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PLAB Exam Preparation: All You Need to Know

Updated on 16 July, 2023

Bulbul Sharma

Bulbul Sharma

Manager- Content @upGrad

PLAB Exam Preparation

According to the General Medical Council (GMC), the official conducting body of PLAB, the pass rates of PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 for 2022 were 70.9% and 64.8%, respectively. The figures indicate that aspirants need thorough PLAB exam preparation to clear it before starting their medical practice in the UK.

So, if you also want to be a practicing doctor in the UK, here’s all you need to know:

What is the PLAB exam?

The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) examination or the PLAB test ensures that doctors qualified in foreign countries possess suitable knowledge and abilities for practicing medicine in the UK. Here are some crucial aspects of the program that you should remember about the examination: 

  • Those graduating from medical schools outside the UK, Switzerland, and EEA (European Economic Area) will need to sit for the PLAB examination. 
  • The test will examine candidates for their knowledge and abilities as doctors beginning the second year of their Foundation Program training (an additional year of experience before starting specialty training)  in the UK. 
  • PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 are two components of the examination.  Part 1 is a multiple-choice written test with 180 single-best-answer questions. Part 2 is a practical and objective structured test called the OSCE. 
  • Candidates must pass both these components before applying for registration with the license to practice medicine in the country. 
  • Candidates must create their GMC Online Accounts and demonstrate medical qualifications and English proficiency before the examination. Their details will be verified, and candidates can book their PLAB part 1 slot only after approval. 
  • Upon passing both parts of the examination, candidates may apply for registration with the license for practicing in the UK. The application should obtain approval within two years of passing the part 2 component of the PLAB examination. 
  • After approving applications and getting registered, candidates can practice as doctors nationwide. 

Now that you perfectly understand the usefulness of the PLAB examination, here is a closer look at the structures of both parts and other important aspects. 

Structure of PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 and Marking Scheme 

Here is a guide to knowing more about the structures of the two parts of the PLAB examination and their marking schemes.  

Parameter PLAB 1 PLAB 2 
StructureSmall Scenario + Question. Candidates should choose the right answer out of five possible ones. As many as 180 multiple-choice questions are to be answered in three hours. Objective Structured Clinical Examination with 16 scenarios. Each is 8 minutes while replicating real-life environments, including a mock consultation. The entire examination requires three hours. 
Taking the Examination It can be taken in many countries aside from the UK.It can only be taken in clinical assessment centers of the General Medical Council. 
What is Tested? Ability to apply knowledge for patient care, with questions linked to best practices in the United Kingdom, available equipment in the country’s hospitals, and published documentary evidence. Some crucial elements include vital, common, and acute medical conditions witnessed by second-year trainees in the second year of the Foundation Program and long-term condition management as viewed in primary care. The curriculum involves every aspect of what UK-trained doctors can witness on the first day of their F2 training. All questions are linked to present best practices. Vital aspects include history-taking, practical procedures, physical examination, formulation of diagnosis, explaining things to patients, approach to stations, open and closed questioning, and an understanding of ethical principles. 
Marking & Results

Skill areas are categorized into three domains- 1. Applying knowledge and experience to clinical practice, 2. Good clinical care: assessment, 3. Good clinical care: management. 

Every correct answer has one mark; the total number of correct answers will be the overall score. 

Candidates are marked against the following: 

 

  1. Data Gathering
  2. Clinical Management Skills
  3. Interpersonal Skills 

 

There are two kinds of feedback: 

 

  1. Quantitative Feedback- The marks awarded in each domain for each station, with a total for every domain across all exam stations. You will also know the score for every station and the passing score. 
  2. Qualitative Feedback- This covers feedback on ten feedback statements, including consultation, findings, time, issues, finding, rapport,  examination, diagnosis, language, management, and listening 

Cut-off or Passing Marks for PLAB 1 and 2

Here is a guide to the passing marks/cut-off for the PLAB examination. 

PLAB 1- 

  • The pass mark is set for every examination with the globally recognized Angoff method and has one standard error of measurement. The level at which the pass mark is set remains consistent over the years. 
  • Experts review the question papers after the test, ensuring that all answers and questions are fair. 
  • There is no expected average score or pass rate. 
  • There may be changes in standard-setting processes periodically. 
  • Passing PLAB 1 is the gateway to the PLAB 2 application. PLAB 2 should be passed within three years after passing PLAB 1. 
  • Candidates can retake PLAB 1 in case of failure if they are still eligible to meet all requirements. It can be taken for a maximum of four times. 

PLAB 2- 

  • Each station (the spot where scenarios are enacted) will be evaluated on the basis of the candidate’s performance in the three domains. 
  • Every station has a pass mark that makes use of the borderline regression scoring method. The pass mark will vary with the station's difficulty and for every examination. 
  • The examiner does not know the pass mark while evaluating candidates. 
  • Every testing center functions independently with varying scenarios. Results are separately generated with specific criteria for passing.
  • The pass mark is added up for every station in the test while adding a standard error of measurement. This helps build the total examination score. Candidates should pass at least 10 stations to get the overall pass and exceed or meet this minimum score. 
  • There may be periodic changes in standard-setting procedures periodically. 

How to Prepare for the PLAB Exam?

A fool-proof PLAB exam preparation depends on using suitable resources. Here is a guide for your perusal. 

PLAB 1- 

  • The PLAB test blueprint is a starting point for candidates, enabling a better understanding of topics covered in the examination and the skills, knowledge, and behaviors expected from them.  
  • The Foundation Program curriculum covers all the skill and topic areas matching those doctors face while beginning the UK Foundation Programme’s second year. 
  • Official interactive tools and guidance- You should prepare based on good medical practice and its related professional behaviors and professional values. Developing and testing knowledge in this category is possible through interactive online tools,  guidance resources, and the Welcome to UK practice interactive tool. 

PLAB 2 has the same resources to follow as outlined above. You can also read up on common mistakes to avoid in the examination and other official tips to prepare for this section. 

Conclusion

The PLAB examination requires intensive preparation and adherence to professionalism and behavioral codes as expected of practicing doctors in the second year of their Foundation Program in the UK. You should get your registration procedures in place before chalking out your preparation blueprint accordingly. 

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the PLAB exam for?

The PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board) examination is for those who have qualified for medicine abroad to prove they have the necessary knowledge and skills to practice medicine in the United Kingdom.

How long is PLAB valid?

You should ensure that your registration application with a license for practicing in the UK obtains approval within two years of passing Part 2 of the PLAB test. If you have passed more than two years earlier, you will have to provide additional proof of your skills and knowledge. 

Bulbul Sharma

Manager- Content @upGrad

Bulbul is a self-driven professional and an expert writer & editor. She has been a part of the ed-tech industry for the past 2 years now and is motivated to provide study abroad aspirants with factually correct and relevant information. Her knack for impactful writing makes her blogs worth a read!

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