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The Ultimate PLAB 2 Preparation Guide

Understand what the PLAB 2 exam is and how you can prepare for it effectively.

There is no denying that PLAB 2 is a challenging exam – and to pass you’ll need to rely on more than just your clinical knowledge. But if you practise often and prepare adequately, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pass the exam with a high mark. 

– 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.

PLAB 2 Preparation

What is PLAB 2?

The PLAB 2 exam is the second and final part of the PLAB (Professional and Linguistics Assessment Board) assessment that’s run by the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK.

You can only sit the PLAB 2 exam after successfully completing the PLAB 1 exam — and you’ll need to pass both in order to work as a doctor in the UK.

The PLAB 2 is an OSCE (Objective Structured Clinical Examination). The exam features up to 16 mock assessed scenarios that take place in real-life settings — including a hospital ward and a consultation room.

It is usually taken at the GMC building in Manchester. It can be taken at various times throughout the year.

Click here to read our article that talks about PLAB in general (both PLAB 1 and PLAB 2) and here to read our ultimate PLAB 1 preparation guide if you’ve not passed PLAB 1 yet.

PLAB 1 versus PLAB 2: The key difference

As with the PLAB 1 exam, PLAB 2 tests your ability to deal with some of the issues seen by a UK-trained doctor who is about to start their Foundation Year 2 program.

But PLAB 2 is not based on fact, recital and memorisation – it assumes you have certain levels of knowledge having cleared PLAB 1.

Instead, the PLAB 2 exam assesses how you can apply that knowledge in various situations that you might see as a doctor in the UK, whether that be a mock consultation or a ward-based situation.

It is important to remember that PLAB 2 assesses you against UK’s current best practice so bear that in mind when you’re preparing or when you are practising role plays and situation scenarios. All PLAB 2 teaching at Arora focuses heavily on key principles needed to prepare well. 

What to expect from the PLAB 2 exam

Here’s what you can currently expect from the PLAB 2 exam:

  • 16 stations in total
  • Each station lasts 8 minutes
  • 90-second break between each station
  • 2 rest stations included
  • Approximately 3 hours for the exam

Important

Both PLAB 1 and 2 will be replaced by the UKMLA exams in the next few years. The UKMLA will be introduced in 2024 for IMG doctors (replacing the PLAB exams) and for UK medical students graduating in the academic year 2024-2025.

The GMC is rolling out the UKMLA as part of its drive to treat all of its candidates fairly, regardless of where in the world they got their medical degrees from.

You don’t have to let this new type of exam disrupt your plans, however. Read more about the changes and how to prepare for them in our what is the UKMLA exam and how do I prepare for it? guide here. And visit our UKMLA online course preparation page for further information.

 

PLAB 2 Preparation

How is the PLAB 2 exam marked?

PLAB 2 marking has changed over the years and so we’ve examined the latest system. Currently, each case is marked in three domains:

  • Data gathering, technical and assessment skills.
  • Clinical management skills.
  • Interpersonal skills.

For a full summary of how you are assessed watch this video.

For each case, a pass mark is calculated which is added up for all the scenarios. This coupled with one standard error of measurement forms the pass mark for the day, so the pass mark varies each day and from one assessment centre to the other. 

To pass PLAB 2 you must achieve the pass mark for that day as well as pass at least 10 stations.

Let’s look at each domain in more detail:

Domain 1: Data gathering, technical and assessment skills

This domain assesses areas such as:

  • History taking
  • Examination skills
  • Your practical procedures

This domain will also assess any investigations that you might think about – in essence how you gather data in order to try and work out what a potential diagnosis might be, or which issues arise in a certain situation.

History

History taking can include core medical requirements — for example, drug history, past medical history and red flags, as well as other areas that link with a presentation such as psychosocial history and ICE (ideas, concerns and expectations). This video covers the 3 Arora Bubbles of Data Gathering.

Examination

Examination may be tested on real-life actors, using anatomical models or as part of an electronically simulated mannequin. Areas tested include common everyday examinations (for example cardiovascular, respiratory, abdomen, and various joints) and model examinations (such as breast examination, eye examination, and rectal examination).

Practical procedures

Practical procedures that may be tested are things that you might come across in a typical ward in the UK – measuring blood pressure, taking blood, urinary catheterisation, inserting cannulas, suturing, calculating common drug doses and more.

Good to know

The GMC’s very own PLAB blueprint has a more complete list of examinations and procedures which is worth reading through. You can download the PLAB blueprint here.

 

Domain 2: Clinical management

This area assesses how you manage the situation, both clinically and non-clinically. For example, if you’ve come up with the correct diagnosis, how do you now explain that to the patient? How do you involve the patient in a correct, safe, appropriate management plan? Are you using the UK’s current best practice when handling the situation? 

In essence, now that you’ve gathered the data in the first half, how are you now managing it, and is it appropriate for working as a junior doctor in the UK?

This video covers the Arora Golden 1st Minute of Management.

Domain 3: Interpersonal skills

This area assesses your ability to effectively tie together data gathering and clinical management in a patient-centred way.

For example, are you involving the patient regularly? What is the rapport like between you and the patient? Are you effectively using open and closed questions?

Are you thinking about ethics? It may include your ability to handle challenging situations such as breaking bad news, capacity and consent.

It can assess how you manage that situation from a patient’s point of view or perhaps a relative’s point of view, and if you handle the situation in a professional manner or not.

This video covers the 3 Arora R’s of Interpersonal.

PLAB 2 Preparation

When are the PLAB 2 exam dates?

PLAB 2 runs throughout the year. In fact, the GMC holds multiple exam sittings every month at their two clinical assessment centres in Manchester. You can book a PLAB 2 exam date only after passing PLAB 1.

Bookings can be made in the ‘My Tests’ section of your GMC online account. Demand for PLAB 2 dates is high and so you’ll likely have to wait for the next available date. However because it can be so busy it is unlikely you’ll be able to book an exam date for the next month, so you may have to wait a while. 

However, if you already have a UK NHS Job offer or hold UK refugee status, then get in touch with the GMC team as they may be able to help you secure a PLAB 2 place.

Giving yourself enough PLAB 2 preparation time is critical to success.

PLAB 2 Preparation

How do I prepare for the PLAB 2 exams?

PLAB 2 preparation is very different from PLAB 1 preparation. 

With PLAB 1 you can prepare on your own – you can look through questions, or you can simply learn the material. 

PLAB 2, on the other hand, is about the balance of knowledge, technique and time management.

The Arora PLAB 2 Academy+ Package is a blend of our 10 day live teaching programme with our flexible online resources  to help you perfect your clinical skills and gain confidence in all 3 domains. Click here to see how this package can help you pass.  

Here are some thoughts for those who are looking to study for PLAB 2:

Form a study group

Find people that are doing the exam and practise various scenarios by looking at the PLAB 2 blueprint and using practice material.

Join an Academy

Joining an academy is a popular (but not always necessary) route that doctors take in order to try and pass PLAB 2. There are several academies available, both in the UK and internationally – each with its own pros and cons. 

At Arora Academy+ we do not teach a script based approach or make you write lots of notes. We focus on teaching you principles and providing you with detailed feedback on each day. This will help you adapt to any scenario and perform quite well on exam day. 

We understand however not everyone can afford to attend an academy due to finances or time pressures. Our PLAB 2 Gold Package is an option for more flexible and efficient use of time — especially for people who may have limited funds in terms of travel and accommodation. It reinforces all the principles we teach in our academy and has over 50 hours of teaching.   .

There are many examples of doctors who have not attended an academy and still passed PLAB 2. Read about Dr Sarita’s experience of this here.

Online and Audio training

Online and audio training is a useful way to get started and to prepare when on your own. There are numerous online and digital learning tools for PLAB 2. Online and audio training is a great way to understand key concepts and to listen to or watch examples. They are ideal for supplementing practice with colleagues and for learning at your own pace.

You can find our PLAB 2 video course, audio courses and virtual live course here.

Check out all of our PLAB 2 courses and options here

Mock Exams

Mock exams are useful if you want to feel the ‘pressure’ of the exam before the actual exam itself. With a mock exam, you can really get a feel for what it is like going through 3 hours of intense roleplay consultation practice — which is probably not something you may have done too often in the past.

Mock exams are also useful for showing up potential areas where you might need to prepare more thoroughly, and so can really help you decide what to focus on in the last few weeks.

We run our own PLAB 2 mock exams and one-to-one sessions – you can check them out here. You also get two mocks included as part of Arora PLAB 2 Academy+.

Good to know

We’ve also compiled a list of handy high-power tips to help you pass your PLAB 2 exam that will go hand-in-hand with your PLAB 2 preparation. The tips are based on my experience as an ex-GMC examiner. So be sure to check them out..

PLAB 2 Preparation

Which PLAB 2 course or academy should I choose?

If you want to join a PLAB 2 course, there are lots of factors to consider. Some people choose courses solely on the decision to be with their friends, or because of the accommodation nearby. Other choose courses due to travel or time constraints.

However, the most important things we would recommend are:

Make sure the course aligns well with the start of your PLAB 2 exam and with the study time you’ll need to leave yourself. Everyone is different and will need longer or shorter periods to prepare. on average we say you need approximately 3-4 weeks between the end of the course and the start of the exam, so you can prepare adequately.

Check that there are very recent, positive reviews of the academy before committing. TrustPilot is a good place to start.

Check the credentials of the tutors teaching the course, along with how much teaching experience they have. You will want a teacher who has walked the path before you, so that they can pass on that experience. Here at Arora Medical, several of our tutors have been previous GMC PLAB examiners and have extra qualifications in medical education – and have many years of teaching experience, including Dr Aman Arora himself.

The Arora PLAB 2 Academy+ Package has been designed to be a comprehensive, but flexible method of PLAB 2 preparation. 

Do I need to attend PLAB 2 courses in an academy?

No. In no way is a PLAB 2 academy essential or mandatory, and many people pass without ever attending an academy. It is true that many people do find them useful, as PLAB 2 is a practical exam and so the more opportunity you have to practice in your consultation and examination techniques the more confident you will feel on the exam day.

Also, remember that if you are aware of the responsibilities of a junior doctor working in the NHS, have a good knowledge of different organisational structures, and practise good medicine in line with the GMC’s guidelines, then you should be well prepared to take on PLAB 2 regardless of what further preparation you feel you need. The Arora PLAB 2 Gold Package would help if not looking for an Academy. 

However if you do want to attend an academy with high quality mannequins and feedback from senior NHS doctors then consider booking a place on our Arora PLAB 2 Academy + 

PLAB 2 Preparation

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the PLAB 2 exam difficult?

Yes. There is no denying it is a challenging exam. And to pass you’ll need to rely on more than just your clinical knowledge. But if you practise often and prepare adequately, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t pass the exam with a high mark.

What is the passing ratio for PLAB 2?

In 2022 the pass rate was 65%, a drop from 70% the previous year. You can get data for the average passing date over the previous five years here on the GMC website.

How long does it take to prepare for PLAB 2?

This is entirely dependent upon your own personal circumstances. The answer is, it depends on how familiar you are with the following:

1. The practical & examination skills outlined in the PLAB GMC blueprint

2. How the NHS operates & how to communicate within it effectively

3. Dealing with patients deemed “acutely unwell”

4. GMC Good Medical Practice 

Most doctors will require approximately 4-6 months to know how to prepare for PLAB 2, in order to feel confident and familiar with all these areas, though it’s different for everyone.

What happens if you fail PLAB 2?

You can instantly book the exam again through your GMC online account portal. However, remember you can only attempt the PLAB 2 exam a maximum of four times

Can I apply for a visitor visa without booking or paying for PLAB 2?

No. If you apply for a visiting visa, then you must state your main reason for visiting the UK. And you must give evidence that you have already booked your place on the application.

Do I need “IELTS for UKVI” for the PLAB 2 exam or for the visa?

No. You won’t have to take IELTS again, not even when applying for the PLAB 2 Standard Visitor Visa.

PLAB 2 Preparation

My experience with the PLAB 2 exam

I am an previous GMC PLAB 2 examiner.

Whilst examining I saw many recurring themes where I thought I could help with preparation – whether that be through communication skills and general confidence in approaching a challenging situation.

Since I stopped examining I have helped hundreds of doctors prepare for PLAB 2 via face-to-face courses, webinars, and online and audio course training.

I particularly focus on enhancing interpersonal skills which is an area that many doctors struggle with, as well as how to do effective data gathering and management – rather than a scripted one.

I aim to simplify the process, focusing on the efficiency of your 8 minutes, and encouraging the flexibility to adapt to situations that you are perhaps not expecting.

I do not apply a ‘script-based’ style of teaching as I believe that this leads to a very doctor-centred approach and given that I am an ex-GMC PLAB examiner I am conscious of probity issues whilst teaching.

You can find more about me and how I teach for PLAB 2 here

Summary

Finally to end on a positive note, most doctors can and do pass PLAB 2. You will pass PLAB 2. 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!

And at Arora Medical we can do exactly that. Check out our comprehensive Arora PLAB 2 Academy+ package — as the name suggests, it contains virtually everything you’ll need to put you on the right track. 

We also run FREE webinars that focus on PLAB 2 practice success. Check out our webinars here — there’s always something coming up related to PLAB 2, so make sure to register.  

Good luck!

#CanPassWillPass

Check out all our PLAB 2 training materials 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.

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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