(This post was originally published on 12th December 2015. It was added to my blog by taking permission from the writer. Thank you, Dr. Bilal Masaud, for allowing me to add your post to this blog)
Alhamdulillah I passed my PLAB 1 exam on November 10, 2015 scoring 170/200, though the marks don’t matter at all. I feel like i owe this to the future plabbers to share my experience as that might be helpful.
I was a clueless person with no guidance when i took a leap of faith and decided to give my IELTS exam. Thankfully i got the required bands in my first attempt and decided to sit for PLAB exam. I asked some seniors for helpand started studying. I was done with IELTS exactly 2 months before the PLAB so i bought the literature and committed myself to it.
MAKE A WHATSAPP GROUP OR JOIN ONE:
The first thing I did was making a whatsapp group, as advised by a good friend who took the exam in March attempt. Trust me that was the best thing I did, I found a few serious members including 5 of my friends and a couple of other people whom i chose from the PLAB group. Taking a pause right here I’d like to explain how a whatsapp group affects you.
1. Motivation – you will always find a person on the group who is motivated, who is willing to do more, who trusts in himself and thus helps you out on the bad days.
2. Schedule – you make a timeline of how you are going to do things, and there is always a person who makes you stick to the plan. This way you dont waste much time and get done as planned plus minus a couple of days.
3. Brain Storming – during the preparation you will find a lot of questions that you wont be able to solve from the notes/books. Furthermore you will find some questions that you wont have a concensus to EVER. The group helps you form opinions and provide you with data that you cannot easily find alone
All this said, a whatsapp group can sometimes be very overwhelming but bear with it and BE AN ACTIVE MEMBER.
This is the most debatable topic in PLAB and this is why i wrote my marks in the beginning (170/200) so that my advice carries some weight. There can never be fewer books, so you have to choose wisely and you have got to know the difference between TEXT material and REFERENCE material. I have seen many people who studied way more than me scoring lesser than me. You got to hit the bulls eye. The lesser you study the better you retain, so study wisely.
Use the following material as your text books
a. Samson Notes (try getting hold of the latest ones as the guidelines keep getting updated every now and then)
b. 1700 (SWAMMY) Questions
c. Samson Chapterwise Mocks
d. Samson Complete Mocks
Use OHCM and OHCS as you reference material. Dont study all of it, it has a lot of useless stuff when it comes to PLAB and it is difficult to retain.
There is a thing about Samson. It will annoy you, it will feel lacking, sometimes the stems of the questions won’t make sense (as they are recalls) and sometimes the answers will be wrong. But dont leave Samson, he knows what he is doing and you will get almost everything in your exams from Samson. Post the stuff that confuses you on the PLAB group and seek guidance. Also search on patient.info and the NICE Guidelines.
In my opinion, do not use OnExam/BMJ and study Pass Medicine, (use them) only if you have ample time. Pass Medicine makes you conceptually better, but again it has got extra stuff. But go for Pass Medicine if you have more than 2 months.
HOW TO STUDY:
To be honest it depends upon the time. I studied for 4 to 6 hours everyday in the beginning and when i got into rythm it went upto 6 to 8 hours and even more closer to the exams. I had 2 months to prepare.
Key to success? MCQs MCQs MCQs. Do as many MCQs you can. In the beginning you will feel lost, as you havent studied the topics yet but still do the MCQs from Day 1. Visit the group every night in your free time as people post the controversial stuff there. In the beginning you wont be able to give opinions so just read and take screenshots of the important stuff. There are always some brilliant people on the group, follow them as they prove to be very helpful. I had a difference of opinion with a couple of them but i feel no shame admitting that they were very helpful.
1. Gather your whatsapp group and make a timeline.
2. Start with one session a day in which you do 50 to 60 MCQs of Topic wise Samson Mocks daily and then move to 100 questions per day after a week.
3. Don’t leave sessions and be an active member.
4. Select a FIXED time for the sessions and remove the people who do not participate without any reason.
5. Study the chapter from Samson on your own and try to find updated management strategies from patient.info and jott down the important points on your notes.
6. Do the main topics in the beginning so you can start 1700 MCQs asap.
7. Inculcate another session in your schedule within two to three weeks in which you just do 1700 MCQs 75 to 100 per day.
8. Dissect the questions, though most of the keys are right but a couple are debatable so gather enough evidence before moving on. There are files of solved and dissected 1700 MCQs on the group that can help.
9. Get done with your topics with in a month, and thus with the topic wise mocks.
10. Then start doing the full mocks in one session and 1700 MCQs in the other. Study and research in your spare time. What you are doing and this time is the key to success. Yes, MCQs. You will see a lot of repeated stuff in the original exam. Do 1700 MCQs thrice and the mocks atleast twice.
11. Make notes of the important treatment strategies and important stuff that you gather from the group separately, so you can revise all that before the exam.
All been said, trust yourself as it is the utmost requirement. Respect others’ opinion but dont undermine yours either. If you are confident about something, do the research, consolidate your concepts and trust yourself.
A few important points in the end.
1. PLAB is an easy exam, but it gets on to your nerves as you have to study from a lot of sources and many people will have opinions that will differ from yours.
2. Always study to the point and cross check the literature with the latest guidelines
3. Make Samson and patient.info your bedside partners
4. Do not study alone
5. Do MCQs
6. Do MCQs again
7. Do MCQs one more time.
I wish you guys all the best with your studies, believe in yourself and seek for guidance. It is one of the easier exams than the ones you have already sat in, so go for it. Pray for my future if what I have written helps you. May God help us all.
Dr. Bilal Masaud