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Failure in PLAB 1: How to Deal With It?

Hi, my name is Neha. I am an IMG from India. I recently received my GMC registration and am about to start a clinical attachment. I am going to discuss my PLAB 1 journey, which included 3 attempts, 1 cancellation, and lots of perseverance. I will be talking about the following topics:

My journey

PLAB 1 preparation

How to deal with a bad result

What to do next

My journey

My PLAB 1 journey began in October 2020, and it was a roller coaster ride further fueled by the advent of COVID. My first two attempts were in Nov 2020 and Feb 2021, respectively, both of which I did not pass by a margin of fewer than 2 marks.

After my second result, I felt shattered and lost. I did not feel like trying anymore. However, with a lot of rest, encouragement, and a clear mind, I knew I wanted to continue persevering.

My next step- looking for the dates was met with challenges.

Finally, I got one for May 2021 in the UK and was fully prepared for it. Unfortunately, I had to cancel as travel restrictions were put in place due to COVID. Again, with a lot of patience and constant checking, I got a date for my third attempt in August 2022, which I finally cleared. Here are things I learnt from my long journey which may help you.

PLAB Preparation

Exam Preparation

Everyone has their own method of studying. Stick to what suits you best, but ensure you are thorough with your concepts and revise your material multiple times. Once you are familiar with the topic, solve MCQs and keep practicing them. Avoid rote learning, as that tends to happen with constant revision; instead, understand the explanations and learn all the guidelines. Practice and revision will help you identify your weak topics. Focus on them and make notes to help grasp them better.

Mock Tests

Once you have revised enough times and practiced your MCQS, start giving timed mock tests. Practice makes perfect. These mocks will help with time management which is crucial for the exam. Print out OMR sheets and use them while giving these tests. Most mocks are online and will not factor in the time taken to circle your answers. With practice, set a plan for yourself to ensure you can read the question thoroughly, deduce your answer, and circle it in under a minute. Remember, every second counts.

Time management

Time management is the main key to cracking this exam. You need to attempt all questions as there is no negative marking. 180 questions in 180 minutes is a difficult task, especially when the questions tend to be very lengthy. This is where your practice with OMR sheets will come in handy. All exam centers are well equipped with clocks for you to keep track of your time, or you can request examiners to keep updating you.

Exam Center

The exact location of the exam center is usually sent out a week before the exam. Plan your trip and arrive well in advance, particularly if the city is not familiar to you. Read the instructions given in the email and carry your HB pencils, eraser, printouts, and ID proof.

Eat well before the exam, keep yourself hydrated and, most importantly, stay calm. If it is your repeat attempt, then leave your previous result behind, trust yourself and your preparation, and know that you will ace this attempt.

How to deal with a bad result

If you don’t pass the exam, it does not reflect your competency in any way. I am sure you are brilliant, and perhaps you just had a bad day. The only way now is to move forward and remember what is done cannot be undone. Take a few days off, surround yourself with emotional support, and start afresh. My family and friends supported me a lot and always encouraged me to keep trying.

Additionally, the support I received from the TrewLink community was immensely valuable. I saw many blogs from peers who had similarly struggled with clearing their exams but had persevered. Here is a link to a blog that helped me a lot. Remember that you are not in this alone, your journey is just a little different from many others, and eventually, you will get there.

What to do next

You already have a head start for your next attempt. You are familiar with the material and are well acquainted with how the exam is conducted. Your results will also indicate how you performed in different areas. Use this to your advantage, reflect on how you could improve those areas in which you underperformed, and start preparing again.

I can understand that it can be frustrating to keep preparing without knowing when you can attempt your exam next. As simple as it may sound, keep checking the GMC website for future exam dates and announcements; I was checking every hour or two. Seats pop up because of cancellations, and additional ones get added sometimes. Sometimes you feel desperate for another exam date but do not try to get them by any unauthorized means. These methods are not successful and have not encouraged my GMC.

Whichever attempt you may be on, along with your academic preparation, your mental preparedness is equally or perhaps more important. I had a lot of emotions and found yoga, meditation, and walking my perfect outlet. Find something that keeps your mind and body equally active and, most importantly, brings you joy. Remember to keep calm, have faith in your abilities and manage your time well.

Some things are not in your hands but what you can make sure of is that you give it your best. Never doubt yourself because of your previous attempts. Once you have cleared PLAB 1 (which I know you definitely will), your thoughts will move on to PLAB 2.

Personally, I had a lot of apprehension that I wouldn’t be able to pass PLAB 2 on my first attempt because of my experience with PLAB 1. However, PLAB 2 is a completely different exam and focuses on other areas. Despite my shortcomings with PLAB 1, I was able to pass PLAB 2 on my first attempt, and I am sure you will too.

Need more help?

I hope this blog helps you in ways that TrewLink blogs have done for me. If you have any other questions about PLAB 1, please feel free to ask me. You can register using this link . Find me as an Ambassador and follow my profile – Neha Ashok – to get regular support and advice.

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