Use of Preadmission Criteria and Performance in the Doctor of Pharmacy Program to Predict Success on the North American Pharmacists Licensure Examination

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United States colleges and schools of pharmacy are challenged with identifying and enrolling students who are most likely to be successful in their programs and pass the NAPLEX. The latter can be a daunting task for admissions committees because of the number of applicants and the paucity of research on preadmission criteria as predictors of success on the NAPLEX.

A series of articles by Lowenthal and colleagues explored the relationship between preadmission criteria, academic performance in the PharmD program, and success on the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy Licensure Examination (NABPLEX) and reported that PCAT scores were predictive of NABPLEX scores and a significant correlation existed between GPA in the first 3 years and NABPLEX performance. (1,2) Manasse and colleagues also examined the relationship between academic performance in the PharmD program and NABPLEX scores. Although statistical modeling was not done to determine predictability, the authors noted a correlation between the graduating GPA and NABPLEX performance. (3)

After the NABPLEX was changed to the NAPLEX, a study was done that evaluated preadmission criteria as a predictor of success on the NAPLEX and another study was done that examined academic performance in PharmD programs as a predictor. In 2007, McCall and colleagues examined the relationship between preadmission criteria to include PCAT composite scores, PCAT subcategory scores; California Critical Thinking Skills Test (CCTST) scores; cumulative GPA; prior degree; advanced math, chemistry, and biology courses; age; organic chemistry completed at a 2-year institution or a 4-year institution; and performance on the NAPLEX. There was a positive correlation between GPA, PCAT composite scores, CCTST scores, and NAPLEX scores. However, the PCAT composite score proved to be the strongest predictor of success or failure on the NAPLEX. (4) A study was also published that examined the impact of a student's remediation status on NAPLEX first-time pass rates. The students who required remediation for failing course grades had a lower pass rate compared to those who did not require remediation. (5)

The purpose of this study at Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy (XULACOP) was to confirm and expand the existing body of research on this topic by evaluating which student criteria in the prepharmacy and PharmD program predicted success or failure on a student's first attempt on the NAPLEX. No studies have included the number of unsatisfactory grades, math-science GPA, or student type (internal or transfer) as preadmission variables to predict success on the NAPLEX. We chose these variables, in addition to previous degree held and cumulative GPA, because they are most likely to be considered by admissions committees. Variables such as age, gender, and ethnicity were not included because we were not aware of any programs that consider these variables in the selection process. Likewise, no studies have examined PharmD program variables such as the number of unsatisfactory grades, cumulative GPA, and timely graduation as predictors of success on the NAPLEX. These variables were chosen because the results could have implications for student retention programs. Evaluation of these relationships is paramount because the NAPLEX is required for all graduates to be licensed to practice pharmacy. Also, the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education requires all US colleges and schools of pharmacy to assess student performance on the NAPLEX. (6)


The Xavier University of Louisiana College of Pharmacy began offering the PharmD degree in 1991. The PharmD program requires 2 years of undergraduate coursework and 4 years in the PharmD program. The college requires 66 hours of prepharmacy coursework which can be divided into 39 semester hours of math and science courses, and 27 semester hours of nonscience courses. Upon entering the PharmD program, the students are required to complete 96 semester hours of lecture-based coursework and 48 semester hours of experiential education. …


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