As has been mentioned, everyone working in pharmaceutical sales has to sit and pass this exam within two years of entering the industry.
The exam is not
difficult in itself, as it is all multiple choice questions of one sort or another. However, there is a vast pool of information to be absorbed from which the questions may be derived.
There is a tendency (for very bright graduates, in particular) to receive their syllabus, glance at it, and decide they'll look at it properly "later". The problem is that, all too often, later becomes about 3 weeks before the exam and then when they start, they suddenly realise just how much they need to know and panic!
If a company has a structured training programme or uses an outside trainer, like Transend
, to provide training, and not all companies do either, then this is a tremendous help and should space the learning process out over several weeks. Delivering the necessary information and exam techniques in bite size chunks that may be successfully absorbed is the only way to do this but there is always the old adage "you can lead a horse to water but...."
There are some enduring myths going round the industry too. "The exam is EASY" and "It's all multiple choice, you don't need to revise for that" are common ones spread, I suspect, by people who have either never sat the exam or did it so long ago that they have a distorted memory of it. Treat such statements with the suspicion they deserve! There are very few, if any, candidates who do not have to work very hard to achieve their pass.
In many ways, the more you know, the more difficult it is, and this occurs with any professional qualification. What you need to know to get through is what's in the magic blue book (the syllabus) and what is contained within it's pages may, in some cases, conflict with what you have been taught elsewhere. Often the differences are only in terminology but that is enough to confuse the issue when under pressure.
Another myth surrounding this exam is the issue of "past papers"
. There is no such thing! The ABPI, quite rightly, keep their questions very close to their chest and anyone caught trying to smuggle out a question paper will not be popular.
Most of these, so called, past papers are compilations of remembered questions made up by companies offering preparation training and those, often badly photocopied, sheets that pass round between reps almost like black market documents are, at best, a helpful guide to question types. It should be noted that this information may be found at the back of the syllabus anyway. Many reps believe that if they learn these questions, they will recognise them on the day and be able to muddle through somehow.
You might, just, get away with it, but it's a terrible risk to take and frequently backfires when the questions in the paper you sit come from an entirely different batch.
Far better then, to learn the information properly. You only have to do this once, if you do it right first time, so get stuck in and learn the syllabus!
Another thing to be taken into consideration is that candidates, studying for this exam, are still expected to perform and bring in the business on their particular patch. For many this means working full time, maintaining family and home commitments and then burning the midnight oil to fit in the study as well which is far from ideal. Again there is an amazing difference between companies in their approach to study time. Some employers are very generous and committed with the time they allow for their staff to revise. Others expect it all to be achieved with no allowances made at all.
We feel strongly that the support part of the learning process is often sorely neglected for candidates whether they are employed within the industry or taking the exam independently. I have often had to deal with very distressed individuals in impossible situations trying to do too much, too quickly and the result is often that they fail to do anything well.
At Transend Training Services we offer a support system that attempts to assist everyone in trying to make the best out of, what is frequently, a stressful situation. There is always
someone available to answer a query regarding the exam, the syllabus or any other work related or even personal problems. Having said that, the office is not manned at all times but we can almost always be reached via mobile phone and if a message is left all calls are returned as soon as possible, usually within the hour.
We provide this service from day one, when candidates register with us, until the day the results come out - and afterwards if required. Anything discussed with us is treated as confidential and we will always try to resolve any difficulties in any way that is open to us.
In addition, we will provide progress reports for managers or head office staff of any company who requests us to do so, by telephone, post or E-mail. Any personal problems that we may have been made aware of, however, will not
be discussed with company personnel without the prior consent of the individual.
We aim to remove at least some of the pressure from both companies and candidates and give everyone the best possible chance of success both with the exam itself and with general advice on career progression in the future when asked.
This is one of the reasons, we believe, that makes Transend special and worth consideration by even the most structured and confident of companies.
In conclusion, what should be remembered by everyone concerned is that this exam is the most important single event in any medical representative's career. Once passed, they never need to think about it again (at the moment - changes may occur in the learning structure in the future). However, until that certificate is obtained, the medical rep is both limited in career choice and progression and this is essentially what personnel, higher up the ladder, often fail to appreciate.