Practicing PLAB 2 cases with colleagues and friends is one of the main forms of preparation for the PLAB 2 exam. This exercise can be efficient, beneficial and lead to exponential growth in confidence…OR…it can end up fixing bad habits, just being done ‘for the sake of it’ and generally being a waste of valuable preparation time.
These 5 thoughts are developed from personal experience of having prepared many doctors for this exam through our 1-day PLAB 2 courses, as well as having been a PLAB 2 examiner myself.
Record your Cases
Recording and play-back can be an extremely valuable growth tool. Do you really know how you appear or sound in a consultation? Which words do you use? How clearly do you explain things? Which cues do you miss? Which mannerisms may appear distracting?
When you are role-playing as the doctor make sure you video it – just set-up your phone a few metres away. After the session watch yourself back – you will learn so much. It is so important that you recognise your good and not-so-good points in your ‘PLAB 2 zone’ – often remarkably different to those when seeing real life patient.
Simply relying on others telling you about your performance will never allow you to pick up all the simple things that you can spot yourself. Recording and watching your own cases back after a study group session will instantaneously maximise the productiveness of your practice.
So often we base how successful study group practice is solely on how many cases we get through. Of course number of cases are important but it is vital to get as much as you can from each case. Self-reflection of performance AFTER the session, for example when walking home, is where the magic really happens.
Rather than switching off, go back through each case that you did yourself and break it down systematically in your mind. You may have thought it went well at the time and would probably have forgotten it completely, but now become a little self-critical. Did I actually ask all the red flags that I should have? Did I know what the guy did at work or find out if his symptoms affected it? Did I actually come back to the alcohol like I said I was going to? Did I really involve him in the second half, or did I completely take over the consultation for 3 minutes?… Only through this detailed process of self-critique – when you are on your own and not under pressure to move straight onto the next case – will you realise where YOUR improvement points are…Without doing this you will almost certainly make the same omissions and errors next time too.
At our PLAB 2 courses I’m often amazed when I find out that someone hasn’t ever practiced two cases back-to-back. This experience is important as it is vital to see how you cope when cases go wrong…. A really common scenario that I often hear about after a PLAB 2 exam: “the first case was so difficult and I completely messed it up – the rest of the exam was affected by that”. This only happens if you haven’t practiced how to move on from a case that went horribly wrong.
Please take some time to string some cases together when you practice – at least two in a row before you stop to discuss – it is only through practice that you can figure out how to move on from a case that you know went badly…
Advice is often given to ‘just forget the last case and move to the next’ – actually having the skill to do this in reality takes practice…again and again and again…
Be challenging when acting
I remember practicing for exams like this with friends – everything was ‘nice’. ‘Actors’ were all friendly, sometimes information was given too easily and feedback was always based mainly on the medicine. ‘Should you have given this drug or that?’, ‘was that referral based on the current guidelines? etc. Of course these are all very relevant but two things were usually lacking….Firstly I had not experienced the other challenges that the exam can test such as emotion, communication difficulty etc, and secondly there was not enough appreciation or discussion on areas other than ‘clinical’, such as whether the ICE was addressed or whether practical suggestions for the patient’s work issues were explored…
So when you practice with friends or colleagues, 1) aim to challenge each other in areas other than simply making the medicine difficult and 2) make sure you discuss the other vital, non-medical aspects of PLAB 2 after the case.
Repeat sections of a case
I have watched many role-plays between friends and sometimes afterwards the feedback is a) too critical and b) non productive. Too much ‘you should have said this’, ‘you didn’t do this’ or ‘you could have done this better’. Whilst its important to understand areas where we lacked, just talking about it rarely has any impact going forward – it is just words.
Take the opportunity to replay part or whole of the case – maybe the ICE part, maybe the first minute of management, maybe the explanation of the condition. Taking 20 seconds to repeat part of a case often is much more productive than simply discussing it and hoping that it will be better next time.
– Record your own cases and watch back.
– Critically reflect on your own cases after the session.
– Get used to the pressure of back-to-back cases.
– Challenge each other when being the actor.
– Repeat parts of cases to improve next time.
How can we help your preparation?
1) Flagship Immersion PLAB 2 Communication Skills Course: Held in London, Manchester, Birmingham. An intense 1-day course focused on maximising your interpersonal skills and effective use of 8 minutes for PLAB 2. These are areas that many struggle with and the whole day is focused on intensive role-play and direct feedback. I cover a range of scenario types such as patient emotion, counselling, ethics, and patient-centred care. Click here for details and dates.
2) PLAB 2 Communication Skills On-the-Go Audiobook Course: 25 Common PLAB 2 communication and consultation scenario type challenges. I break these down through audio and teach through a variety of tips and suggestions for how to deal with these. It is designed to listen to again and again and in a variety of situations e.g. travelling, at the gym etc. No expiry. Click here for details.
3) Medical ‘How to Explain’ On-the-Go Audiobook Course: 220+ medical conditions, diagnoses, tests and investigations explained in simple terms. Improve the quality of your scenarios by breaking down explanations into patient-friendly language. Also designed to listen to again and again and in a variety of situations e.g. travelling, at the gym etc. No expiry. Click here for details.
4) Dr. Aman’s free daily teaching emails: Join #aroradaily for Dr. Aman’s daily teaching email – a quick clinical scenario with teaching video straight to you email inbox. Also keep up-to-date with our special PLAB 2 offers. Join here: http://eepurl.com/duAwXr
5) Our various Social Media streams: Dr. Aman’s PLAB Support Group provides daily teaching to help you with PLAB 2. We also provide daily PLAB 2 teaching on Dr. Aman’s YouTube channel, Instagram feed (@dr_aman_arora) and Twitter feed (@aman999arora).
On a final positive note
To end on a positive note, most doctors can and do pass PLAB 2. You will pass PLAB 2 if you make your practice efficient and productive. Just like any exam or assessment it takes good planning, constructive preparation and a positive mindset – things that can significantly help boost confidence before you enter that exam centre!
Good luck and #CanPassWillPass