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Brazil to UK: How I Passed PLAB 2 without Scripts – Dr Fernanda Pignatari

If you are a doctor preparing for your GMC PLAB 2 exam – then this blog is a must to help you pass. We are lucky to have Dr Fernanda Pignatari – an IMG (International Medical Graduate) doctor from Brazil who recently passed her PLAB 2 exam – share her own experience of how she prepared and passed first time…

– Register for our next Free PLAB 2 Webinar here
– Join the Arora PLAB 2 Telegram teaching group here.
– Join Arora PLAB 2 Academy+ programme here.

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Brazil to UK: How I Passed PLAB 2 without Scripts - Dr Fernanda Pignatari

Introduction

Hi, I’m Dr Fernanda. I graduated from Medical School back in 2014 in Brazil, my home country. Since then, I have worked and was trained as a GP for 4 years, then decided to undergo the equivalent Medical Core Level Training, with a clear goal of specialising in Geriatric (Care of the Elderly) Medicine after that. Although I have finished my CT3, COVID-19 came and turned things upside-down, so I ended up working at an ICU in 2020 – and have been doing so until now. 

My husband and I had planned to live and work abroad since 2014 – and in 2021 we decided to put those plans into action… And so it all began.

Brazil to UK: How I Passed PLAB 2 without Scripts - Dr Fernanda Pignatari

PLAB 2 Preparation Journey

Back in 2022, I took the IELTS exam twice, and scheduled my PLAB 1 for February 2023. After receiving my results I decided to take the PLAB 2 as soon as possible, and had plans to sit the exam in September. Around June-July, after a lot of research, doubts, self-questioning and so on, I decided to go with Dr. Aman Arora’s Academy (even though I didn’t know anyone back home who had taken Dr. Aman’s PLAB 2 Academy as it was so new at the time). 

All other academies sounded very scripted, and having worked as a doctor for almost 10 years now, I have found it extremely hard and artificial to try to go along with those scripts – it just didn’t make sense to me. Why should I leave behind my entire experience and key skills – which I worked so hard on and which have helped me advance in my career – just to try to fit into a dozen different scripts and say things in a robotic way?

So, once I started watching Dr. Aman’s videos, I could relate to his method, and the most important thing: I could see there wasn’t any fake sensationalism in his videos, like those “one-size-fits-all” formulas or unreal promises.

After booking, everything was going quite well until I decided to practice with a group that went to another academy – and were much more experienced in PLAB 2 preparation than I was. I felt horrible. Everybody seemed so sure about themselves, knowing what to do, what to say, that at some point, I even thought they were actually reading from scripts in their cases. I was searching through the material we were using to study to find the text people were reading, only to realise that they had just memorised those lines and were reproducing them. I didn’t even have the courage to expose myself and practice even one scenario and ended up with huge questions about my ability. I felt so insecure and afraid to say the wrong thing that it blocked me – so I didn’t practice with anyone else until I got to the academy.

Back in July, a month before I was supposed to travel to the UK for the academy, I faced some health issues and had to postpone my exam to November. I found myself unable to study for a couple of months, but surprisingly it turned out to be a positive twist. The break provided me with an opportunity to reflect on everything that went on so far, and I was able to understand that everyone has their own journey, and to accept that although things may not come as expected, it doesn’t mean that this is the end of the road. 

So, I picked up Dr. Aman’s video course again (which comes as part of Academy+) and attempted to keep up with the free PLAB 2 study plan (which wasn’t always easy due to my work and home responsibilities). There were good days and bad days. I was feeling very anxious about the exam, and even though Dr. Aman’s method made sense to me, I couldn’t stop questioning myself about choosing “the right academy”, because I had been one of the early ones on this Arora path.

 Then, one day, after struggling with those feelings, it dawned on me. Passing the exam was much more about ME – my hard work, my training – than it was about choosing this or that academy. Sure, the academies are there to guide you on your journey, but it’s up to you to keep moving forward and “equipping” yourself with the knowledge needed to make it.

Brazil to UK: How I Passed PLAB 2 without Scripts - Dr Fernanda Pignatari

My time at Arora Academy+

In summary – by far one of the best experiences of my life! And I truly mean it! Since day 1 I felt so welcomed, both from the Arora team and from my classmates. It helped in building a feeling of being in a safe space, where I could be myself, make mistakes, ask questions and participate.

Role-plays occurred from day 1 until day 10. It wasn’t until day 4 however that I mustered the courage and confidence necessary to “expose” myself in front of everyone and did a role play myself. This is my only regret – I wish I had done it sooner because after breaking that ice, things just started to flow in a much easier and relaxed way.

The academy was excellent in focusing on the most common and important subjects. I am the kind of person who needs to write down everything; otherwise, it just feels like I’m not able to internalise what is being said. So, I took notes of what the tutors said and also of what my colleagues said during the role-playing. You can’t imagine just how much you can learn from them.

During the academy, I was able to connect with a lot of people, and those with the exam date closer to mine gathered a small study group. This was definitely a game-changer for me. Practicing with people who were learning from the same academy and applying the same 3 Arora bubbles, 3 Arora R’s and 3 Arora steps of management helped me to improve a lot.

By the end of the academy, unlike most of my colleagues, I had only one week before my exam (as I live and work in Brazil, I couldn’t be travelling for a very long time, so I had to make sure my PLAB 2 exam was very close to the academy dates). During this week, my friends – and I’m really happy to call them friends – helped me practice every day. We went through different scenarios, giving each other feedback, and also went through the main red flags of each “system” (Neurological, Cardiovascular, Respiratory, and so on), management steps, guidelines etc.

Brazil to UK: How I Passed PLAB 2 without Scripts - Dr Fernanda Pignatari

Post Academy

Arora Academy+ comes with two personalised mock exams. I had my first Mock two days after the academy ended – having all those challenging cases back-to-back gave me a feeling of the real exam. The feedback was tailored and precise, so I could work on the things that required improvement, but at the same time, it boosted my confidence, which was crucial at this point.

I made sure I had physical activities, nature contact and relaxing moments in between all the hard work and studying. It helped me stay focused and prevented me from having anxiety (which I had been dealing with for some time). And with the risk of sounding extremely cliché, life is all about the journey. And this thought helped me get through the hardest moments.

One day before the exam, I had my second Mock, and the feedback was just precise. It enabled me to go through some important points, and I received some very good advice about how to make the most of my time in a healthy and balanced way.

By then, the feeling was one of gratitude. Of course, I was worried about my exam, and of course, I wanted to clear it. But I HONESTLY felt that even if the results didn’t come back the way I wished they would, it would still have been 100% worth it. 

I had never imagined meeting such nice and gentle people at a PLAB 2 academy. All the tutors and all my colleagues were very supportive, and being surrounded by this atmosphere was essential for a positive outcome.

Brazil to UK: How I Passed PLAB 2 without Scripts - Dr Fernanda Pignatari

Exam Day

So, it arrived. The most awaited and feared day in months. I was afraid of having a panic attack; I thought anxiety would keep building up and end up nullifying all the hard work I had done so far. Oh my, could I be more wrong?!

I took a walk to Hardman’s Square, and all the staff were very polite upon arrival. I saw some candidates who were clearly nervous, and even a few who were trying to revise some of the content. I just made sure to stay positive, repeating reassuring thoughts in my mind, and did some breathing exercises while waiting. And to my absolute surprise, I just kept it cool throughout the whole exam.

Although I didn’t find the actors as easy-going as many people say, I managed my way through it. But honestly, after a few stations, I started questioning myself and thinking I would probably fail the exam. Try not to let those thoughts contaminate your mind. Stay focused on the next station. 

Remember the 3 Arora bubbles, 3 Arora R’s and 3 Arora steps of management, and you will be fine.

After the exam, I think it is almost impossible not to feel like you’ve failed (at least, almost everyone I talked to felt that way) and the following weeks can be really challenging. Thankfully, I had my work to focus on, so time passed quite fast.

I was working at the ICU when my husband called me and gave me the good news. I felt like the weight of the whole world went off my shoulders, and I could finally breathe and move on with my journey.

Brazil to UK: How I Passed PLAB 2 without Scripts - Dr Fernanda Pignatari

Final Thoughts

Arora’s academy and NHS guidelines are more than enough to provide you with all the necessary knowledge to clear the exam. The greatest advice I could give is just to make sure not to compare yourself and your journey with anyone else’s. We’re all unique individuals, each battling our own challenges.

Other than that, I would recommend making connections and having a strong study group. Make sure you take advantage of all the academy has to offer – small batches, plenty of opportunity for everyone to practice, new mannequins (including a great SIMMAN), and the most amazing tutors. Study hard and don’t give up the hard work, but also know your limits and allow yourself to relax and have some leisure time.

PLAB 2 surely is about knowledge – but I realised at the Academy much much more. It is about being a safe doctor, knowing when to ask for help, staying calm, having sound principles and tailoring the management to each patient’s unique needs – things that the academy focused on from day 1 onwards. 

Best of luck to everyone, and many thanks to the Arora team and to all my colleagues and friends!

Brazil to UK: How I Passed PLAB 2 without Scripts - Dr Fernanda Pignatari

How Arora can help you Pass PLAB 2

For our most comprehensive ‘all-you-need’ PLAB 2 Academy+ Package click here

For all other Arora PLAB 2 resources (Gold Package, Mocks, Online course, etc) click here

To register for our next free PLAB 2 webinar click here: Next Free Webinar

To join our Free PLAB 2 Telegram teaching group click here

For Dr Aman’s PLAB 2 YouTube videos click here

Author Bio — Dr Aman Arora

Hello and welcome to Arora Medical Education! I am a Portfolio GP with a 24/7/365 passion for helping you fly through your medical exams and maximise your career. You can find out more about me here.

I’ve been fortunate to teach over 50,000 doctors globally through a combination of face-to-face, online, audio and social teaching, helping them pass exams such as MRCGP AKT and SCAMSRA and PLAB. You can find out more about my previous roles and qualifications here.

Feel free to contact me with any thoughts, questions or ideas to help you reach your potential. I look forward to meeting you soon!

aman

Author Bio — Dr Pooja Arora

Dr Pooja Arora is a GP with a background in Medical Politics, where she passionately focuses on improving the opportunities and working conditions for junior doctors. She is proud to hold FRCGP (Fellow of Royal College of General Practitioners).

You can find out more about Pooja’s previous roles and qualifications here.

aman

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