Omar Alam’s PLAB 1 Experience

(This post was originally published on 20th May 2015. It was added to my blog by taking permission from the writer. Thank you, Dr. Omar Alam, for allowing me to add your post to this blog)
This may be slightly different from the other guidelines and not everyone has to follow it. as a colleague, it’s my duty to post my study experience and its details here.
first of all here’s a brief history of my academics:
2012- graduated
2012-3 : house job
feb 2014 passed FCPS part one (A paksitani post grad exam which has basic sciences)
sept. 2014- passed MRCP one.
I started studying for plab one as soon as my MRCP one result came out on the 5th of october (plab one was on the 26th of november). As i was very excited it was hard for me to sit down- I used to browse this group to get a guideline of how to start. A member on this group then posted an idea here of making a group on WhatsApp to discuss the 1700 mcqs and mocks. We were around 20 members in that group and we started doing the 1700 MCQs- about 100-150 everyday and used dissect each question in detail and research on the ones we didn’t understand. As there were alot of international candidates , we started at GMT+ 4 hours and used to study for 6 hours (9PM – 3 AM Pakistan time). I started studying oxford handbook of clinical specialties (OHCS) 9th edition during the day, used to go through random sections of Oxford handbook of clinical medicine (OHCM) 9th edition in the evening and do questions with the group at night. we managed to complete all the 1700 mcqs in 2 n a half weeks. By then i had studied the whole of OHCS (EXCEPT ortho) and did random sections from OHCM. After that we started doing the mocks- we used to discuss only the heard questions on WhatsApp at night, so i had plenty of time to go through samson notes.
i found samson notes slightly deficient- But my MRCP one knowledge helped me understand what the confusing stuff in it was about. Some sections like CNS don’t mention any lesions, so you’ve to add stuff to the notes.
I did the mocks in 7 days and then shifted to this group (facebook PLAB group). Here, I shared all the knowledge I had with the people here- I used to give explanations for every question possible – this helped a lot because sometimes I had crazy irrational reasoning which others helped me to understand. in the last 2 weeks i went through samson notes and also went through OHCM (CVS, respiratory, CNS, blood, emergency flow sheets mentioned at the end) plus i used to actively participate in questions posted here- i learnt a lot from this group despite doing so many questions and clearing MRCP one and to be very honest, if i pass – i owe my success to this group.
BOOKS I STUDIED FROM:
1. OHCM 9TH EDITION
MUST DO – emergency flowsheets mentioend at the end, CVS topic
2. OHCS 9TH EDITION
MUST DO- gynae/obs, psychiatry
3. PRINTED NOTES OF SAMSON- memorize them
4. PRINTED 1700 MCQS – print them so that you can write explanations on them
5.PRINTED 7 MOCKS
so here’s a summary for a future plab candidate:
1. during your house job go through OHCM and OHCS- these books help as they build your base (these help during house job as well to manage patients,etc)
2. you need around 2 months maximum for this exam.
3. start doing samson notes 2 months before your exam- its better to have a base knowledge having gone through OHCM and OHCS(takes max. 2 weeks for OHCS and 2 weeks for OHCM).
4. start doing 100 MCQ’s of the 1700 MCQ’s daily – group study (like on whatsapp) helps- but no socializing there, keep it strictly professional.
DISCUSS EACH AND EVERY MCQ in detail!!!! mark the questions you don’t understand or if you’re unable to answer them correctly
5. after two and a half weeks, you should’ve covered the 1700 mcq’s and gone through Samsons Notes. mention the extra stuff you learn from the MCQs in the notes (THESE NOTES ARE YOUR REFERENCE BOOKS- mention everything extra you learn on these)
6. then start doing the 7 mocks- each mock everyday – this will enable you to time yourself. mark the questions you don’t understand and discuss them on your whatsapp / this facebook group.
7. by the end of the first month you would have – gone through the 1700 mcqs, the 7 mocks and Samsons notes. the key was right 90% of the time in the 1700 mcqs and 70- 80% of the time in the 7 mocks- you have to be very sure to negate a key (so confirm the answer from patient.co and NICE guidelines)
8. now you have one month left- go through all the MCQ’s you weren’t able to get the first time or weren’t clear to you- this shouldn’t take more than a week.
9. You will now have an idea what Samson notes are deficient in- like CNS lesions, congenital heart diseases, etc. so read that particular section from OHCM/OHCS and also patient.co.uk and NICE guidelines and write whatever you feel is important in the notes. and revise the notes again
10. you have 3 weeks left- by now you will be an expert in answering questions and explaining yourself – become a teacher on this plab group. answer whatever questions are posted here EXPLAINING yourself.
11. revise the notes again and keep participating here- you will make good friends who will tag you in questions which they find difficult and you will feel confident.
recheck whatever you are still in doubt from patient.co.uk or NICE guidelines
12. close your books a day before the exam, sleep 12 hours before the exam (a 10 mg tablet of zolpidem does the trick for me) and go to sleep.
13. wake up fresh the next morning, and go to the exam hall WITHOUT any books.
I was able to do the 200 MCQS in 2 hours and was able to attempt 190 MCQs in the first go , this gave me an hour to recheck. and i was able to recheck my paper twice.
when i came out of the exam hall, i knew i had nailed it. I did the best I could-I tried not to miss out on anything in my preparation and helped whoever asked me any question. This is how it should be.

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