(Source: Self-Made)

Questions that you should ask yourself before deciding on the way you want to approach PLAB 2 — an objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).

Do you want to join an academy, take the online courses, watch videos of the courses that are available for free. All these options depend on multiple variables, to name a few; visa restrictions, financial feasibility for staying aboard, arranging accommodations, being employed in your current country can not take leave and personal family reasons, etc.

If you decide on not taking the academy and take the online course because of circumstances, or there is still an on going lock-down restriction which makes travelling uncertain, you could watch the online tutorial videos sitting at home, practice with study partners online or face to face with fellow colleague s, giving the exam as well.

If you are going to stay home because any such circumstances, it does not mean that you cannot manage to pass the exam because you would be enough time to prepare, practice and once you feel comfortable with your preparation then you can book your mocks and then go for the exam.

Summary/Pointers

  • It is all about your own preparation and not the academy.
  • Read PLAB 2 blueprint if you can, to know what is expected from you in the exam.
  • Do not depend on the academy to tell you everything.
  • Once you know what the exam is about gather all resources that you can, free or paid.
  • Plan. Give equal time to read and practice.
  • Give separate time for understanding and practicing interpersonal skills. Use resources (e.g.) Aman Arora Podcasts.
  • Mocks can make you or break, take all feedback positively, use it and channel it.
  • Read through all cases 2 days before exam, it will build your confidence.
  • Stress on management plan for each station especially in last week of preparation.
  • If you get a good practice partner, hang on tight. You do not need to practice with many.
  • Aim at performing above average so that you can cover for the examiner bias as PLAB 2 is a subjective exam.
  • Always time yourself when practicing; will help with the mental clock.
  • Do not let one station effect your performance, once you leave the room forgive, forget, and move on to the next station.
  • Script is a guide for you to use as a guide not for rote/memorization.

Academies

Talking about academies and there a total of four (4) academies, which are prominent in the sphere of PLAB 2 — the 5th is not an academy.

1. Common Stations (Barking, London) — commonstations@gmail.com

2. Swammy (Manchester) — swamyplab@gmail.com

3. Aspire (London, Manchester second branch) — info@aspire2plab.com

4. Samson (London) — info@samsoncourses.com

5. Aman Arora (London/Manchester/Birmingham) — hello@aroramedicaleducation.co.uk

1. The PLAB 2 exam is held in Manchester (nowadays) so things will be convenient and cheaper for you if you choose to go there first and then stay there and join Swammy/Aspire’s second branch.

2. You should identify what sort of learning suits your caliber, meaning if you are someone that needs lots of practice mocks before an exam then the best place to go to is Samson. If you are someone that needs smart studying and then your communication skills are already good, and you just need smart study material and then you can improve than your choice should be Aspire. If you are someone that needs all the material and you need everything systematic and then you can convert dense study material and follow a set structure then the place to go to is Common Stations, If you’re someone that is good at practice and communication skills and you can manipulate teaching material and get rid of irrelevant stuff and are inherently confident then the choice is Swammy.

3. Why did I choose Common Stations — because I had multiple friends/seniors who had firsthand experience of this academy and they said I should go there, I feel that maybe aspire could have been the right choice for me because they have less material and more emphasis on improvising in the exam?

4. The most essential thing that one should know is that each academy can only give you so much head start and then afterward it really depends on your self-practice and retention of that material because it is a lot of cramming of stuff and then it’s on the day performance that matters the most.

5. If you choose an academy do take into consideration the city if you’re going to be on your own because you do need help and the most key thing is to make lots of friends and study partners as soon as possible and the people that are close to your exam date.

6. Give yourself at least 4–5 weeks post academy so you can practice and be confident in the exam because the study material is at least 1500–2000 pages.

Review on Common Station — Academy

Dr. Hamed has a comprehensive course and he makes sure that he covers everything in the crash course that he provides and I have gone through all the notes of the other academies, nothing compares to how comprehensive and complete, they are updated with all the teaching material according to what is required for the exam.

Finally, He has an eccentric personality and he is dynamic and has a good sense of humor which is completely required because he makes sure everyone is awake and present throughout the class.

I would recommend Dr. Hamed to everyone who feels that they cannot improvise and feel that they need extremely comprehensive notes.

If you are someone that gets confidence from learning everything about every possibility, then common stations, is your place.

Review on Dr. Aman Arora — One Day PLAB 2 course

Session starts with some ice-breaking and then it directly goes into role-playing right after he guides you on the exam goes and lets you understand what is expected during and breaks down some myths.

He starts with being the simulator and you get the chance to sit in the doctor seat with someone that simulates so perfectly that you forget that your sitting with your fellow colleagues and then he gives you feedback on your approach and how you did in that specific scenario and then everyone discusses how it could have been improved and there are tips that he gives you that are important for you and how you should practice and go forward.

Dr. Aman Arora builds your confidence and gives you a feeling that you can and will pass, also keeping in mind that if you have not gone through notes of an academy or gone through with practicing on your own, just goes directly to this session might not be as beneficial for you as it might be for someone that has practiced and gone through the teaching material.

I would recommend you go for this course after you are done with your academy and as well as going through your course material and practice sessions if you want to improve even more.

How to prepare

  • Forget having conversations in your mother tongue and start to speak in English, to feel comfortable with the words flowing.
  • Go through all the scriptsmake short notes or bullet pointers
  • Go through the scripts again — with practice sessions of all the scripts that are similar. Ratio of read 10 practice 5, always half and half.
  • Switch between roles of simulator and doctor every 2 cases and make sure you are not reading off the script but acting.
  • Record yourself and hear it afterwards to know that where you do not sound like someone that is confident.
  • Take all feedback positively and incorporate it into your script.
  • Always time yourself (GMC Bell) when practicing knowingly and to acclimatize your mental clock.

Bonus Points

  • It is not a knowledge-based exam, it is a ‘clinical interaction evaluation’, with some aspects of average medical knowledge needed to perform this interaction effectively
  • Communication skill is key knowing when to speak and asking well directed questions with active listening is necessary
  • Confidence will be what makes you pass and being safe is what will save you from failing
  • Almost, half the stations are counselling & conversation based with a quarter of the medical knowledge
  • If all fails, remember you are the doctor in that setting, take control of the scenario and reaching a management plan
  • Make sure you get a good night’s sleep before the exam, also fix the routine 3–4 days before the exam to cycle your circadian clock
  • Rest your brain to function a few days before the exam, last two days should be for a brief skim through your bullets and not more exhausting your brain

Bullets/Notes

Note-taking is one of the favorite pass-time for all doctors and it just makes us feel that we have studied a lot more than we have retained. It is mostly about active recall and spaced repetition, in today’s era but it is recommended that make short bullets and pointers of scripts and diagnosis, so you have this mental map inside you head that which will nudge you in the right direction in your case.

These notes should include potential differential diagnosis, investigations, management plan.

Exam Day Performance

  • Standing outside the door of your first station, take a deep breath and forget everything else and just be a doctor.
  • Look at the scenario, have potential differential diagnosis in your head and know the potential management plan.
  • Do not miss the red flags (red flags are those things that can potentially harm your patient and should make you worried e.g. chest pain, weight-loss, weakness, loss of consciousness, etc.)
  • If you miss up any station do not dwell, forgive, forget, and move on to the next station.
  • Do not forget to do your examinations, even when you are practicing this is often skipped on and then it is not a reflex but always incorporate this into your practice so you can have this reflex.
  • All stations will need examination, if not required completely, the examiner will guide you to move forward.
  • Safety Netting is concept that means that you need to tell them things that they should be careful about, it is mostly some general advice, if any issues you can always call or if not feeling well can come to the A&E. Share some worrying signs with them, if the patient is a diabetic or prone to falls give them some pamphlets, if not present, say that you will print them and give them before they leave.
  • Addressing concerns, they won’t always be medical issues, they can be logistical, mental or just something that they need a nudge for to ask, it could be that they have a pet at home and can not stay the night for observation, so you could just ask them to call a neighbor and arrange something, it is sometimes about finding solutions to issues, and treat a patient as a human not as a diagnosis.

Scoring of PLAB 2

The above image is from a result score card and it is how you will receive your results as well, there are loads of parameters that are used to determine what the mean scores are and the results are always percentile based and depends on the performance of everyone in the group that gave the exam along with you.

Previously, before corona-virus, there would be two groups of 20 candidates and there would be two circuits meaning at least 40 candidates would be giving the exam in a single setting and there would be 2 sessions meaning at least around potentially 80 candidates would be giving the exam.

Scores are always calculated against the mean passing rate per station which can fluctuate from 5–10 out of 12 in some cases. The basic division that most tend to share online and in academies have the following breakdown, which is shared below each section has 4 marks making a total of 12 marks per station, but do not over stress over this aspect of the article.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Commuting to the Academy?

People who managed to do the commute and it was possible but being close to the academy means that you can practice with people close to the academy and you can make a practice group which is essential for this exam. You need people to practice with and they must be from your academy because all the academies have different methods of history taking and the scripts differ.

Regarding Mocks?

Mocks are included for free; some academies offer extra mocks but not all of them. Mocks is often debated as having disadvantages can shutter confidence, but it is meant to only test nerves and skills with some spotlight performance, it is necessary to have your heart pumping and being stressed with a similar exam pattern before attempting the real exam. It will only make you better if you can take all the feedback with a positive mindset and with incorporating all that you can with the time you have left.

Also, the debate regarding what the simulators are like, well they are professional and know how to act so you should always be grateful to those study partners who are good at replicating or who know how to put some emotion into their simulation for practice.

Time management is one thing that you will learn the best here and you will learn to focus continuously for 3 hours since, there are no big breaks in the exam, except the rest station which if you are lucky would come in the middle of your 18 stations carousel.

Which Academy is the best?

No academy is the wrong choice, it depends on you and your learning style and the logistics and the people that are going with you to that academy. It is very subjective that’s why people do not really give comprehensive reviews on academies because it’s so subjective and outcome based.

How to choose the academy that you want for yourself?

It is the most difficult question to answer but I feel that there are notes of pretty much all the academies available out there, not as a whole but even 10 pages of those could give you an idea of what suits you best, because you will be going through them so you should see them beforehand what applies to you and which structure and style of notes help you the most. It is just like choosing a textbook for a subject, there are options but one of them just settles well with you.

Reviews on academies are usually outcome-based and have a bias so do your research before choosing the best option for yourself.

It really comes down to you practicing and you understanding what is required, an academy is there only to help and guide you, it will not make or break you. It is for you to push through.

Everything that has been mentioned in this blogpost has been based on personal experience and a compilation of relevant posts and has been composed of experiences of colleagues and material read in other blogs. This is a condensation of all those pieces, for my colleagues who might want to start on the road to the UK through the route of PLAB.

If you have any particular questions and or need some guidance you can always refer to the Facebook groups or if you feel that there is something you would want to ask, you could always leave an email as well

— (dromernasim@gmail.com) —

I will try my best to get back to you in a week. Good Luck!

Doctor in the NHS | Social worker | Researcher | — 16 published articles in peer-reviewed journals | facebook.com/wadaanpakistan linkedin.com/in/omernasim