PLAB 1 and PLAB 2: The Differences and Similarities
Hi, my name is Zeeshan Mohammad. I am an IMG from India currently working as a Trust House Officer at King's College Hospital, London. In today's blog, I will be talking about the differences and similarities between PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 and how one can best use their preparatory knowledge of PLAB 1 and apply it to ace the next step, i.e., PLAB 2.
While the differences make both the exams look poles apart, I assure you both PLAB 1 and 2 are exams that follow a very basic concept- your ability to safely manage cases as a junior trust doctor and the awareness of the appropriate referrals that have to be made if the need arises.
Both the exams put you face-to-face with medical cases of Medicine, Surgery, Psychiatry, Ethics, and all other specialities and so it is very important that one has a clear understanding of the basic concepts of PLAB 1 in order to excel in PLAB 2 as well.
Ethics still remains the most tested topic in both PLAB 1 and PLAB 2, with the majority of stations tested in PLAB 2 being ethical dilemmas that need to be addressed and managed. It, therefore, goes without saying that one cannot afford to miss out on thorough preparation of Ethics during PLAB 1 as all that information will very much come in handy during your PLAB 2 preparation.
The most upfront difference between PLAB 1 and 2 remains the fact that while you have to sit for a total of 3 hours and solve 180 questions during your PLAB 1 exam, it is quite the contrary for PLAB 2, where you will rotate in 18 simulated case-based stations trying to manage a variety of scenarios put in front of you.
In terms of subject matter, PLAB 2 does involve testing all your theoretical knowledge that you may have read during the former exam; however, with added topics of examination and procedure station, prescription writing scenarios, as well as a highly challenging Sim-Man station.
While PLAB 1 comes across as any other MCQ-based exam where you will be solving case-based questions typically asking you for the diagnosis or the management of the case, it is not as simple for PLAB 2. You are assessed based on your ability to extract information via history taking, communication, and interpersonal skills while talking to the patient and your management of their concerns and conditions, all of which are concepts not tested in the first part.
Good communication and interpersonal skills are crucial for passing the PLAB 2 exam, which is often a surprise for candidates as they transition from preparing for PLAB 1 to PLAB 2 prep. As easy as it is to pass PLAB 1 by knowing how to diagnose and manage different conditions, this much will not be enough if one is not able to communicate and build a good rapport with the patient during the station.
It is imperative that one understands very early during the preparation that it is not enough to just diagnose the patient and recite the management unless you are addressing their concern throughout the station. This is what sets PLAB 2 apart from all the other exams and makes it quite challenging.
As you transition from the preparation for PLAB 1 into preparing for PLAB 2, you will be riddled with confusion as to how to start preparing for the exam. It is important to know that both exams have the same subject matter that will be tested. The only difference arises in the way scenarios are presented- while in the former exam, you simply have to read and answer what is asked of you in MCQ form, the latter exam creates a real-life hospital simulation and tests your ability to safely manage a patient as you would in a hospital setting.
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Dr. Zeeshan Mohammad