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

What is covered in this blog:

– What is the PLAB 1 exam?
– How should I prepare?
– How can we help you?
– On a final positive note

What is the PLAB 1 exam?

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.

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 PLAB 1 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.

PLAB 1 is not 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 is 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.

So 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 question banks available. We are creating our own at Arora PLAB, but there are several other high quality banks available as well.

Make sure you find one 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’ Audio 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 exam preparation 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 250 videos on our own YouTube channel, aimed at quick-fire teaching for PLAB 1.

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.

How can we help you?

1) Our Ultimate PLAB 1 Audiobook course.

I 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.

2) Our various Social Media streams.

Whether you learn by video (YouTube), image (Instagram), or a combination of both (Facebook) we have something for you. I regularly teach live in our main Facebook group as well – focusing on key topics that help with both PLAB exams.

On a final positive note

Finally to end on a positive note, most doctors can and do 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!

Dr. Aman Arora

Dr. Aman Arora

GP and full time medical educator

Dr. Aman Arora

About Dr. Aman Arora

GP and full time medical educator

Former GPVTS Programme Director

Former NHS GP Appraiser

Former GMC PLAB 2 Examiner

Fellow of Royal College of GPs (FRCGP)

Running Exam Prep courses for 8 years

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