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How I Passed my PLAB 2 exam with one week’s preparation – Dr Alyssa Cameron

If you are a doctor preparing for your GMC PLAB 2 exam, this blog is a must to help you pass. We are lucky to have Dr Alyssa Cameron – an IMG (International Medical Graduate) doctor who recently passed her PLAB 2 exam – share her own experience of how she prepared and passed first time – in just one week!…

– 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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How I Passed my PLAB 2 exam with one week’s preparation – Dr Alyssa Cameron

Introduction

Hi! My name is Alyssa Cameron. I’m originally from South Africa but I studied medicine in the United Arab Emirates. I have wanted to be a doctor for as long as I can remember – in fact I am obsessed with being a doctor and it gives me more joy than I can express in words. I pride myself in my ability to connect with my patients, to make them feel heard and for them to feel rest assured that I am going to help them. I passed the PLAB 2 exam on the first attempt with a score of 135 (106 to pass) and I passed 12 stations. I did this having completely changed my whole approach with 1 week to go (see below story).

How I Passed my PLAB 2 exam with one week’s preparation – Dr Alyssa Cameron

Preparation journey

I started preparing for PLAB 2 by travelling to the UK five weeks before my exam. I had booked to attend an in-person full course with a certain academy (not Arora Academy+!). I chose this particular academy because of two things promised on their website:

a) Small groups of students with an instructor, allowing for good practice and immediate feedback from the instructor (which is why I flew to the UK and booked accommodation instead of attending online).
b) opportunity for mocks with feedback sessions to discuss each station.

Sadly both of those promises never came to fruition. The lectures consisted of passive note taking of hundreds of scenarios (which I always found so ironic as we’re constantly told to ’not sound scripted or you will fail’, but then all PLAB 2 material seems to just be scripts) and how to fake/act your way through the interpersonal skills portion of the exam. 

My first mock was a disaster. I felt so flustered and my history was everywhere – it had no structure. The actors seemed to be annoyed (you may say even rude at times), which obviously did nothing to help with my confidence. The feedback session did not address specific concerns and questions that I had. The feedback advised that my interpersonal skills were terrible – all 1’s and 2’s. 

I had always been excellent at OSCE and role-play exams but the experience of that mock and their feedback destroyed my confidence. I started wondering whether the idea that I had of myself as a doctor – extremely kind and compassionate – was a lie, and that all the feedback from my teachers during medical school and my internship was just them being kind. 

I was in pieces, I spent two days in tears and having panic attacks – all of this a week before my exam. I felt I had wasted so much money coming to the UK for a month when I could have attended from home. I paid for a course based on false promises and I knew I was going to fail if I didn’t do something right away. 

Releasing this, I sprang into action. I decided that I would not do the other mocks offered at the academy as I was scared that they would destroy my confidence even more. So I made a facebook post on one of the PLAB 2 groups requesting a referral to an academy that does mocks with focused feedback. A wonderful admin of the group tagged Dr Arora and I got into contact with him immediately. I explained my situation and he told me what I could do to try and salvage the situation in just one week. 

I subsequently subscribed to his online videos and booked a one-on-one mock. He advised me which videos were the most important to do before my mock – and that anything else I could cover would be a bonus. In the end I got through about half of the videos before my mock as it is a full 20 hour course (not just recorded from a past live course but focused and targeted teaching material).

I then had my online one-to-one mock four days before my exam with  one of the Arora Medical Education tutors (a senior GP in the NHS). Afterwards he gave me detailed feedback on every station – what I did well and what I need to change. He helped me put what I learned from Dr Arora’s videos into practice. He also gave some general feedback on do’s and don’ts. 

Most importantly for me, he told me that he had no idea why my previous mock assessors said that my IPS was so bad, that he felt my IPS was actually very good and that I had a solid base of knowledge. In that instant my confidence had been restored, and I started seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. I felt like the world had been lifted off my shoulders and that I may actually be able to pass the exam. 

In the end not only did I pass, but I passed with what I feel is flying colours – given that I basically started from scratch a week before my exam. Incidentally my IPS marks were all 3’s and 4’s.

To see our own Arora Academy+ Package (if you have more time than 1 week to prepare!), click here. 

How I Passed my PLAB 2 exam with one week’s preparation – Dr Alyssa Cameron

What was helpful

Dr Arora’s first chapter is an important general approach to the exam – a simple framework that you can use to get through any station. This framework is what sets Dr Arora apart from the other academies that just give scripts and scenarios – as a past PLAB 2 examiner he really understands what the PLAB 2 exam is about at its most fundamental level. He also has brilliant memory hacks for when you hit a blank – I’m sure you have heard of the 3 Arora bubbles, 3 Arora R’s and 3 Arora steps of management. This key framework and the memory hacks help you get through everything that you need to cover in the 8 minutes stations. 

The other lectures are specialty-specific (cardio, psych, OBGYN, etc), in which he gives additional key things that you need to remember and utilise. The general framework that he gives is simple, but brilliant. I applied it to every single station, and I kept going back to my memory hacks to make sure I covered everything. Even when I had no idea what to do, I applied the framework, and it got me through the station.

How I Passed my PLAB 2 exam with one week’s preparation – Dr Alyssa Cameron

What was not helpful

Any academy or course that gives even a single script/scenario does not fundamentally understand what PLAB 2 is about. If you are trying to memorise hundreds of scripts/notes, you may be approaching it wrongly, and you are definitely making your life so much harder than it needs to be. Those scripts can never help you cover everything in the 8 minutes that you have to complete the station – it is just not possible. Which is why I say they do not understand what PLAB 2 is about. Watch this video to see why scripts don’t work. 

It seems so simple – take a history (though Dr Arora constantly reminds us that it is a data gathering and NOT a pure history), do an exam, do management, address patient concerns. The catch is, you have to do it in 8 minutes. 8 minutes will only seem like too little time if you don’t understand what they want from you. I thought I understood the point of the exam. I was soooooo wrong. Only after starting with Dr Arora’s material and doing the one-to-one mock did I really, really get it. Once you understand it, you can get through any station, no matter the topic, in 8 minutes. You only need one framework to be able to do anything.

At the Arora Academy we DO NOT teach a scripted approach. For details of the Arora Academy+ Package click here.

How I Passed my PLAB 2 exam with one week’s preparation – Dr Alyssa Cameron

Exam experience

My exam experience was very pleasant. I did have some stations that stumped me and made me panic a bit, but I got through all of them with Dr Arora’s framework. The actors were really lovely and the examiners greeted me with the same smile I greeted them with. The rest stations have water and snacks and a comfortable chair to just take some breaths and re-centre yourself.

How I Passed my PLAB 2 exam with one week’s preparation – Dr Alyssa Cameron

Some Do’s

– Be kind and gentle to yourself. This exam can be very stressful, but always remind yourself that you are giving it your all.

– If you are feeling overwhelmed, step away from the material and go for a 10-min walk.

– Go to bed early the day before your exam – what you don’t know by then you will not know for the exam. Have faith in your abilities and what you have learnt. I stopped studying at 6pm the day before my exam and my husband and I went for some dinner to try get my mind off the exam. I was in bed and asleep by 21:00.

– On the day of the exam, have a good meal before heading to the testing centre. Your brain needs energy to function – give it the best chance of helping you get through the exam by giving it the resources it needs to be able to do that.

– If something goes very wrong during your exam preparation, take the time you need to feel whatever emotions you need to. But then get back up and make a plan to fix the problem. It will never be too late.

How I Passed my PLAB 2 exam with one week’s preparation – Dr Alyssa Cameron

Some Don’ts

– Don’t attend an academy that gives scripts.

– IPS is a balance – don’t do or say things that feel/sound fake. Be real. Not everything needs a “sorry.” If someone tells you their mother died you will obviously say “I’m so sorry about that.” A patient who has a headache doesn’t need a “sorry” – they need you to hear them and reassure them that you are going to help them. Pretend like the patient is a parent/sibling/best friend, and talk to them as such. Treat the patient like you would want another doctor to treat someone you love.

– On the day of the exam don’t hang around people that are revising out loud. They will make you panic and feel like you know nothing – which will never be the case, but you will feel like it is. – Don’t start preparing months in advance. If you do that, you don’t understand what they want from you. You need 2 weeks max – I did it in 1.

How I Passed my PLAB 2 exam with one week’s preparation – Dr Alyssa Cameron

Final thoughts

If you use Dr Arora’s resources or Academy, you will be fine. Simply because he gets it, and he will help you to get it too. Good luck.

Alyssa 🙂

How I Passed my PLAB 2 exam with one week’s preparation – Dr Alyssa Cameron

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, Live course, 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 RCAMSRA 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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