International PSA: Your Questions Answered

We recently announced that the Prescribing Safety Assessment is now available to purchase for international medical schools and their students as well as overseas doctors at NHS Trusts. So, what is it and why is it such an important and valuable qualification? 

What is the Prescribing Safety Assessment?

The Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) is a test of prescribing knowledge for graduating medical students. It aims to assess the competencies set out by the General Medical Council, outcomes for graduates, to best prepare medical students for practice as a foundation doctor. It is mandatory in the UK, meaning that all new Foundation Year 1 doctors are required to pass the PSA to progress onto Foundation Year 2.


The PSA is delivered by the British Pharmacological Society and MSC Assessment.

Why is it now being offered to international medical schools?

This new offer to international students supports our work to drive improvement in medication safety worldwide, through knowledge, assessment and learning.


The PSA has seen positive responses from around the world as a powerful way of enhancing patient safety – with the goal of contributing towards achieving the World Health Organisation’s global patient safety action plan. Candidates who have prepared for and sat the PSA also consistently report greater confidence in prescribing medicines. 


We are pleased to be able to respond to the persistent call from international medical students and foundation doctors looking for the opportunity to sit and pass this summative exam by expanding access to the PSA internationally. Demonstrating the same level of competency in prescribing through passing the exam will benefit any candidates seeking to practise in the UK. Pass certificates issued as part of the international PSA are equivalent to their UK counterparts and will be accepted by the UK Foundation Programme.

What does it test?

The Prescribing Safety Assessment tests eight distinct prescribing sections across a range of clinical contexts: prescription writing; prescription review; planning management; providing information about medicines; calculation skills; adverse drug reactions; drug monitoring; and data interpretation. The questions are written, reviewed and standard set by UK experts and aligned to the BNF.

Prescribing Safety Assessment

How is the PSA scored?

The assessment comprises eight sections, each containing a specific item style. Each item style provides a percentage of the final score;  Prescribing (80 marks), Prescription Review (32 marks), Planning Management (16 marks), Providing Information (12 marks), Calculation Skills (16 marks), Adverse Drug Reactions (16 marks), Drug Monitoring (16 marks) and Data Interpretation (12 marks). The assessment offers a total of 200 marks and candidates are expected to complete it within a total of two hours of examination time. For more detailed information on the structure of the PSA, please refer to the 2020 PSA Blueprint.

Can my students sit the PSA remotely?

We can’t offer remote sittings of the assessment at this time – candidates need to be invigilated in person at their medical school to ensure the security of the question items. To discuss options please get in touch.

Will international students receive UK-recognised certification?

Yes, all students who pass the International Prescribing Safety Assessment will receive certification from the British Pharmacological Society and MSC Assessment, in order to keep a record for their future portfolio. All certificates are accepted by the UK Foundation Programme.

When do assessments take place?

Assessments take place several times throughout each academic year (please contact us for more information and specific dates).


Note that in order to maintain the security and integrity of the question items, we can only offer 1 Prescribing Safety Assessment sitting per year to international candidates. So, if a candidate fails their sitting, they would need to wait until the following year to be eligible to sit the PSA exam again.

Do you provide practice papers for the Prescribing Safety Assessment?

The Prescribing Safety Assessment itself is a summative assessment, but BPS Assessment can offer up to 4 practice papers which support and assess the same 8 question item styles found within the UK PSA. These can be purchased via the Prescribing Skills Assessment.

What if I already have a Prescribing Skills Assessment subscription?

If you are already a Prescribing Skills Assessment customer, you will be offered preferential rates on the International Prescribing Safety Assessment. We can also tailor your existing subscription so that you can access UK centric papers aligned to the British National Formulary to mirror the final UK PSA exam, rather than localised assessments for your region’s drug database.

If you would like to offer this professional qualification to your students, please contact usWe’d be happy to provide further information and explain how the Prescribing Safety Assessment can be purchased and implemented at your organisation.

Register your interest for the International Prescribing Safety Assessment on this page

BPS Assessment expands its reach
with Online Bilgi partnership

We are pleased to share the news that BPS Assessment, the learning and assessment branch of the British Pharmacological Society, has signed a sales agreement with Online Bilgi.


This new partnership will help us introduce our prescribing and pharmacology products and services to medical schools and healthcare institutions in Turkey, Cyprus, Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and CIS countries.

“By partnering with Online Bilgi and increasing our reach in these key regions, we will be able to support many more medical students, pharmacists and prescribers to improve medication safety through our valuable online learning and assessment resources.”
Alex Fox
Sales Director, BPS Assessment
Online Bilgi have 35 years of experience connecting international publishers with the institutions who will benefit from their content. They have worked with over 30 publishers, including BMJ and the American Institute of Physics. Online Bilgi’s offices are located in Istanbul and Ankara.
“We are very excited to partner with such an esteemed organisation. Our team is looking forward to promoting BPS Assessment services.”
Mehmet Haseki
Board Member, Online Bilgi

This is an important step for BPS Assessment in expanding access to its products and services to international medical schools and healthcare organisations.

We look forward to working with Online Bilgi to connect educators, students and professionals alike with eLearning and assessment tools that will help them measure and develop prescribing competencies, with the ultimate goal of improving patient safety.


If you would like more information about our new partnership, please contact us. Alternatively, visit our products and services page to find out more about what we offer.

Independent Review of Prescribing Safety Assessment is published

An independent review of the Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) has found that it increases the attention paid by students and faculty to accurate prescribing, and allows them to demonstrate competencies in the safe and effective use of medicines. According to the report’s author, the assessment will contribute to patient safety and reduce harm in the years to come. The Prescribing Safety Assessment inspired the international BPS Assessment platform.

The PSA is the online assessment of competency in the safe and effective prescribing of medicines, taken by final-year medical students and by overseas graduates coming to the UK to work as Foundation Year 1 doctors. It is led by the British Pharmacological Society and MSC Assessment and has received additional funding from Health Education England and NHS Education Scotland.

The assessment was created after a 2009 study from the General Medical Council found that 9% of hospital prescriptions contained errors. Subsequent research also showed that prescribing is the area of the Foundation Doctor role which graduates find the most challenging.  The PSA was developed to address this problem and has been compulsory for all new doctors since 2016.

The review was conducted by Professor John McLachlan, Professor of Medical Education in the School of Medicine at the University of Central Lancashire. He said:

“I’m pleased to be able to confirm that it is a high-quality process that will undoubtedly contribute to patient safety in the future.”

The independent review found that the processes underlying the assessment’s development, standard setting and delivery are of a high standard, and comparable with other national level tests.

Professor David Webb, Co-Chair of the Prescribing Safety Assessment Executive and past President of the British Pharmacological Society, said:

“This independent review of the Prescribing Safety Assessment confirms the benefits of creating a robust process for producing items and running assessments. Taking the report’s recommendations into account, and after years of investment, it is reassuring to know that the assessment is not only an excellent measure of competency in safe prescribing, but also that it will help ensure patient safety in the years to come.”

Professor Jenny Higham, Co-Chair of the PSA Executive, Chair of the Medical Schools Council and member of the MSC Assessment Board, said:

“The Prescribing Safety Assessment’s development shows the success of UK medical schools in pooling their expertise to a common goal. We are delighted that students have reported the positive educational impact the Prescribing Safety Assessment has had on their prescribing knowledge. This review confirms its strength as an assessment.”

Today the Lancet published a comment by Professor Simon Maxwell – Medical Director of the PSA – and Professor David Webb, highlighting the role of the PSA  in improving medication safety,

Read the independent review