I wish I could tell you that the ABPI exam is a piece of cake. But, I’d be lying and I’m not that kinda gal. I’m a plain speaking, tell it like it is kinda gal.
So, can I confess something to you?
Come closer… on 25th Feb 2018 it was my first anniversary of setting up the ABPI Exam Toolkit.
Yep. A whole year’s gone by, since I got serious about sharing my tools and expertise directly with exam candidates on my new dedicated website.
That’s not my confession. This is: I should be celebrating and happy to have reached this milestone. But, truth be told, I’m too tired.
It’s been hard work putting it all together, and it’s nowhere near where I’d like it to be, in terms of interacting with more of you. For example, despite setting up a Facebook group, I’ve done zip to get it off the ground. I suppose I’m struggling with the idea of whether it’s something you need or want. (Perhaps you could let me know what you think about that, or even join the group if you’d like to share thoughts?)
But, here’s my dilemma…I know from the same conversation I have over and over again, that many of you feel unsupported when it comes to studying for your exam. Seems some of you also feel bulldozed by managers who made you register for the exam when you didn’t feel ready.
While it’s not good to feel unprepared (because your inner critic is screaming that you’re not up to the task, because you’re not good enough)… it’s truly the pits if you really aren’t.
You know in your heart of hearts if you’ve not managed your time well enough to get your revision done adequately; or worse, you haven’t really applied yourself, due to our old friend (or, should that be enemy?) the overwhelm monster.
So, what can you do about it?
I'm asked this question fairly regularly.
But, the other day, I was reminded that some of you aren't always clear about what resources are available to help you prepare for your ABPI Exam.
Worringly, it seems some of you waste time looking for mythical unicorns...
“When you look back on 2017, what do you think of?
Which of your achievements are you most proud of?”
These questions dropped into my mailbox earlier this week. They’re good questions to reflect on.
But, to be honest, at this time of year I always start to feel a bit jaded.
It's a combination of things: the dark nights; the cold temperatures; the rain (or the snow, as happened this week); Christmas muzak blaring everywhere; and the fake forced jollity.
Not feeling the Christmas spirit.
Just overwhelmed. Exhausted. Jaded.
I've still got things on my work 2017 to-do list that haven't been crossed off. These tasks keep niggling like the start of a bad toothache that gets worse instead of fading.
It doesn’t help that since my Dad died suddenly on Jan 31st 2016, I haven't really felt much like celebrating Christmas.
He loved it. The tinsel, the razzmataz, the telly, turkey, mince pies, the lot. It still hurts to be reminded of all the things he loved when he's not here to share in any of it. In bygone years, I got into it at the last minute, especially when I saw how my Dad got into it. He was ready to enjoy having his family around him. So, I’d shut the office door on work, at least from Christmas Eve until after Boxing Day, to make the most of this time of year.
Why am I telling you this? Well, I'm wondering if you feel the same at this time of year (exhausted, overwhelmed, or jaded)? Or, is it just me?
So, what’s the answer?
Got this great question about the sodium pump in Unit 4.4 Pharmacology from one of my tutees: -
"So, we know that the sodium pump actively moves potassium ions into the cell, and sodium ions out of the cell. If every transporter moves ions only one way, how come the sodium pump moves potassium in, and moves sodium out? Does it happen at the same time?"
This fabulous question nicely illustrates how -
One of my students, Maggie was confused about the difference between neutrophils and macrophages, and also about the significance of the proportions mentioned in the learning materials (i.e. 70% of white blood cells (wbc's) are neutrophils and 4% of wbc's are macrophages).
Neutrophils are the immune system's 1st responders
As I explained to her, you need to remember that neutrophils are a type of phagocyte. Being first on the scene of bacterial invasion in the body, they do their bit to nuke invaders by gobbling them up and neutralising them with their lysozymes. But, they're relatively short lived cells, and are often overwhelmed by a growing army of - never encountered before - bacterial invaders (pathogens).
That's when the 2nd responders join the party
Macrophages are beefed up, muscular, 2nd responder phagocytes who take over the fight a few days later, cleaning up the remaining invaders.
They also also act as antigen presenting cells to T helper cells, which then proliferate (i.e. increase in number) in response to having antigen served up to them. Some of these helper T cells will then present the antigen to B cells, ultimately stimulating them to produce antibodies (i.e. after they in turn have proliferated).
These antibodies bind to the antigen, making it more appealing and juicy for phagocytes to eat (called opsonisation). If everything goes to plan, the end result is that invading bacteria are effectively cleared.
If the pathogen is encountered again in the future, memory B cells (and memory T cells ) will not only recognise it, but help to produce antibodies to zap it even faster than before.
Have a look at the video below, which beautifully illustrates how neutrophils defend us from infection.
Chances are, when it comes to preparing for your ABPI exam, you've been left to get on with it by your company. Perhaps you’ve been told (mistakenly): "... It's really easy. It's just some multiple choice questions. Just read the manual. You'll be fine."
So, of course, you registered for the exam, bought the manuals, then realised you need more time to prepare. Lots more time. And maybe some help. But, you're on your own. Remember?
Because you've no choice, you've gone for it. Frustratingly, you keep missing a pass, by just a few marks.
You know what? You're not alone.
Yours is an increasingly common experience.
More and more exam candidates are being hired for their sales skills, often with a proven track record in another industry. Coupled to this, you're told that the exam is easy...that “…there's nothing to it...just some MCQs.”
Or, perhaps you're a marketeer taking the exam for professional development. Maybe you have a science degree.
Either way, you're struggling. On top of the day to day challenges of the job itself, finding time to study can be overwhelming, especially if you've no background in science.
This leads me to those 9 things your boss needs to know.
Mnemonics (the ‘m’ is silent) are useful rhymes or memorable phrases, or even just a series of letters, ideas, or associations that assist in remembering something. Trick is for the mnemonic itself to be something memorable that helps you with recall.
For example, the ABPI learning materials provide you with MRS GREN (2.1.1 Life processes) as a way to remember the 7 functions performed by all living things, and demonstrated by all living cells:-
Ever been in a GP surgery, hospital postgrad centre, or in your company's head office and heard a resounding "ding, ding" clanging out from somewhere?
That's the tell tale sign of someone using a time management app, like Pomodoro.
No time to study? These 4 Learning techniques (and 3 tools) put you in control of your ABPI Exam revision
When Duncan approached me for help with his exam resits, he was feeling demotivated, demoralised, and overwhelmed:
“…with a young family, other commitments, as well as my full-time job, I’m finding it difficult to carve out any more study time”.
He’d never failed an exam before. His resits were in four weeks.
“What about your moments of downtime?” I asked him.
“Like when you’re: waiting before a sales call; walking the dog; in the car, or anywhere else you could reasonably be listening to the equivalent of crib notes?”
“Yeah. I’ve done all that. I recorded my specialist topics word for word from the learning manuals. But, nothing’s going in. I can’t seem to absorb any of it.”
“Ah. I see.”
Clearly, Duncan was feeling time pressured. Like other candidates before him, he didn't lack commitment, but I suspected he perhaps wasn't making the best use of his time.
Recording chapters from his manual would have taken time and effort, especially doing it word-for-word.
This meant he hadn't processed the topics in those chapters, because he hadn't made the concepts his own. Putting them into his own words - and summarising - would've been a good start. But, because he felt time pressured, he decided to skip doing this.
So, before doing anything else, we needed to...
Over the past few months I’ve been asked about whether ABPI Exam Toolkit resources are suitable for those who’ve bought the version 8 ABPI learning materials.
Although I'm still working from vs 7, I recently confirmed with Amira Burshan, Education Officer at the ABPI that the main differences between vs 7 and vs 8 are: -
In essence, other than making things clearer, what’s being tested in the ABPI exam isn’t changing, at least not until next year when vs 8 will be fully adopted.
Even then, if you’ve read the independent report on the Exam published in February, you’ll appreciate that rather than changing content drastically, the ABPI are focussed on changing how content in their learning materials is tested:
A couple of months back I had one of those “how can you help me?” calls, which didn't turn out as I hoped.
The caller mentioned that she’d failed her morning papers in the ABPI exam, despite reading the learning manual from cover to cover, and despite using her highlighter pen until it ran dry.
The minute I heard this, I knew I could help her.....
The single most difficult question I'm often asked about the ABPI exam by candidates is: How long will it take me to study?
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Hi. I'm Dr Marie McKenzie-Mills, and I help ABPI exam candidates navigate the ins and outs needed to sail through this pharmaceutical industry rite of passage.
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