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My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 – Dr Prathamesh Pai

If you are a doctor preparing for your GMC PLAB 2 exam and are planning to join an academy – then this blog is a must to help you pass. We are lucky to have Dr Prathameh Pai – an IMG (International Medical Graduate) doctor who recently passed his PLAB 2 exam – share his own experience of how he prepared in our Academy+ programme 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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My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

Introduction

Hi, I am Dr Prathamesh Pai and I recently passed PLAB 2 after attending the Arora PLAB 2 Academy+ programme! I graduated in 2018 with a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from DY Patil University, School of Medicine, Navi Mumbai.

I have cleared the United States Medical Licensure examination (USMLE) and have been certified by the ECFMG.

I am passionate about Emergency Medicine and have special interests in Medical Education and Sexual and Reproductive medicine. I intend to pursue specialty training in Accident and Emergency Medicine (ED) in the UK.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

Pre PLAB 2 Preparation

After having successfully cleared my PLAB 1 exam in February 2023, I registered for PLAB 2 and booked my exam for November 2023.

The first few days of preparation were all about getting familiar with the PLAB 2 assessment domains and the overall structure. The GMC website has a lot of information regarding the same. Read this blog for a full overview of the PLAB 2 exam.

The first ever video that I watched was about the general approach to a PLAB 2 case scenario posted by Dr Arora on his YouTube channel. Most of his videos are a boon for doctors in terms of their overall content and the salient points that he recommends for any given scenario.

Being impressed with the style of teaching, I watched all of his videos just to get an idea of what the exam is all about, the best practice methods and expected standards of a doctor working in the UK.

After having watched all of the available content from his channel and being fairly confident about his simple consultation approach, I booked the all inclusive Academy+ Package.

One of the best parts about this package is that you have access to so much high yield material in advance of attending the academy – I had around six weeks to go through these – as well as right up to your exam date for constant learning and practice.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

My PLAB 2 Preparation

I had scheduled my exam exactly two weeks after the academy finished. In my batch there were some doctors who had their exam a few days after the end – and some who had their exam 4-5 months afterwards. Everyone is different so I suggest you all follow the timeline that works best for you.

I started with the main online video course to understand the ‘Standard’ PLAB 2 Case approach and the concepts that revolve around Arora’s teaching principles. The objective was to master this concept as most of the scenarios that you will experience on exam day (and real life) originate from the ‘Standard Case’ and its structure. It has been explained in the best possible manner, is extremely informative and is certainly a high yield video to start off preparation.

Once you’re particularly confident about the Standard PLAB Case, I would suggest moving over to the other systems and start getting exposed to all the different types of cases – this approach certainly helped me.

Along with the online course, I used to review the relevant flashcards on the same day – for example if I was watching the cardiology cases chapter, I would look at the cardiology data gathering, explanations, guidelines and examination flashcards at the same time – helping to reinforce my learning. Of note the flashcards were also very helpful during the last few days prior to exam – particularly when I felt that I had minimal hours left! I also started using the Audiobook courses, which helped to bed in the Arora principles while I was on the move.

In addition to the Arora resources, I also watched some relevant clinical videos available on Youtube from multiple reputed channels for increased depth of learning.

For a detailed study plan, the Arora website included several different PLAB 2 preparation time plans for all durations eg 60 days, 120 days. You can follow these or make your own schedule – but having some kind of plan is important.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

Experience at Arora Academy+

I reached the UK a week prior to the live course at the Academy and completed my pre-course recommended preparation (Dr Arora sends out a 10 day programme to go through in advance of starting).

From the outset I must say the 10 day Live Course was absolutely amazing in more ways than one.

I knew that this would not be an academy where doctors are taught to follow or memorise any ‘phrases’. The package material makes it very clear that this would not only sound rehearsed, but also very artificial and hollow whilst dealing with any patient in a real world scenario.

One of the primary reasons I chose Arora Medical Academy+ is the fact that it encourages a natural, situation based approach wherein doctors are taught to care about the patient complaints and the relevant issues – rather than just having a robotic, artificial conversation, with the sole aim of securing ‘marks’ with a role player in an exam.

Another impressive fact about the Arora Academy was the ‘hands on’ training from day 1. No cases to read or memorise – and definitely no rehearsed phrases or any scripts whatsoever.

The approach was very clear right from the beginning. Real world scenarios and role plays from the very start of our training. What you do and experience yourself is what you learn the best. The 10 day live course was systematically organised to ensure that every candidate was exposed to multiple scenarios every single day.

The role plays were followed by an elaborate discussion about the scenario, valuable feedback for the doctor, recommendations and encouragement. I was pleased to note that every doctor was presented with personalised feedback about his or her strengths and areas that needed improvement.

The feedback was provided by Dr Arora and the whole team experienced NHS doctors – who are not only great tutors but also very approachable and personable professionals. I can’t thank them all enough.

A full day was reserved for Simulation training with the SIMMAN. The entire day was spent role-play and simulating all types of scenarios that you would encounter in the ED department. Not demos – attendees coming up one-by-one and being exposed to real SIMMAN. Being passionate about ED training and medical education, it was great to know how impactful simulation training can be whilst pursuing higher specialty training. The entire session for the day was conducted by Dr Arora in collaboration with Arora’s highly experienced ED faculty.

All key topics including challenging areas such as Prescribing, Teaching and Telephone cases were taught in specific segments. In particular a whole afternoon dedicated to live timed prescribing cases and teaching – was invaluable.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

Examinations and Manikins

All important examinations and procedures were covered throughout the 10 day course in dedicated sessions. Demos were followed by in-academy practice time. In particular, day 6 and 7 is dedicated to focused practice – including circuits as well as time to work on areas that individuals specifically needed.

In addition to the scheduled practice, I booked additional free sessions for my practice after the academy for a thorough revision of all procedures and exams. A big shout out to my batchmates and the tutors, who were incredibly supportive at all times. My batchmates at the academy had come from all over the world and it truly made me feel like a global citizen.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

Academy vs No Academy?

One of the most common questions that doctors tend to ask is about the necessity of an academy for purposes of PLAB 2.

Of course ultimately it depends on individual needs. Personally I wanted to attend an academy where I would be able to develop my own style of consultation, whilst also learning the principles in accordance with the standards as expected of a medical professional in the UK (which may be very different from what we have been used to doing in our home country). For this reason, I feel I made the best decision to be a part of an academy that fulfilled all of my requirements in its entirety.

Dr Arora and his team of wonderful doctors are highly professional and amazing human beings. I truly appreciate their consistent support and guidance right through the exam preparation and even beyond.

If I have to sum it up, I would call it a clinically rewarding and an intellectually engaging experience that I greatly cherish.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

Travel to Manchester and Exam Day

I would recommend travelling to Manchester 2-3 days prior to the exam in order to adapt yourself to a new setting. Make sure that you have your own ‘list of resources to be used in the last 2 days’ prepared well in advance.

For my final revision I used the Arora flashcards and audiobooks for the last 48 hours before my exam. I also watched as many clinical videos as I could.

On exam day my objective was to remain calm and composed. I tried to get some good sleep the day prior and approached the exam with a positive mindset. I decided to stop all reading and revision 12 hours prior to my exam time.

I thought of it as a professional ‘day at the office’ as mentioned by the GMC and tried to focus on one case at a time. I kept reminding myself to be a safe doctor at all times and had the Arora bubbles firmly in my mind.

As soon as you’re done with a particular case, move over to the next one and do not think about what happened or carry forward any positive or negative emotions at all. You did the best you could in the given scenario and now it’s time you perform better in the next.
Rest stations: use this time to calm down and de stress for a while. Try the cookies if you please 🙂

Please remember to carry your identity and copy of the confirmation. I would recommend a printout of the confirmation just to be on the safe side.

Follow the instructions of the staff. They do understand that all of us are stressed and anxious before the exam and they will guide you appropriately.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

The Approach

It is necessary to adapt and adjust according to the case that you are given. You cannot approach each and every station in the same fashion due to the vastly differing scenarios and specific requirements for each case. At one point you could be in the emergency department and the next could be a clinical procedure in the GP setting.

Adaptability is the key and more importantly – please read the case carefully posted outside the cubicle. Every word matters and make sure that you completely utilise the 1.5 minutes to read and understand the given situation (we covered this in depth at the Academy).

Once inside, try and avoid looking at the case description if possible. Focus on the ‘patient’ throughout the 8 minutes.

Look around for any results on the table, medical devices or mannikins. You want to utilise every significant clue that will guide you in your case.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

Post Exam Stress & Results Day

A four week wait for results! No matter how well you have performed in the exam, you are likely to feel anxious. This is when you start thinking about all the points that you missed out during the consultations, about all the stuff that you could have asked additionally and all sorts of random anxiety inducing thoughts. I would request you all not to indulge in any of this if possible but I do appreciate that this is easier said than done.

All I knew at the end of exam day was that I had given my 100% and I was reasonably happy with how I approached stations. I followed key principles that I learnt at the academy and also my own way of medical communication and interpersonal skills.

Manchester is a great city and I did explore a few places. It helped to avoid all the exam related thoughts to a certain extent.

With each passing day however, there was anxiety and doubt. At the end of four weeks however, I was very pleased to know that I had successfully passed the exam at the very first attempt. It was a great satisfaction considering the months of preparation, intense training and all the efforts invested into the process.

The biggest takeaway for all doctors appearing for highly competitive examinations – Be the doctor that you are, do not try to be someone that you are not in terms of your consultation style and always remember that common conditions are common so do not overthink, when reasonably certain. Sometimes, medical knowledge may not be the only deciding factor. It’s always important to be a well rounded clinician and to be able to develop a positive doctor patient relationship.

All three domains of assessment are equally important: Data gathering, Clinical Management and your interpersonal skills. Do read about these and understand them – they were the core of what we learned for 10 days at the Arora Academy – ultimately they helped me focus and put it all together in the 8 minute consultation.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

Key Learning points from the Academy

Arora Bubbles to the rescue!

The perfect combo for data gathering – the 3 Arora bubbles come to the rescue when you need them the most. Perfectly categorised into Red flags, Psychosocial and ICE, they together form the bulk of data gathering – MUCH more than just basic history taking. To complement the bubbles, you have 3 Arora ‘R’s that make your data gathering sound more natural and patient oriented.

As Dr Arora rightly mentioned, bubbles – being bubbles – tend to float around and can be used effectively at critical points where you feel stuck up. You need not use them in a specific order but do make sure that you cover them at some point in the first half of the consultation, in order to gather as many ‘issues’ as possible.

I cannot emphasise enough how important they are when used appropriately in the first half of the consult. They help us highlight all relevant issues and also when you feel that you’re out of questions – which is bound to happen at some point.

I will add that I knew of the Arora bubbles before the Academy – but how to use them effectively, as well as their real value – I only learned through multiple role-plays and teaching at the academy. Watch this video for more on the Arora 3 Bubbles.

Handling unpleasant scenario types

As a patient, we would expect our doctor to convey information in a manner that is not frightening or unempathetic. In the exam you may have to deal with all sorts of patients – angry, anxious, embarrassed or demanding to name a few. During the academy course we subjected to multiple ‘emotions’ and were taught how to use specific techniques and principles to tackle any unpleasant scenario.

Most importantly – the principles and the techniques are there to stay with you for life and I am glad that my ongoing consultations will make use of all of these.

Managing the entire situation

I knew of this concept from Dr Arora’s videos, but again only through repeated role-plays and discussion in the Academy did I realise its true importance. Management was one of the domains that was challenging for me. Fortunately, just as how the bubbles helped immensely with the data gathering, Dr Arora’s strategy of the ‘Golden first minute of management’ and ‘issues on the table’, worked perfectly for managing my cases.

After having practiced several role plays during the live course, I realised the importance of managing the situation as a whole – and NOT just the medical condition. This approach ensures a patient-focused consultation and a well rounded management plan. As we learned, management is much more than prescribing medicines or running lab investigations. Watch this video for more on the Arora Golden 1st Minute of Management.

Time management

With an 8 minute consultation and lots of points to be covered in each case, time management can be a daunting task for all. As previously discussed all of our role plays were timed to simulate the exam conditions, including the 2 minute timer.

Key things that I learned at the Academy in terms of time management included:
a) Rushing through the case to complete it within 8 minutes should not be your end objective.
b) Time constraints should not pressurise you into skipping important information, that could ultimately decide how you manage the case in the second half.
c) Please practice as many cases as you can and look for ways to minimise irrelevant or scripted questions that could potentially consume valuable time.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

Academy+ Schedule

The schedule and the timings for the live 10 day course were convenient in terms of productivity. As intensive as it was with respect to the knowledge gained over 7 hours each day, it left us all with a good amount of time to review concepts at the end of the day, to chill for a while or spend time with family.

This ensured a pretty good balance for me during the training process.

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

Logistics

I would recommend that you make all bookings months in advance. In addition to the bookings, you may also want to organise all the important documents that you will require for exam registration in the near future.

I strongly recommend that you complete the EPIC verification of your primary medical qualification before you appear for the PLAB 2. The process may take several weeks, unless you are ECFMG Certified in which case you can make an EPIC account and add your USMLE ID for previously verified credentials.

Lastly, prepare your own plan or strategy for this exam, making the best use of all resources that you have.

I hope that this write up helps you all in your preparation going forward. Wish you the very best.

Dr. Prathamesh Pai

My Academy journey and how I passed PLAB 2 - Dr Prathamesh Pai

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 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!

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.

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