Golden – PLAB 1 – Your Road to Success
Timeline: 12 Months Before the Exam
Right, where do I start? Actually, let me get straight to the point, PLAB 1 preparation started 1 year ago in 2016 when I was in my last year of medical school in Crimea. Why did I start 1 year in advance your probably wondering? I must be mad? Because if you fail to prepare then prepare to fail. It’s that simple. But that’s me, 1 year may seem like overkill but that’s what worked for me. Before I even started my PLAB preparation, of course, I did my research on the exam, spoke to people who had already done the exam and downloaded all the materials that were available on the Facebook PLAB files section. I printed literally everything: the notes, PLAB questions topic by topic, clinchers, mock tests, everything except the 1700 questions. I would print the 1700 at a later time closer towards the exam. At this point, I subscribed to Pass Medicine –12-month subscription for £25. Getting everything in order and knowing what you need to study is key. Don’t underestimate how important organisation is! The organisation is important not only for your success in PLAB but also for your life in general and other exams you will have in the future.
11 – 5 Months Before the Exam
I formed a small group which only consisted of two people, myself and a good friend of mine. During the week we would go over PLAB Samson notes e.g. cardiology in our own time after or during our lectures in medical school (as they were very boring) and in the weekend we would cover all the PLAB questions for cardiology. We did this every week/2 weeks until we had finished all the 23 – 25 topics. Sometimes we did two topics in one week if we was feeling over ambitious. The group eventually expanded to 4 people. We would do all the PLAB 1700 questions for cardiology under timed conditions!! No more than 45 seconds per question. Yes we timed it, using a stop watch!! This ensured that we accustomed ourselves to how it would be like in the actual exam. Any questions we did not get correct we would go over them together as a group and discuss them.
This is important, learn why the other answers are wrong and why the correct answer is the correct answer! Don’t be a sheep and and just follow keys. If the answer is questionable, it probably is … so do your own research. Don’t be lazy. Research the answer yourself! The best advice I can give you.
After we did the PLAB questions for cardiology we would individually do all the plabable questions for cardiology in our own spare time to consolidiate what we had learnt. This cycle repeated for ophthalmology, infectious diseases, obstretics and gynecaology etc.
3-4 Months Before the PLAB 1 Exam
I took a small break from PLAB to focus and finish my final exams in medical school.
3 Months Before the Exam
After completing the notes and going over the PLAB questions for those particular topics, it was time for the dreaded 1700. To make life easier, I printed the 1700 with the answers in a binded book format. 5 books in total, each containing roughly 350 questions each. I aimed for roughly 100 questions per day. As I had did the 1700 already while I was studying it topic by topic earlier on during the year, the 1700 didn’t take me too long too complete. I finished the 1700 in about 24 days.
2 Months Before the Exam
I graduated from medical school. I had my graduation, said the Hippocratic oath etc, partied a little, enjoyed the good life and relaxed for a week or so taking a nice vocation to a summer camp not too far from the black sea. Once all that was over, I got back to my PLAB studies and I subscribed to BMJ on-examation. I finished all 1500 questions in 3 weeks. It was biggest mistake of my life. Complete waste of my time and my money – only 2/3 questions came in the September 2017 PLAB 1 exam. The mocks are just a repeat of the questions they have from their bank of 1500 questions. Do not and I repeat do not subscribe to them, their questions are nothing like PLAB questions. Feeling like I had wasted 3 weeks of my life, I went back to 1700 and finished it for the 2nd/3rd time.
1 Month Before the Exam
I did all the mocks on plabable, and about 6 Swammy mocks.
1 Week Before the Exam
I was booming with confidence. By now I had done at least 8000-9000 questions. I took this week off and just watched a couple of my favourite tv series (Arrow, The Flash, Gotham and Queen of the South) to get away from studying so my head didn’t explode with information overload.
Night Before the Exam
I got a nice 9-hour sleep. I didn’t touch a book on that day.
Day of the Exam (September 6th 2017, location – London)
I woke up at 7 am, 3 hours before the exam, I had a good breakfast (which I got from Tesco) not too far from my house and I hopped on the train to London Victoria not too far from where exam was taking place. I arrived at exam building at 9 am and people were waiting outside the building. Some were going over their PLAB notes doing last minute revision, but I could sense the atmosphere was tense. This was the big day. 12 months of preparation and only 3 hours to prove myself. The lady finally let me and 300 others in the exam building, and we had time to hang our coats, use the toilet etc. 10 minutes before the exam was about to start, I still saw people outside the exam hall frantically doing last minute revision going over the 1700 as if it was the first time they were reading it, trying to absorb everything (no comment). In the exam hall, we had to turn off our phones and place it flat on the floor under our tables and we were only allowed pencils and a rubber (and my water bottle and a chocolate bar).
10:00 – 10:11 am. You have to have fill in your name, details on the answer sheet, have your passport/driving license (photo I.D) out so the lady who comes around can identify you. The examiners will tell you all the formal stuff, all the stuff that normally happens before an exam, give you the PLAB answer sheet (which must be filled out in pencil) and question paper (with 200 questions). At the front of the booklet is where there are figures, e.g. ECG’s or an X-ray and at the back of the booklet you have all the normal values e.g. for Ca, Na, K, glucose etc.
10:12 am. The exam hall is filled to the brim with at least 300 people or more all eagerly waiting to start the exam and the examiner says ‘’you may begin’’ and exam officially starts.
11:12 am. I look at the clock and its 11:12, one hour has gone and I’m on question 82, which I was proud of. I was managing my time well. There were a few tricky questions within the first 82 questions but I stuck to my rule of not spending more than 45 seconds per question. As I did each question, I made sure I shaded the answer in the box as I went along.
Make sure you shade your answers in the answer sheet as you go along as you may not have time at the end to do so. No extra time is given at the end to shade your answers in at the end. This is not IELTS (listening part of the exam…. Hehehe)
12:12 pm. 2 hours in and I’m on question 145. I noticed I slowed down a little as the questions were becoming increasingly difficult and lengthy… So I had my bottle of water and mars bar to re-boost my brain!! I glance over to the person on my right (Usain Bolt) and I realise he’s a good 15 questions ahead of me… this motivates me more to catch up and speed up!!
13:00 pm. I finish question 200, with 12 minutes to spare. During those 12 minutes I made sure my shading of my answers were decent and I went over the questions I found difficult. Those 12 minutes flew by. I made sure I answered everything.
The reason why people usually don’t pass their PLAB 1 exam is because of poor time management and not finishing all 200 questions (there are some exceptions). Even if you don’t know the answer don’t leave it blank… guess it! There is no negative marking so you have nothing to lose… I’m no gambler but I do know a 1 in 5 chance are pretty good odds of getting a question correct than 0 if you leave the question blank!!
13:12 pm. The exam was over. Time went so quickly in the exam. It literally flies.
13:45 pm. I finally left the building and got a train home and I was pondering how well I did, I didn’t know anyone in the exam hall so I didn’t have a chance to discuss the exam as I usually do with my friends during my exams in medical school. So that was a new experience.
14:40 pm. I finally got home.
The 5 Week Wait
Waiting for the results is excruciating… I really don’t know why it takes so long to get the PLAB 1 results.
PLAB 1 Results Day (5 Weeks Later)
You log into your GMC account and you check your results to see if you’ve passed or failed. I had passed and I was ecstatic.
My PLAB 1 score was 148. The passing score was 124 and the average score for that exam was 129. Here are my results so you have an idea what it looks like.
One day after you’ve passed, the GMC will email you saying that you have passed (probably just in case you haven’t checked online the day before).
There is a lot of confusion regarding which question bank to use so I think I am the best person to comment on this as I used all three of the most popular question banks. I subscribed to pass medicine, BMJ on-examination and plabable. Now I will review each in turn and tell you how relevant/useful they are for your PLAB 1 exam.
No-doubt, hands down, plabable is the best question bank there is out there at the moment. The questions are similar to the 1700 and once you’ve done the 1700, plabable helps you retain the information you’ve learnt from 1700 as the questions are similar. After each question, there is an explanation of why the correct answer is correct and why the others are wrong. If you’re going to invest your money, make sure you invest in plabable, it’s the best thing I ever did. A lot of questions you see in plabable, you will also see in your actual PLAB 1 exam, roughly 50-60%. Also, the subscription is not expensive.
Plabable, unfortunately, the questions are rather short. They don’t truly represent the lengthy questions you will get in your actual PLAB 1 exam. Also, the feedback they use when explaining the answers to the questions, they use OHCM 9th edition and OHCS 9th editions, both of these editions are old and as your aware OHCM 10th edition (2017) and OHCS 10th edition (2016) have been released. These latest editions have the latest guidelines about management etc. I have emailed the plabable team about this asking them to update their reference sources but they are yet to do anything about it….
My ratings for Plabable: 8 out of 10 and a gold star from me!
Good if you know your medicine very well, have a thorough understanding of medicine and looking to ace your MRCP and show off to your friends how update you are on current medicine. I used to do that during my classes in medical school by regurgitating the latest guidelines for asthma management. J. Pass medicine has the latest guidelines on everything you can think of, hence why I used it. I was looking for that 180+ score in my PLAB 1 exam hence why I did the pass medicine questions. The subscription also is very cheapJ. Pass medicine is also good if you want to keep your knowledge fresh after you’ve passed your PLAB 1 exam and I currently use it for that reason only – my subscription has not yet finished.
The questions are very difficult. They are much harder than the questions you will see in your PLAB 1 exam. In my 06/09/2017 PLAB 1 exam, 2 or 3 questions came from pass medicine. I was very disappointed! Their questions are at an MRCP level, not PLAB 1 level. This question bank is not needed for you to pass your PLAB 1 exam.
My ratings for pass medicine: 5 out of 10.
This question bank has only 1 advantage. The question length is almost if not the same as the question length you will see in your PLAB exam. I will give them that…
Let’s quickly move on to the many disadvantages. I only subscribed to this question bank because I had nothing else to do with my time and I had heard it was rather good… ‘Don’t believe everything you hear’ is the lesson I learnt from that.
I did all the questions from BMJ and their mock tests and to my horror, just 2 or 3 questions came up in the exam!!! The questions they have in the bank are very irrelevant. In their questions, they ask ridiculous things that would never be asked in your PLAB 1 exam. And to make things worse their subscription is very expensive. Save your money and invest it in a better question bank. BMJ is a definite no-no for the serious plabber who wants to pass their exam.
For these reasons and many more my ratings for BMJ on-examination is 2 out of 10 and that’s being generous.
PLAB 1 Academy
Is a plab academy needed to pass PLAB 1? I personally didn’t go on one so I can’t really comment on this but in my opinion, ion it’s not needed. If you can pass the exams in your medical school you can definitely pass PLAB 1. You don’t need to be spoon fed to pass plab 1. Save your £500-600 and it invest it elsewhere.
Hope you like my story, I also did an IELTS story earlier this year, be sure to check it out (file name is ‘British citizen’ on the Facebook page) if you’re still struggling or you know anybody struggling with it.
All the best and good luck for your PLAB 1 exam.
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(This post was originally written on 13 October 2017. It was added to my blog by taking permission from the writer. Thank you, Golden Ogbonna, for allowing me to add your post to this blog)