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The PLAB 1 Exam: What to Expect and How to Prepare

Hello! If you are planning to sit the PLAB 1 exam then this blog is for you. I cover what it is, what to expect and how to prepare – my aim is to help as many of you as I can through this potentially tricky exam.

Having been a GMC PLAB 2 examiner, and having taught many doctors for both PLAB 1 and PLAB 2, I have seen first-hand how a focused and structured approach helps passing this exam in a big way.

To join Dr Aman’s next free PLAB 1 ‘4 week booster’ Webinar on 18th January 2022 click here: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/556688653542329616

You can watch back Dr Aman’s last PLAB 1 webinar from 5th October 2021 here: https://youtu.be/kkWhAGJuOwQ.

To use our All-in-One PLAB 1 Gold Pass Package click here.

What is covered in this blog:

– What is the PLAB 1 exam?
– Is PLAB 1 hard?
– How much does PLAB 1 cost?
– How should I prepare?
– What is the pass mark for PLAB 1?
– When are PLAB 1 results out?
– How can we help you?
– On a final positive note

What is the PLAB 1 exam?

PLAB 1 is part of the PLAB assessment process for doctors who are training abroad, to allow them to work in the UK as doctors. PLAB 1 is the written component, whereas PLAB 2 is your OSCE component. Details about PLAB 2 are found here.

PLAB 1 can be taken in various places across the world – both in the UK as well as in other countries – to see which cities you are able to take the exam see the GMC website.

PLAB 1 exam is a 180-question exam, set out as a ‘single best answer’ approach. Each question has a stem alongside 5 potential answers – you have to pick the single best one.

There maybe one, two or three that are potentially correct, but you’re looking for the single best one. The exam lasts 180 minutes in total.

Is PLAB 1 Hard?

PLAB 1 can be passed with the right preparation. It is testing recollection of knowledge – for example it is not looking to see how many causes you know of right heart failure.

It is designed to test your application of knowledge. It is expected that your knowledge is of a certain standard having completed your undergraduate degree eg MBBS – the idea now is to see how can you apply that knowledge – in essence to see whether you’ll be able to work in the UK environment.

It is important to remember that in PLAB 1 answers are going to be based on UK best practice.

You may be working in some parts of the world where policies and protocols are slightly different, but when you’re preparing make sure you understand UK best practice and UK based guidelines.

For this reason all of our PLAB 1 teaching and resources are based on up-to-date UK guidance.

Two major areas can be tested. Firstly, acute presentation – common things that you may find in an emergency department. Secondly, more long term or chronic conditions that may present to primary care or a family physician in the UK.

Questions might be based on a range of areas. For example you may be asked about a patient who presents with certain symptoms and you need to work out the most likely diagnosis. You could be tested on investigations – for example what would be the first or most appropriate investigation in a particular presentation.

Questions could be based on management – what would be the most appropriate management of either an acute or a chronic condition. You could be given simple statistics to work out, as well as questions containing results – for example blood tests or x-ray reports – designed to assess how you would diagnose, manage, interpret, and treat these situations.

How much does PLAB 1 cost?

From April 2021 PLAB 1 now costs £240. More details about cancelling or booking PLAB 1 can be found on the GMC website.

How should I prepare for PLAB 1?

The first thing I would do is go to the GMC website and download the PLAB blueprint. This can be in both Excel of PDF form, and is a guide as to what could potentially be tested in both PLAB 1 and in PLAB 2. It is divided into sections, allowing you to plan your preparation accordingly.

The second thing I would do is make a timeline for your preparation. When you know the date of your PLAB 1 exam, split it into how many days, weeks, months are left – try and have a plan as to how to cover all the information in the PLAB blueprint. Remember lack of appropriate planning can lead to ineffective preparation, often leading to missing out large areas of preparation.

Question banks are obviously a major part of preparation for PLAB 1 and there are many high question bank options available. Our bespoke PLAB 1 Mock Exams allow you to practice challenging questions in a time-pressurised environment – just like in the real exam. Make sure you find a question bank that works for you as an individual – what works for someone else may not work for you. And remember it is not the number of questions you do that is important – it is the quality of feedback and what you learn from each question (whether you answer right or wrong) that matters.

Consider attending a course or a webinar. There are many for PLAB 1 so we’ve created something slightly different – our Ultimate PLAB 1 Audiobook Course where the whole curriculum is taught in 9 compact hours.

Social media is really important. There are many Facebook groups in terms of PLAB preparation. We have our own dedicated PLAB Support Facebook Group, where we give plenty of daily free information and free education for PLAB 1. YouTube videos are a great source of free teaching on a variety of topics – once again we have over 400 videos on our own YouTube channel (Dr Aman Arora), aimed at quick-fire teaching for PLAB 1. If you are on Instagram we teach daily here as well (@dr_aman_arora)

And finally, consider practicing in a group – whether digitally via one of the multiple PLAB 1 WhatsApp groups, or as a formal group where you regularly meet colleagues and work through PLAB questions and PLAB topics.

Sometimes when you’re preparing for an exam like this on your own amongst all the business of daily life, it can get quite boring and tiresome – your preparation effectiveness is not as good as it would be when you’re stimulated by other people.

Ultimately there are many ways to prepare for PLAB 1 – there is certainly no right way or wrong way. It is sometimes worth trying a few different things and figuring out what works for you.

For 10 High Power Tips to Pass your PLAB 1 exam, read our blog here.

What is the pass mark for PLAB 1?

The pass mark varies for each PLAB 1 sitting. It is determined using the Anghoff Method with one standard error of measurement. This ensures that the pass mark stays consistent and it is a fair exam.

What is the pass rate for PLAB 1?

The pass rate for the past 5 years on average has been 70% based on the data from the GMC website.

When are PLAB 1 results out?

PLAB 1 results come out 6 weeks after you have sat the exam. The GMC will send an email that provides you with details on how to access your results in ‘My Tests’ section of your GMC Online account. The GMC will not provide your results by any other means e.g. via telephone or in person.

How can we help you pass PLAB 1?

1) Our most popular and comprehensive PLAB 1 package is our PLAB 1 Gold Pass Package – saving you time, money and planning. All of our PLAB 1 material (Clinical Audiobook Course, 3 Mock Exams, Clinical Flash Cards and Pharmacology Flash Cards) are included in this mega discounted bundle. Designed to use over a 3-12 month preparation plan, it covers every aspect of PLAB 1 preparation – both in terms of knowledge boost and exam technique, in 3 different teaching styles to suit each type of learning. Click here for full details and samples.

2) Our Ultimate PLAB 1 Audiobook courseI have created an intense, focused 9-hour audio course which teaches you all the key clinical areas needed for PLAB 1. The chapters are mapped against the GMC PLAB Blueprint to ensure complete coverage. Once downloaded to your phone or tablet you can listen as many times as you like, online or offline, with no expiry. All key UK guidelines are covered, with all future updates available for free once purchased one. Click here for a free 14-minute sample to see if it suits your style of learning. “I loved your PLAB 1 audio – really helped me make better use of my time”

3) Our PLAB 1 Online Mock Exams. Focused and challenging online PLAB 1 Mock Exams that help both with knowledge and technique assessment. Covering the breadth of the GMC PLAB curriculum these mocks contain core learning points and breakdowns of your strong and weak areas. Click here to try 10 sample questions.

4) Our Flash Revision Cards for PLAB 1. 150 highly focused clinical teaching cards to use on the move. Covers all key UK guidelines as well as investigations and treatments for multiple common exam conditions. Posted to your home, worldwide. For samples click here. “Your flash cards helped me pass PLAB 1 Dr Aman!”

5) Our various Social Media streams. Whether you learn by video (YouTube), image (Instagram), or a combination of both (Dr Aman’s PLAB Support Facebook Group) we have something for you.

On a final positive note

Finally to end on a positive note, most doctors can and do pass PLAB 1. You will pass PLAB 1.

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!


Further Resources

  • For regular PLAB teaching and NHS Career support teaching join our PLAB Support Group.
  • For regular GP training updates and teaching join our National GP Training Support Group.
  • For daily free clinical email teaching and updates join #aroraDaily
  • For resources to pass PLAB 1 click here.
  • For resources to pass PLAB 2 click here.
  • For resources to pass MSRA click here.
  • For resources to pass MedSchool exams click here.

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About us

Dr Aman Arora is a GP who is now 100% committed to transforming medical education, helping doctors across the globe to ace their exams and enhance their careers. He is proud to hold FRCGP (Fellow of Royal College of General Practitioners). Previous roles include:

  • GP Training Programme Director
  • NHS GP Appraiser
  • GMC PLAB 2 Examiner
  • GP Recruitment Examiner
  • GP Recruitment Question-writer
  • HEWM IMG Board Member
  • HEWM Advanced MRCGP AKT Trainer

Dr Pooja Arora is a GP with a background in Medical Politics, passionately focusing on improving the opportunities and working conditions for junior doctors. Previous roles include:

  • Vice Chair Birmingham LMC
  • BMA Council Member
  • BMA General Practitioners Committee elected representative 
  • BMA Sessional GP Committee elected representative 
  • BMA National Deputy Policy lead for working at scale
  • HEE GP Ambassador
  • HEE GP Stage 3 Assessor
  • RCGP Midland Faculty AiT representative

* Blogs written by Dr Aman and Dr Pooja Arora are not for professional, financial or medical advice. Please seek appropriate professional, legal or financial advice where appropriate *


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