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.
The first is that: -
1. Just because it’s an MCQ exam doesn’t mean you’ll “be fine if you just read the manual”
If your boss has uttered these words, it’s a fair bet that it’s been years, if not decades since they took the ABPI exam.
For one thing, it’s now accredited in the UK education system (since January 2014) providing a Level 3 Certificate in the promotion of prescription medicines (or a Level 3 Diploma, if you’re also taking optional topics).
This means it’s now of a standard equivalent to at least an A level. And, like an A level, you’re expected to read around the topic - not just what’s in the manual. At the very least, this means referring to additional sources such as the ABPI’s schools site etc.
More critically, literally just reading the manual from cover to cover is NOT an effective revision technique – you need to make notes, and then actively memorise your notes using whatever technique works for you. (See point 6 for more on techniques etc.)
2. According to the ABPI, you might need 300 hrs to study for the mandatory exam (e.g. if you’ve no background in science)
That’s a lot of revision. Roughly translated, it’s about 6 months of revising for a minimum of 2 hours daily, 6 days a week. How will you manage this? Will you be able to set aside planned study days? See point 3.
3. You need to prioritise your revision
The ABPI exam is a hurdle that all medical/generic sales representatives must get over. It’s your ticket to a good career in the pharmaceutical industry. Like it or not, it’s a serious exam – you need to revise for it seriously: your career (and your livelihood) depends on passing. You already know this.
Get into the habit of revising sooner, rather than later. Not only does it develop a positive mindset, it demonstrates to your boss that you’re serious. That makes it easier for your boss to support you in aligning your learning goals with your needs.
4. You need to have a study plan
Feeling in control comes from structuring your revision (which keeps overwhelm and panic at bay).
Taking the time to make a study plan helps you develop a routine, where carving out time becomes an obsession. Not only that, making it a habit to read and summarise at least one part of a topic each day cuts through your learning goals to build your sense of achievement. Your study plan is your route map to your destination: successfully negotiating exam day.
5. Planning well in advance for your ideal exam dates manages your stress levels
Scheduling matters. Decide on your exam dates carefully.
It’s not always possible to book the exam for the dates you had in mind. In some months, exam dates get booked up quickly. That might mean you must book a date for your optional exam before you take your mandatory exam. Not ideal if that doesn’t fit with your study plan for revising your optional topics. Is it?
Even with the best will in the world, and lots of hard work, you need a contingency plan. What happens if you’ve a resit, but your 2-year deadline is approaching? Nightmare scenario. Happens all the time.
6. The number of hours you put into studying doesn’t mean your revision is effective
I know this seems to contradict point #2.
However, you’re not making the most of your time if you’re going round in circles, confused about some aspect of a topic.
Or, if you’ve read the learning manual three times, but stuff doesn’t stick – remember point #1: revising is about more than just reading. You need to get active in your learning methods.
If making linear notes is your preferred technique, use an app like workflowy, so you can access your notes “on the go” via your phone or tablet.
Or summarise with mind maps.
Then, test your recall using: mnemonics, flash cards, mind maps, MCQ test papers.
7. Having a study mentor/buddy or coach makes it easier to stay on track
One word: Accountability.
You hear it every day, I’ll bet. When it comes to being responsible for your business goals/account plans etc., you’re accountable to your manager in your end of year review.
Why should your study plan be any different? Ultimately, you’re accountable to yourself with self-study. However, when it comes to revising, having someone who can answer your burning questions, no matter what they are, can make all the difference to your understanding and more crucially to having confidence in your own abilities.
And, because there isn’t always that certain someone in your company you can turn to, or if you feel more comfortable posing your questions to an outsider, I set up my coach-on-call service.
8. Practicing with mock test papers definitely boosts exam performance, but only if it's part of a structured study plan.
Many candidates rush straight into the ABPI e-learning tests. No doubt they’re hoping to gauge their knowledge level. But according to the ABPI, many skip the e-learning itself, which proves to be a costly mistake.
My workbooks here in the ABPI Exam Toolkit allow you to practice at your own pace with answering multiple choice questions (MCQs).
The most popular in the series has 230 multiple choice questions (MCQs) on the mandatory topics (e.g. units 1 to 4), whereas the actual ABPI exam has 155.
The best time to use this Workbook is when you feel ready to test your knowledge, understanding and recall of the mandatory units in the ABPI learning materials.
9. Help is available, and it doesn’t have to be expensive
Why am I telling you this? Because I want you to be prepared.
So, why does your boss need to know this? Because, you don’t have to go it alone. Better still, your boss doesn’t need to take on the role of exam mentor or coach. That’s my job.
I can help you here in the ABPI Exam Toolkit.
Whatever your situation, I iron out the “kinks” to make your revision easier: whether it’s those stubborn bits in the learning material that don’t stick (‘cos they don’t make sense); or, whether it’s all a bit much to take in. I break it down for you.
Sound good? Ready to knuckle down?
Then JOIN the Toolkit TODAY. As an insider, you learn more about what's expected of you in the ABPI exam. (To start, you'll also receive instructions to access my free mind map of the endocrine system (unit 3.2.)
Got a burning question?
Move your revision forward with a personalised lesson for £20 (£16.67 plus VAT).
When you send me your burning question of the moment, I send you a lesson explaining the answer within the week (your Question: my Answer).
In the meantime, agree with these points? Then, please share them with your friends, colleagues or your boss, and help make the case for exam support.
Leave a comment or get in touch. Only by hearing from you, can I provide what you need.
Marie helps ABPI exam candidates get ready for this pharmaceutical industry rite of passage with effective, actionable tips and proven tools, like flash cards.
Improve your memory TODAY with access to almost 600 flash cards that her most successful students use. Work smarter not harder. Get them here: https://payhip.com/b/eY4P.
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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.
Useful external links
ABPI Exam ToolKit ™