Reading Time = 5 minutes
Hello everyone, this is my PLAB 1 experience post. I attempted the PLAB 1 on 14/3/2019. This is going to be a long post.
- My score: 153/180 (85%)
- Passing score: 120/180 (66.66%)
- 10 weeks (two and a half months – can be done in one and a half to two months as well)
- 8-14 hours/day
- Question banks: PLABABLE (twice), Passmedicine, 1700 by Dr Khalid
- Notes/Textbooks for reference: Samson notes 2018, Oxford Handbooks of: Clinical Medicine; Clinical Specialties; Clinical Diagnosis; Clinical Surgery; Practical Drug Therapy
- Websites for reference: patient.info, NICE guidelines (cornerstone for PLAB 1 guidelines)
- PLABABLE 3-day intensive review course
- My own notes/clinchers which I wrote during my study period
- PLABABLE (twice at least)
- 1700 by Khalid
- NICE guidelines
- Patient.info for reference
My Study Method
PLABABLE and Samson Notes: This is how I started. I read the Samson notes 2018 of each subject and did the relevant PLABABLE question bank for the subject. I managed to finish this in 3 weeks. I also made my own very short brief notes for important topics during this time (consisting of mainly 3 things of whichever disease made it onto the notes: short notes on diagnosis, important investigations (investigations of choice, diagnostic investigation, most used investigations, etc), and management. I highly recommend making your own short notes/clinchers. They greatly help during your study period to go back and remember certain things and are the most helpful in the last few hectic days of revision before the exam.
I did one mock on PLABABLE and scored 88%, and finished it in one hour. PLABABLE mocks do not consist of new questions. They are randomly selected questions from the question bank. I knew this was not reflective of the real exam (as it is harder), and not reflective of what I would actually score on the exam, as I could remember doing most of the questions on the PLABABLE site and therefore could answer them correctly. So the score had a recall bias on my side.
1700 Questions by Dr Khalid: I managed to finish this in one week (I could have finished it earlier but I was experiencing burnout at this stage and felt lazy).
Pass Medicine: I subscribed to this site after reading some reviews on Facebook, and the fact that my mock score was incorrect due to recall bias. I did about 800 questions but found the explanations too long and the questions irrelevant, so I stopped doing it two weeks before the exam to give time to my revision
Second Read of PLABABLE: By this time, it was exactly two weeks before my exam. I went through the questions and the notes on PLABABLE a for a second time in six days. It was very helpful; I would advise everyone to do this if they have sufficient time to revise certain concepts and key diseases.
PLABABLE 3-day Revision Course: I found this helpful but to a certain extent, as I had covered most of the topics in the course during my self-study. It is advisable to attend for anyone who has been able to cover and revise everything a week before the exam. Their slideshows were very informative and helpful. They have a mock on the last day, in which I scored 177/180, and took 90 minutes to finish – again because of recall bias. It was not reflective of my real exam score. But they have now created an entirely new mock for the review course, with new questions, so the score of those attending the next PLABABLE review course will definitely be more reflective of the actual exam.
Last Three Days Before the Exam: I revised my own notes/clinchers, and did a few more Pass Medicine questions, went through the PLABABLE review course clinchers and notes (very helpful).
Comments on Study Sources
- PLABABLE: the backbone of PLAB 1. PLABABLE will give you the basics and concepts required to crack most questions that the exam throws at you.
- Pass Medicine: good for images and x-rays. The PLAB exam has a whole booklet of 10 or so questions with images. Derma, x-rays, ECGs, etc. PLABABLE does not have as many questions with images as Pass Medicine does. But otherwise the questions are not very relevant to the real exam and it tends to give way too much detail, more than what is required for the surface-studying level of PLAB 1.
- 1700 Questions: a must. Although keep in mind that some answers and wrong, and NONE of the actual PLAB 1 questions are EVER that short.
- Samson Notes: useful for some subjects, not useful for others. Not updated for management, but very good for clinchers of diagnosing diseases. Do not go through them if you’re short of time.
- Oxford Handbooks: useful, concise, informative. Some are old though, so not all management is updated.
- Patient.info: a great website for reading up more detail.
- NICE guidelines: PLABABLE is a summary of NICE, but some topics (like asthma, during my time) are not updated on PLABABLE, or aren’t covered (like constipation) so I had to study them directly from NICE. Con: very, VERY time consuming. Do not even open if you are short on time. Pro: if you go through NICE and answer a question based on the guidelines, you will never go wrong with the answer in your exam.
- Anatomy: is a tricky subject if you are as weak in it as I am. I used Basic Medical Sciences for MRCP 1, the anatomy chapter, for help with this topic as PLABABLE doesn’t have notes as detailed as you’d like on this subject.
- Pharma: they keep giving more and more pharma questions in the exam. I used First Aid for USMLE step 1 for remembering the effects, uses and side effects of some cardio and renal drugs.
- Ethics: A very upcoming and emerging topic in PLAB 1. So read about it well. Ethics rules in the UK are very different from other countries. I wish I knew this earlier but OHCM (or OHCS?) has a section on ethics. PLABABLE also runs a short ethics course which was unavailable during my exam period.
I had read online to take blunt, unsharpened pencils with me to fill in the answer sheet easier. I found this tip helpful.
Time management is very important. I practiced this during my mocks, but nothing comes close to the real exam when you’re actually doing it. I finished with 45 minutes to spare. The questions in the exam are long – a maximum of 3 questions per page, some even had 2. You do not have time to sit and ponder upon each detail, so don’t bother. Usually, the answer you think of first is the right answer.
What I did during my exam was mark the questions I found hard and couldn’t answer, so I left them unanswered to not waste time over them. I had 20-something such answers. I went back to these questions in the 45 minutes I had left to spare and answered them all (I marked some of them randomly).
Other Related Topics
Is joining a WhatsApp group and discussing questions necessary? No. I passed my exam without discussing anything and with my own self studying. Many people recommend joining a WhatsApp group and that works for them. It doesn’t work for me, it was a sort of a waste of time in my opinion. I myself would much rather do my own research and study by myself as that is much faster and more reliable. You can do whatever works for you.
Are practicing Swamy/Samson mocks necessary? No. I didn’t complete solving a single entire Swamy/Samson mock. I found them very confusing as they’re very brief, and not at all reflective of actual exam questions.
- Time management – practice from day 1. The PLAB 1 is not a hard exam, the main challenge is time management. So practice how to manage your time during your entire preparation. You can try to time yourself while you’re doing question in the question banks as well (the PLABABLE questions length is similar to the real exam length).
- Do PLABABLE at least twice, practice mocks, 1700 questions.
- Make your own notes for revision before the exam.
Good luck to everyone giving the next PLAB 1!