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Everything you need to know about the PLAB 1 Exam

As a doctor moving to the UK from abroad you will face various challenges just one of these is the PLAB 1 Exam.

This exam is carried out 4 times a year in test sites in both the UK and abroad.   The PLAB 1 Exam is pitched at the same level as trainees in the 2nd year of the foundation programme, and tests your ability to apply knowledge to care for patients. All questions relate to best practice in the UK. Its is a 3 hours exam 200 single best answer test.

How can you best prepare yourself for this type of exam?

First and foremost go to the GMC website and look at the PLAB Blu-print to provide yourself with information on the scope, content, topics, skills and procedures included in the exam.

Make a plan.

Most of us have heard the phrase ‘By failing to plan you are preparing to fail’, and never has this been truer than with planning for exams.  By establishing a clear plan as to what you are going to do in the run-up to your exam you put yourself in the best possible position for success.

In the terms of the PLAB 1 start as soon as you can.  Allow plenty of time to watch and rewatch the clinical updates available online and establish both your strong and weak areas.   Take a mock exam to test this and ensure there are no surprises on the day.

Study hard.

There’s no getting away from it - You will need to know your Clinical Medicine! Set aside regular times on a daily and weekly basis to study.  Utilise resources such as clinical updates and reference material such as covering all the topics that are likely to come up.  Study Nationally published evidence (not local guidance) in particular looking at NICE and SIGN.

Take practice exams, to establish weak areas, but once you know your weak areas study them, don’t be tempted to just do more questions.   It's a good idea to try doing a full 100 item test initially and then once you have studied hard, repeat the process, testing your knowledge. This will show you how you have improved and the areas you need to continue to concentrate on.

Study at times you know you will learn well, be able to concentrate and think clearly, avoiding distractions.  Make notes, these will help you to concentrate on areas you find difficult to remember or understand.

Connect with other Doctors taking the PLAB Part 1.  This will not only provide a great form of support but also give you the opportunity to discuss more detailed questions you have about clinical topics with your peers.

A good exam technique is imperative and can improve your score by over 10%.

Time is key! 

The PLAB 1 Exam has 200 questions to be completed in 180 minutes.  You need to be doing a question every 45 seconds to leave time at the end to review.  Practising Mock Tests will help with your time management. Remember it is important to do these well before the exam so you have plenty of time to review areas of weakness and improve your technique.

Ensure you are aware of the rules, you don’t want to risk throwing away marks - use a pencil, don’t fold your paper, mark your answer with a clear horizontal line, and if you need to correct an answer ensure the incorrect answer is fully rubbed out. Answer all the questions as you go along, do not leave any blank, remember there is no negative marking so if in doubt, make a ‘best guess’ and move on.  Don’t get stuck! If you know the answer but can’t think of it at the time still make a best guess but also put a big star on the question paper so you can come back to it at the end.


As the exam approaches it's useful to follow the checklists below to ensure you avoid any last minute surprises!

The day before the exam - Minimise stress maybe book the day off.

  • Where are you going?
  • How are you getting there?
  • Where will you park?
  • Will you need parking change?

The night before the exam - Relax.

  • Collect together the necessary ID documents you’ll need to take with you 
  • Ideally, do something to relax and distract you, but if you must revise, stick to a couple of small topics that you find difficult 
  • Boost your confidence! Speak to positive people that give you encouragement
  • Go to bed, stay there and rest! On the day itself - Get yourself in the right frame of mind
  • Arrive in plenty of time
  • Don’t drink too much caffeine, stimulants will only make you more nervous!
  • Take your snacks and water
  • Take your relevant ID Documents

In the Exam

  • Follow the rules - It sounds simple but you don’t want to jeopardise your result
  • Answer all questions, don’t leave any blank
  • Remember there is no negative marking
  • If you know the answer, mark it down and move on
  • If you don’t know an answer, best guess an answer, and move on
  • If you know the answer but can’t think of it at the time, best guess an answer and put a big star on the question paper, you can go back to it at the end 
  • Keep an eye on the time 
  • When you have finished, put your pencil down!
  • Don’t be tempted to go back and change answers
  • Sit back and relax :)

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Friday 24 November 2017