7 Key tips to pass your ABPI exam

Last Updated on January 14, 2022 by Dr M

Looking for tips to pass your ABPI exam?

Everyone needs tips to pass their ABPI exam. Don’t they?

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.

Bubble containing the question: Stuff not sticking?
You CAN develop your memory skills

So, can I confess something to you?

Come closer… on 25th Feb 2022 it’s the anniversary of setting up the ABPI Exam Toolkit.

Yep. Five years have now 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.

Red monster in attack pose
Watch out for the Overwhelm Monster

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? Read on for my 7 key tips to pass your ABPI exam.

1. Develop a positive revision mindset

Journaling is all the rage these days. Whether it’s to get creative juices flowing, or for emotional release, un-muddling your thoughts can help you get unblocked via an emotional dump of negative feelings – about work, life or your ABPI exam.

If you’re feeling particularly resentful, stressed or despondent that there’s so much to revise that you’ll never conquer it all in the time you have left, then it’s probably a good idea to get these feelings out of your system. Don’t you think?

The thing is, one way or the other you’re doing this exam.

There’s no getting past it if you’re in a sales role since it’s mandatory for you. Besides, having it under your belt gives you an edge to educate others about the value of the pharmaceutical industry, and all that it means (i.e. clinical research, pharmacovigilance, medical information etc.). And of course, you’ll have a shiny new certificate to prove you’re “ABPI qualified”.

So, my advice is to stop wasting time ruminating on how you’re going to get through it. Just do it. Throw your inner critic (or bitch, as I call mine) off the cliff. You’d be amazed how much time you can reclaim from your day when you dump the negativity. If I didn’t throw my inner bitch off the cliff, she’d sabotage my efforts, telling me that no one reads my stuff so why bother? (Did you hear a dull thud in the distance? Think she just hit bottom.)

Talk about your feelings – to a partner, friend, trusted colleague, or exam coach. Nothing better than finding that you’re not alone and that everyone has bouts of negative self-talk or self-doubt. How do they cope with it?

2. Get organised

This one’s about doing a brain dump. Get everything you need to do out of your head – onto paper if that does it for you. Or, log your tasks in an organiser app (e.g. TodoistWunderlist (or its successor Microsoft To Do); Clickup; or my all time fav, Trello) or get it all down in a plain old spreadsheet.

Whatever works for you is fine, provided you don’t use it as a way to avoid getting your actual work done. Instead, choose a method that suits you to routinely get stuff done. (David Allen markets products designed around the whole concept of getting stuff out of your head to get things done (GTD)).

3. Dump your highlighter pen


Photo of the ABPI Learning Manual with pink highlighter all over the text
Stop being heavy handed with your highlighter pen

Or, at the very least, cut back your over-reliance on it. Sure, it’s a great tool for picking out keywords, but how often have you disciplined or limited yourself to doing just that?

Does your learning manual look like this?

4. Get active with your revision 

This one is related to #3.

Don’t just read – unless you have a photographic memory you’re doing nothing to embed what you’ve read into your memory.

To have any chance of stuff sticking, you need to actively test yourself on what you know, to spot those tricky bits that don’t stick ‘cos you don’t get it in the first place. Remember, if you don’t understand, you won’t remember it.

Actively revising means using learning techniques/tools like these:-

  • Mind maps – great for summarising and seeing the big picture
  • Flashcards – best for learning and testing recall
  • Go over your mnemonics for entire sections – test of recall, unlocking key sections
  • MCQs – last but not least, these develop your exam technique, by practising they type of questions you’ll face in the ABPI exam, in the time allowed

You’ll find using flashcards easier by using an app rather than lugging around a box of actual file cards, which some of my students did before they found me.

5. Mix it up – study on the job, in the supermarket queue, in the coffee shop…

Did you know that if you change where you learn, your brain’s more receptive?

I’m not suggesting you study while you should be working. I’m suggesting you should use all those downtime moments at work to revise:-

  • Between appointments, waiting to see your customer
  • Lunch break
  • In the car stuck in traffic – e.g. going over mnemonics in your head

6. Be brave – take accountability for your revision

If you struggle to stay on track, but really want to make progress – then a study buddy might be what you need:-

  • Friend
  • Colleague
  • Boss
  • Family member
  • Fellow exam candidate
  • Coach-on-call (i.e. me)

By sharing your struggles, you get them out of your head, encourage each other, and help each other to stay on track.

Alternatively, if the study buddy idea doesn’t work for you,  keep on track by giving your revision some structure. Pace yourself with an eLearning course that guides you through and breaks down exam materials into manageable chunks.

In our eLearning course you’re guided with with tips and tricks to prepare for your ABPI Exam. Based on my free lessons, this course introduces in-depth explanations of a subset of topics from the ABPI learning materials.

Along the way, it helps improve your revision techniques, with videos,  and as part of the lecture topics, you get to practice multiple choice questions that are built in.

7. Take regular breaks

Use the Pomodoro technique to discipline yourself with taking breaks. Working this way is thought to boost your mental agility [1,2]. Read more about it here.

Go for a walk; unwind with exercise, whether that means doing housework, gardening, or down the gym.

Stop worrying – if you’re mulling something over – grab a notebook and note it down as something that you need to look over again or in more depth.

And get enough sleep.

Think I definitely need to work on that last one, given I confessed to being tired. (That’s me all over – not great at following my own advice.)

Hang on…I think I hear my inner critic scrabbling back up the cliff face.

Just need to go push her off…again.



P.S. Want to silence your inner critic?  Tell me in the comments which of these 7 ways you’re going to focus on in your exam prep.  What are your key tips to pass your ABPI exam?


  1. Shellenbarger, Sue (2009-11-18).”No Time to Read This? Read This”. The Wall Street Journal. Online.wsj.com. Available at: http://online.wsj.comarticle/SB10001424052748704538404574541590534797908.html 
  2. Tambini, Arielle; Ketz, Nicholas; Davachi, Lila (28 January 2010).”Enhanced Brain Correlations during Rest Are Related to Memory for Recent Experiences”. Neuron 65(2): 280–290. Available at: http://www.cell.com/neuron/abstract/S0896-6273%2810%2900006-1

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