Sergey Barsamyan’s PLAB 1 Experience

(This post was originally published on 3rd April 2015. It was added to my blog by taking permission from the writer. Thank you, Dr. Sergey Barsamyan, for allowing me to add your post to this blog)


PLAB 1 experience of Sergey Barsamyan
a cardiac electrophysiologist from Armenia


I passed with 147 at my second attempt. First time I tried PLAB 1 in November 2014. Being an IMG from CIS region 10 years post graduation and having only a month for preparation, I prepared for the exam starting from the wrong angle. Instead of concentrating on SBAs, I chewed on 2000 pages of OHCM and OHCS, have gone halfway through OnExamination topic-wise (without Ob&Gyn, Pediatrics, Ortho & Trauma) and subsequently failed the exam, scoring only 100.

CONCLUSION # 1 – reading only the Oxford Handbooks without doing at least a thousand of SBAs is a guaranteed failure.

For the March 2015 exam, I had 2 months of preparation. As USMLE 2 CK and PLAB 1 have a lot in common, and as one may eventually end up doing a fellowship in US in some stage of one’s life, I decided to read USMLE materials as the main part of preparation for PLAB 1, doing British SBAs right before PLAB 1. I’ve finished Kaplan 2 CK notes on most of the topics, quickly read Master the Boards 2 CK for the topics I felt less confident in, solved ~ 2000 Uworld SBAs topic-wise (carefully reading the explanations and adding remarks on on Kaplan notes). In the last two weeks, I did half of the SBAs from Passmedicine randomly after drilling the most important concepts topic-wise using the website’s “quick facts” option as an SRS. I liked Passmedicine for it’s cheapness, accurate interface, links to NICE, SIGN and other guidelines, “quick facts” and spaced repetition system, although it may appear to some users too obsessed with guidelines. Samson PLAB 1 notes were the only British reading I have done this time and they were quite helpful for rapid topic-wise review.

Although Samson qbank and mocks try to reflect the actual exam, the key contains too many mistakes and too little (if any) explanations. They lack the beautiful interface and userfriendliness of OnExamination and Passmedicine. Past papers (based on recalls) also lack accurateness. I felt that instead of drilling some facts with suboptimal level of understanding will harm my exam experience and overall clinical thinking and avoided them altogether, despite their popularity. After all, I wanted to revive medical knowledge in my mind and be ready for all kinds of basic clinical questions, not just the ones from the previous PLAB 1 exam.

CONCLUSION # 2 It is possible to pass PLAB 1 without mocks and past papers )) There are high-quality online qbanks that will help you.

CONCLUSION # 3 USMLE 2 CK questions are much harder than those in PLAB 1. They require a sound of knowledge of pathology as well, knowing only clinical “clinchers” is not enough. Preparation for PLAB 1 using USMLE material is possible, but the opposite would not be a correct way to go.

I wish a lot of courage and good luck to doctors who have just started preparing for PLAB 1!


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