For a doctor, it is extremely imperative that one not only seeks experience within their home country but also on an international level. In our search for gaining more experience, a lot of us set our eyes on NHS –UK. However, a lot of us wander around choosing different specialization pathways for abroad without having sound knowledge about them. Many of us end up choosing the PLAB exam as it’s a relatively easier path to pursue. This article will show some essential strategies and tips to keep in mind when pursuing the PLAB-I exam.
What is PLAB?
PLAB is an assessment process for doctors who are training abroad, to allow them to work in the UK as doctors. PLAB 1 is the written component, whereas PLAB 2 is your OSCE component.
It’s not a cramming exam rather it tests your ability to apply your knowledge for the care of patients that you may encounter in UK medical practice, whether clinically, ethically or evidence-based.
CONFUSED WHEN TO TAKE PLAB 1?
“The earlier the better”.
From my own experience and advice from my seniors, I have concluded that PLAB-I preparation should begin during internship/house job and the exam also be given during the same period. This allows some time to plan and prepare for your IELTS and PLAB-II exams. Otherwise, it can be taken at any time in your career as long you possess PMQ (Primary Medical Qualification).
The sole prerequisite is to take IELTS /OET which are English language proficiency testing exams and you need to achieve a score of 7.5 overall or 7 In each section of IELTS.
EXAM PATTERN :
It is a written exam made up of 180 multiple choice questions which you must answer within three hours.
The majority of questions are based on commonly presenting acute cases and conditions in UK hospitals as well as the most prevalent chronic conditions. You can be asked to diagnose those conditions, present their investigation and propose their management e.g. the first line investigations or the gold standard for osteomyelitis?
Or the most initial step you would do for an asthmatic patient presenting to a hospital emergency?
So you need to develop a systematic approach to every topic while studying.
A very small portion of Basic Sciences and 90% portion of Clinical Sciences. The exam covers Medicine, Surgery, Obstetrics, Gynecology, Pediatrics, ENT, Ophthalmology, Anatomy, Community Medicine, and Medical Ethics.
WHAT SHOULD BE MY STUDY SOURCES?
This the most confusing and teasing question that arises once you decide to take the exam due to the varied opinions of people and vast study material available.
Although there’s no harm in involving multiple study sources (given you have sufficient time), it is still advisable to study the 3 major tools for the PLAB-1 exam to ace it with sufficient knowledge within a limited time frame.
• Samson Notes for PLAB-1 is the most precise and authentic source to prepare for the PLAB-1 exam. They are much smaller in size as compared with other sources such as Oxford Handbook. Although they are not detailed, the explanation is sufficient for you to remember a one-line management plan as required in the Exam. The Notes cover all the topics and subjects including Medical Ethics.
• PLABALE: The best online question bank source available that is sufficient for the PLAB-I exam. You should get its subscription as soon as possible and start solving the MCQs. It gives you a great idea of the scenarios appearing in the exam.
• PLAB-1 1700 MCQs– Another MCQs source I would recommend doing Dr. Khalid Saifullah’s 1700 with explanation after doing PLABABLE as most of the questions will be a mere repetition of PLABABLE so going through the 1700 MCQS at least once or twice will aid your revision and you’ll be able to solve them very swiftly.
DURATION FOR PREPARATION :
Generally, it is 3-5 months but make your own custom plan.
You are a different person from your peers and you need to find solutions that work for you. Options that work for one person might not work for the other. E.g. if person A does 300 MCQs each day you don’t have to copy him. For your caliber 50 to 60 per day might be enough.
During my house job I had very little time to solve MCQs thus, I attempted MCQs variably each day according to my own schedule. I would do at least 50 on workdays and tried to attempt more than that on the weekends when my schedule was less hectic. My goal was to attempt as many MCQs as I could within 2 months preferably around 2000 and with my own pace and personalized timetable I managed to do so.
Another thing I found helpful was taking out an hour every day to revise the mistakes that I had made the previous day. I had a little log book in which I kept a record of the date, page number, and question number of the MCQs I wasn’t able to attempt. Thus, whenever I had free time I would refer to it in order to learn from my mistakes
Remember, lack of appropriate planning can lead to ineffective preparation.
The score for passing:
It keeps varying depending on the average pass score but it is always around 120 to 126 which is almost 60 to 62%.
LAST WEEKS BEFORE EXAM:
Samson Mocks for PLAB-1 are the most important tool to ace PLAB-1 Exam. There are 7 Mocks available on the PLAB group on Facebook. These Mock Papers are formed by Dr. Samson Chissi from Samson Academy, London. Each Mock is important and will be your test to assess your preparation. It is therefore recommended to time each Mock by giving yourself exact 2 hours. After following this preparation plan you will probably score around 66% to 75% in all Mocks. You are required to cover one Mock daily. You will be done with 7 Mocks in 7 days. Once you cover and pass all the mocks, you will be in a very confident position to enter the PLAB-1 Exam because the Mock scenarios are the closest to the exam.
Remember you still have 7 days left. In the last 7 Days, revise the Samson Notes from the Book or from your own notes if you have written them down (advisable).
EMULATE EXAM CONDITIONS
It is really important to get used to the pressure of an exam hall. While the conditions cannot be simulated exactly they can be brought as close as possible. When you will begin preparing it will be entirely possible that you won’t be able to finish on time thus it is important to start slow and build your pace up from there. Start timing yourself even for the practice questions at the end of each topic and make sure that you are able to meet all of your deadlines and time limits. When you are practicing mock tests ensure that you sit in a quiet room at a table and you are free of all distractions. Time yourself for the test and ensure that you stop at the deadline. The key to perfect time management is practice.
The exam is a race against the clock and completion of 180 MCQs in 180 minutes is a daunting task. However, it is worth considering the fact that if you are able to complete 180 MCQs your chances to pass the exam easily multiply manifold.
The exam day is extremely crucial!
It is extremely important to take deep breaths and remain calm. It is of utmost importance that one does not let their nerves get the best of them in any situation whatsoever. You need to remain focused and keep reminding yourself that you have worked hard each day for this.
Reach early to your exam center and make sure you have your essentials in place:
1) Label less water bottle
2) Sharpened 2B pencils(although they provide you these as well)
3) Admission ticket
4) Passport and other relevant ID
Do not get distracted within the exam center and start as soon as the invigilator asks you to do so. Try to solve questions in one flow on the response form directly as there will not be enough time to redo questions in the end.
Stay confident and trust your abilities and instinct. Do not double guess yourself and keep going.
Written By: Dr. Rohina Khizer
Rohina Khizer graduated as a medallist and distinctions holder in special pathology, general pathology and pharmacology, from AIMC. Having a profound interest in arts and writing she tries to create a versatile and balanced experience between her work and her hobbies.