Objectives: To identify factors that influence the extent to which general practitioners use absolute risk (AR) assessment in cardiovascular disease (CVD) risk assessment. Design, setting and participants: Semi-structured interviews with 25 currently practising GPs from eight Divisions of General Practice in New South Wales, Australia, between October 2011 and May 2012. Data were analysed using framework analysis. Results: The study identified five strategies that GPs use with patients in different situations, defined in terms of the extent to which AR was used and the reasons given for this: the AR-focused strategy, used when AR assessment was considered useful for the patient; the AR-adjusted strategy, used to account for additional risk factors such as family history; the clinical judgement strategy, used when GPs considered that their judgement took multiple risk factors into account as effectively as AR; the passive disregard strategy, used when GPs lacked sufficient time, access or experience to use AR; and the active disregard strategy, used when AR was considered to be inappropriate for the patient. The strategies were linked with different opportunity, capability and motivation barriers to the use of AR. Conclusions: This study provides an in-depth insight into the factors that influence GPs' use of AR in CVD risk assessment. The results suggest that GPs use a range of strategies in different situations, so different approaches may be required to improve the use of AR guidelines in practice.