MY PLAB 2 EXPERIENCE.
This post is meant for doctors pursuing UK practice through the PLAB pathway. I did my exam on 3rd October 2019 and I cleared it in first attempt. I scored 156 and passed 16 stations. Well for those that know how tricky this exam is, know what this statement means.
Unlike PLAB 1 where you can pass with self study, PLAB 2 requires attending academy. However experienced you are, I strongly recommend you attend an academy of your choice. There are several academies committed to ensuring that you pass your exam as this also reflects on their quality and authenticity. Personally I chose Samson’s Academy because all the previous Ugandan doctors had go there and majority passed in first attempt which is what matters most. I went to academy with a clean slate; You know how people send you all sorts of material before academy and they tell you to read through, well I failed to read this material as it did not make any sense to me till Day 2 of the academy. Once I reached academy the information provided was a lot that i didn’t have time to read through other material therefore don’t stress yourself out trying to prepare before academy, enjoy your life while you can because once you join academy it is so intense that your social life will migrate from 100% to 0%. I joined the September 1st to 15th Class, and I had roughly 3 weeks to my exam. Classes run from 10 am everyday in those 2 weeks and they end between 7 pm and 10 pm.
As much as attending academy is vital to pass PLAB 2, the backbone of passing this exam is practice, practice and practice. And I will repeat this phrase that while you can get away with reading on your own in PLAB 1 preparation; with PLAB 2 you will need a practice group/partner. I strongly advise that you start sketching through your course mates once you join academy for potential practice partners. It is advisable that you discuss with those on your date or closer to your date. Our PLAB 2 discussion group consisted of four people and our PLAB exam dates were one week apart. The ideal group should not exceed four people as you will then have less time to practice. I preferred a discussion group to having a study partner as this exposed me to people from different backgrounds thus bringing a variety of skills and experience on to the table. We started practising between 8 am and 10 am before classes started since our exam dates were 2-3 weeks after academy classes officially ended. Initially we would let a pair simulate while the other acted as examiners, and as the exam dates approached we kept switching practice partners among-st ourselves which helped us identify each other’s weaknesses from different perspectives.
You can plan your accommodation depending on where you will be attending academy; Samson’s academy is in East London so living close to the academy really helps as classes sometimes end really late. Accommodation rates range between 150 to 160 pounds per week depending on whether you are sharing or not. Personally I chose to live with my cousin who lived 45 minutes away by bus and 35 minutes by train from Samson’s academy. This definitely saved me lots of money and since the transport system in London is efficient the latest I ever got home after class was 11.00.am. Some people preferred to rent accommodation close to academy as they would practice till late after classes. So you can choose whatever works for you. You will also need to book accommodation in Manchester for the night before your exam. This should ideally be done once you confirm your PLAB 2 visa. A hotel is preferable as you will need the heavy breakfast to take you through the day. I stayed in AIRBnB because by the time I remembered to book the hotel the prices had doubled. The most convenient hotels are Premier Inn and Travel Lodge.
PLAB 2 is a subjective exam and this is what makes it tricky. You really have to sell yourself as the best doctor that the patient has on that day and because of this you will need all the confidence in this world. Confidence comes with practice and knowing your stuff; this means you need to immerse yourself fully into the entire PLAB 2 preparation process. The classes can get so long and boring but please stick in there; you will need to know all these cases they take you through. In addition to the material they give you at the academy; make use of the NHS website, this helped in simplifying diseases making it easy to explain to the patient. If you feel deficient in a particular system take off time and read about it as this is key in boosting your confidence. I was personally weak in Psychiatric topics since I rarely saw psychiatric patients back home . I therefore made it a point to give more time to psychiatry and this indeed paid off, as I scored all the 12 marks in the Schizophrenia patient I got in my exam.
After all is said and done, PLAB 2 is a doable exam; I actually preferred it to PLAB 1 as it is more practical but I would not want to do it again as the energy and resources invested into the exam are way beyond my understanding. In summary these are my top tips to having a smooth PLAB 2 experience;
- Join an academy of your choice.
- Practice, Practice and Practice.
- Take your mocks seriously as there is a high chance these topics may come in your exam.
- Accept criticism and feedback from the Mock examiners and your practice group.
- Good Interpersonal skills are crucial in this exam so if possible take a few videos during practice and watch yourself later.
- Consider your exam as a busy day in an outpatient (GP) clinic. This way you will be comfortable talking to the patient.
- Approach each station with an open mind. During the final days of practice we made sure we have at least 3 differentials for each presenting complaint , this way you won’t need to cram stations.
- If you feel you didn’t do well in a particular station, leave these feelings in that room and move on to the next station with a clear mind. You can only learn this through the Mock exams. Chances are you will pass the stations you feel you didn’t do well.
- Do not forget to ICE your patient wisely and safety net whenever it is applicable.
- Finally be confident and feel confident; Take charge of the examination room because you are the doctor.
All the best in your journey to the UK.