
9. Can a student use PLAR to get credit for a Bridging Education Course which they previously failed?
Candidates cannot use PLAR to challenge a course which they have previously failed, unless they can demonstrate subsequent completion of remedial learning through self-study and/or work experience applicable to the course to be challenged. A period of time sufficient to accommodate the necessary remedial activity must elapse between the course failure and the attempted PLAR Challenge Exam. This requirement for remedial work has been introduced to maximize students’ potential for success in the PLAR Challenge examination.
The student’s performance in the course and final exam should determine the nature of the remedial learning that he or she should undertake. For example, candidates who score poorly in the mathematics components of the final exam administered for the Product Preparation course must engage in additional practice and study of pharmacy calculations before they attempt the PLAR exam. Failure to comply with this requirement for remedial work may jeopardize the student’s ability to continue with the registration and licensure process.