When I joined the pharmaceutical industry as a medical sales representative in 2000, one of the first things I was required to do was pass the ABPI Exam. It wasn’t easy, in fact I had to put a lot of effort into the learning, but I was delighted when my manager notified me that I had passed with Distinction, as was my employer. By passing the exam I felt much more confident working in the field, seeing customers and working within the ABPI Code of Practice.
Today, in my current role as Compliance Director for an ABPI member company, I see the value that learning the material for the exam adds to the training of new customer-facing staff. I also see, as Chair of the ABPI Exam Steering Group, the huge improvements in the exam that have taken place, especially over the last few years.
These include creation and accreditation of both a Diploma and Certificate exam, introduction of new topics such as the NHS structure and function and basic statistics – both of which provide vital knowledge for new company representatives – and the change in emphasis from rote learning of facts to the need for exam candidates to demonstrate understanding of what they have learned.
The ABPI exam team have also created excellent e-learning resource materials to help exam candidates learn, and test themselves as they learn, and they continue to monitor and improve the paper based materials that provide the knowledge that will be assessed.
The report launched today demonstrates the high quality of the current exam and also shows the ongoing commitment of the ABPI to develop and offer an exam which can be proved to be reliable and robust
For me, and my colleagues in industry, we also see the other side – we see exam candidates who struggle to pass the exam. They are likely to have to spend hundreds of hours studying for the exam, and this is on top of a full time, demanding job. So the fact that we know that the exam tests their knowledge appropriately, and that we can be confident that the results achieved reflect what they do, and don't know, is really important.
I know from my ongoing work with the ABPI Exam team, that the changes and improvements don't end here. They want to continue to develop and test new questions and also create new ways of enabling companies to test the key areas of knowledge of the Code of Practice and of the NHS for a wider range of staff and on a regular basis.
I look forward to these new developments, and to the exam continuing to set standards that put the ABPI in a strong professional position and that will reinforce the view that 'the ABPI is leading the way in ensuring that its exams can be trusted by exam candidates and their employers.'
Lewis is Chair of the ABPI Exam Steering Group and Compliance Director for Takeda.