PLAB Exam Practice and Tips


The two “D’s” play an important role in leading you on to the right path towards acing your exams. It is essential to remember that without:

Diligence-careful and persistent work or effort.
Determination– firmness of purpose.

PLAB becomes a difficult exam without the above named qualities. One will find that this is the main reason candidates feel it is necessary to attend courses to pass PLAB. Generally speaking, candidates find solitude in being pushed into studying while spending much their hard-earned money in the process. It is possible and achievable to pass the exam while studying the right material with the right attitude (without ever attending a course).If you believe in yourself and you’re an achiever, it is essential to take these tips on-board. One has to tell themselves, am ready to achieve, conquer and excel (ACE-PLAB) with diligence and determination.

1.Stick to this study guide and your chances of ACING PLAB 1 will be high. Here is the much treasured secret!

2.Allow yourself ample time to assimilate:
For a certain pass, one has to give themselves at least 4 months, 3 months (minimum) to learn the PLAB logic at a reasonable pace. I understand there are people who are capable of studying for exams a few weeks before and manage to pass. Good for them! However WANTING to guarantee yourself a PASS is a different can of worms.

Read the notes for a particular topic in the syllabus before taking on the questions. Understand them. ONLY after reading the notes should you answer the MCQs. This gives you the ability to gauge whether you are retaining information.

a.Create a studying PLAN and STICK to it:
Every medical graduate has a different approach to studying that usually works well for them. If you do believe in your own ways stick to them. We recommend reading two topics a day (for small topics) and one for big topics while taking on their MCQs on the next day. Therefore it should take 40 calendar days to go through the whole syllabus.


Spend at least 5 days referring to the notes again, for ALL the questions you got wrong. Study the notes thoroughly around that particular theme.

5.Again and Again:
This leaves 75days for repetition. Now REPEAT the MCQ’s by topic at first and then AGAIN at random. The question bank offers you the ability to do exactly that! We know it is not possible to study hard every day for 4 months, so factor in for such days!

The ACEPLAB notes are sufficient to give you a comfortable pass, however one should keep in mind that these are high yield notes, with paraphrases and short sentences. Everything is explained in a short and concise manner. (Written with the assumption that you have some knowledge of the topic). We all have our weak topics that we need to learn. We would strongly recommend quick reference for baseline knowledge from Oxford handbook of clinical medicine. Do not get carried away though, you do not need all that information! These two resources are more than enough for the exam.

Finish the entire syllabus focusing on the notes, MCQs and OCHM 9th edition (only when necessary).

Wanting to learn irrelevant information for the exam is going to lead to a FAIL. The PLAB exam has a certain pattern of questioning. This becomes clear by taking on the questions over and again.

9.Stick to ONE source:
There is no need to read from MULTIPLE sources as this only leads to confusion in terms of questioning logic, outdated guidelines, wrong answers etc. Stick to ONE source of notes, questions and LEARN IT WELL.

10.Do not go days without revising:
Unfortunately no one yet fully understands the way the human brain works. Memory fades, managing to only retain long term memory. There is a lot to remember for the exam, this can ONLY be achieved by constant and focused EFFORT. Find time to set aside to go through the questions regularly.

11.Study groups are helpful:
Compare your progress to that of others. The exam itself is marked on this basis. The pass mark is based on the average score of candidates. There is no guaranteed pass mark in PLAB 1. Answering questions asked by other candidates and vice versa gives you a true reflection of how well you are preparing. We have understood this concept and this is why we have created the interactive blog on our website.

12.Attempt Mocks:
We recommend you attempt at least 4 mocks before the exam. Mostly in the days leading to the exam. Be true to yourself, sit the mock under exam conditions. Attempt the 200MCQs in 2hours 50 minutes. Put your full EFFORT as you would in the exam. You will realise the questions will look familiar, this is exactly what tells you have learnt the PLAB EXAM. In the exam, you will realise that you will come across similar themes and most questions look familiar, but your SUCCESS is based on how you have MASTERED the art of repetition and recall. Fortunately if the study guide has been implemented the LOGIC they are seeking will be on your fingertips.

13.Time management:
One of the greatest pitfalls of the PLAB exam is TIME. One has to master their time management skills with the exam. This can be achieved by attempting 200MCQs in 3hours by you at home. One should aim to complete these questions at least 10 minutes before to allow enough time to revise your answers. Time is of the essence and practice makes perfect!

14.Downturn of familiarity:
As we mentioned earlier the more one prepares for PLAB, the more familiar themes become. This is because there are limited questions that a particular theme can ask for. Do not be tricked into the familiarity box by answering questions without understanding the question fully. One trick of the exam is the GMC uses catch phrases such as BUT, EXCEPT, BEST which may not be the answer that ticked in your mind first. Read the question carefully you have ample time for this!

15.Never leave a question unanswered:
It is likely that you will find some questions difficult during the exam or some questions might need more recall or thinking. Do not waste your time trying to figure an answer to one question if stuck. Do not leave the question unanswered neither on your answer sheet. An intelligent guess would be enough and move on. You could choose to circle or mark the question (s) on your question paper and review them ONLY after you are done with all the 200 MCQs. Remember to check your answer sheet in these remaining 10 minutes.

16.Intelligent guess:
For the questions described above, answering by elimination increases your chances of getting the answer right. There are answers that will be look obviously inappropriate when going through the choices, eliminate them immediately and try your best to choose among the most likely correct answer of the remaining choices.

17.Recurring themes:
Remember the most important recurring themes in PLAB will focus on treatment or diagnosis.

18.Common things are common:
The PLAB exam difficulty level is set at a level of a junior doctor, one who has recently graduated. In other words, do not complicate your thinking. Do not try to justify answers with specialist knowledge. The question is most likely seeking a routine/simple answer.

19.Allow yourself ample rest the night before the EXAM:
One needs to be focused and sharp on the day of the exam. This is how you identify the exam’s trickery within questions. Remember to keep going even if you are unsure of the answers. Keep your pace to that which you learnt during the mocks and you will be fine.

20.Last but not least:
Answer what has been asked. Every detail in the question is important such as the age of the patient or gender/ethnicity/job-title etc.


Being nervous, irritable is NORMAL:
Due to the exam pressures, one is bound to go through what has been described as above. However practice makes perfect. The more you watch videos and practice with friends, the more you become orientated with what is expected of you on the day of the exam and it becomes second nature. Keep in mind that you will be physically and mentally exhausted, when you complete the exam. Practising as much as you can builds tolerance and mental stamina.

Time flies and is not enough:

Being organised and taking the tips described below will help you with this. You will need to be organised and manage your time effectively.
You need to know in advance what to ask, as there is no time to think.
Read and study the notes for the PLAB 2, become familiar with the questioning needed to get enough detail in one sentence. Always remember to use open ended questions.

You need to be careful about how to phrase your questions and comments in order to be respectful and empathetic. Remember, there’s no time to think.

Reading the PLAB 2 notes will provide with “stock” phrases:

You need to ask your questions intelligently in order not to lead the patient or trigger time wasting and problem evoking conversations.

You need to be and appear confident, organised, and professional:

Your body language will give you away if not confident. Practise with friends or family and accept honest feedback. Work on your layout of questioning following a certain order so as to get as much information as possible and address all concerns.

If you follow the above plan meticulously you are MOST LIKELY going to ACE the exam while smiling. With that in mind, all the BEST.