Ahmad Mesbah’s PLAB 1 Experience

(This post was originally published on 11th Dec 2015. It was added to my blog by taking permission from the writer. Thank you, Dr. Ahmad Mesbah, for allowing me to add your post to this blog)

 

Alhamdullilah , I passed PLAB 1 with a score of 169 (Passing score was 124 and average score was 132)

I finished 6th year of medicine in Egypt in the Faculty of medicine , Suez Canal Unviersity on November 2014. and started my Internship in March 2015. I didn’t do anything to study for PLAB during this period.

1- I went for an elective in London’s Air Ambulance in UK from 1st of May to 12th of June. Although this gave me a lot of experience which would be quite helpful in PLAB 2 , it didn’t really help much (or at all) with PLAB 1 preparation

2- I booked my November PLAB 1 exam on 6th of July before starting any preparations for PLAB 1

3- I only started exclusively with 1700 questions and this facebook group. No reading from Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine or pass medicine or any other resource. I put a schedule of 50 questions per day . For each of those questions , i would read each question , have an educated guess at the answer , then see the key for the answer. Then i would proceed to search for the question in this group using the search bar and look at the answers and compare it to the key as well as understand what the question is about , and understand each of the answers. I would then also open patient.co.uk on the topic of the question and read ONLY the relevant parts (NOT The whole articles). If i am satisfied that this answer is 100% correct , i move on to the next question . Sometimes some questions would have some controversy in this group so i would read more from NICE (http://www.nice.org.uk/) . I would also read more from NICE when it comes to important topics that has alot of guidelines (e.g: Diabetes , Hypertension , Hypertensive with diabetes , Inflammatory Bowel Disease , Pre-Eclampsia , etc..) . I printed the 1700 questions and would write on its back my comments for each question (6 or 7 sentences that sum up all this search or explain the answer according to the guidelines). It was a slow process as you see and sometimes it would take 6+ hours to finish 50 questions , so i would get bored and finish only 10 or 20

4- I was really slow and not obedient to the 50 questions per day because i was involved in my internship , in a lot of extracurricular activities , and i traveled to Macedonia in August and before and after that i was with exchange students in Egypt which was a lot of trips , partying , etc.. and i guess by End of August , i only finished 300 questions.

5- My real prep. started at the beginning of September. I had 2 months of internship that don’t require a lot of attendance (Anaesthesia and primary care unit) so i was mostly at my house where i tried to stick to the 50 questions per day rule . Sometimes i would read a topic or two from a book (oxford handbook or some of my college books) but it was more for me to get some more knowledge about a topic of interest and i can’t say this made any difference for the exam

6- Again , i always didn’t stick to the 50 questions per day rule because sometimes i would go out with my friends and get dragged for a whole day outing , or have to go to the hospital for a 12 hour shift , etc.. , but i managed to not get very delayed and i finished all 1700s by 10th of October

7- My trend of studying started changing as i finished more questions. I would write less comments on answers , and take much less time. After 1000 questions , i would finish 50 questions in 2 to 2.5 hours instead of 6-8 hours . I would also spend more time randomly browsing through this page and checking other questions that people post and reading the answers and discussions.

8- After i finished 1700 , i took the 7 samson mocks. I would take each one as an exam , finish all the 200 questions in one sit in 3 hours just like the real exam. Then i would correct according to key. All the answers that i am 100% sure i solved right and the key agrees with me i don’t review them. All answers that i solved right but not sure why and all my wrong answers i would review them here in this facebook group in the next day (also same method using the group , patient.co.uk, and NICE). By this way , i finished 7 mocks in 14 days .

9- the same 14 days i was doing samson mocks , i started reading samson notes , one chapter per day . However , i got bored by the chapter of Infectious diseases and stopped reading it . It didn’t help me at all for prep. for PLAB (except for the anatomy chapter in the beginning)

10- The same day i started solving samson mock 1 ,i subscribed to passmedicine. I solved around 100 questions from there then stopped it. It was very different from exam structure , but it has one really good use. It has a very good summary of all topics in PLAB1 and a reference to the guidelines to support this summary. So for example i can just go and write diabetes in pregnancy and it will have a one page summary with all what you need to know about that and a link to NICE guidelines , so it saves me hassle of search for info , but don’t use it to solve questions

11- Now its 24 October. I finished all 1700qs. , and all 7 samson mocks . I started spending more time just browsing this facebook group and reading questions and answers . I also started a second read of 1700 questions , quickly skimming through 100-200 questions a day. I would read more in depth in the questions which i am not sure of and sometimes i changed my answers from first read because i had much more knowledge now. I finished them all by Nov 1st (2nd read). Also from this period i went through Oxford Assess and progress (both books). It was useful , but the questions are very hard so don’t get discouraged so if you solve them all wrong 😀

12- Now its November 2nd , i spent the 2nd and 3rd reading exam recalls (of June and September) , it didn’t take much time (3 -4 hours per day) and it was very useful . I think there was at least 15 repeated questions from them

13- November 4th , it was my Mom’s Birthday so i spent the whole day out with her in Cairo , we went for movies , had a Nile Cruise and had dinner by the Nile , i went back home at 1.00 a.m. and slept , next morning i went to exam by metro. I had a home in Cairo so i didn’t need to book a hotel room. I finished exam with around 40 minutes to spare , i thought about leaving the hall early but decided against that and just put my head down on the desk till the end of the exam . I didn’t review any mcq question again (because either i knew it , or didn’t know it) , and i didn’t leave any questions till the end of the exam , i solved 10 questions , then transfered to answer sheet , and moved on . the exam has a lot of repeats from what i studied (The Epidemiology question was EXACTLY the same as in 1700q even with the same numbers)

14- Throughout the whole prep. , i didn’t really compromise any of my activities . I would do my workout daily , go for my running and swimming training , go out with my friends , and learn Spanish daily . I didn’t feel the exam was especially hard to prepare for or needs a lot of time so you can do even if you have a busy life. However , the last 3 weeks i limited my activites to only workout , Spanish , and PLAB , nothing else.

 

Tips:

1- This group is amazing to follow the discussions. Sometimes it is stupid when people just put answers without explaining but ignore this and focus on people who do start discussions. Even better , if you take each questions and start looking for the answer yourself because that way you will search in resources and get more knowledge

2- There is a lot of people who are called here “experienced” or “Senior” PLABBERs. Of course , take their answers as guidance as they have a lot of knowledge but don’t take it as THE ANSWER. Most seniors are just like you , people who searched for answer and found it , just like you did . Unless you can backup someone’s answer with a source , don’t rely on it being the correct answer whoever that person is

3- Don’t Rely a lot on Oxford handbook for clinical medicine or specialties. The book has like the smallest font ever , plus when it comes to management , sometimes its outdated by newer guidelines.

4- Sometimes , you will not reach an answer in some questions ,and you will find people here split between 2 answers. try your best to enjoy the discussion and settle on one answer that you feel is better and move on. Even if you don’t know the answer , you gained knowledge through reading the discussion

 

Good luck 🙂

Also if someone in Egypt wants my 1700 question with the explanation notes written on the back , i can leave a copy somewhere in a copyshop or something where everyone has access to it (the notes occasionally has some swearing but it also has some good stuff 😛)

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