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Sunday, August 29, 2010

Introduction to PLAB

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What is PLAB?
PLAB means Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board. General Medical Council (GMC) of United Kingdom conducts this test to ascertain the suitability of an overseas doctor to work safely in a first appointment as a senior house officer in a British hospital. 

Who is required to take this test?
All Overseas doctors who are seeking limited registration must first pass, or be exempted from the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test conducted by the GMC (General Medical Council), which is the statutory body responsible for the regulation and standards of the medical profession in the United Kingdom. In order to carry out any sort of medical work or training, a doctor must first obtain registration with the GMC.

What is the test like?
The test assesses suitability to undertake hospital employment at Senior House Officer level (SHO) in a UK hospital by examining the candidate's medical knowledge and clinical and communication skills. In recent years the exam has tested clinical problem solving across specialties and has moved away from simply testing factual recall. To pass this exam you should become familiar with the style of question and identify your areas of weakness - not simply try to memorise past questions!. The PLAB test currently consists of the following examinations.

Part 1 is conducted in the UK as well as in some other countries including Pakistan and consists of 200 questions in Extended Matching Question (EMQ) and single best answer format. It lasts three hours. The proportion of SBA (Single Best Anaswer) questions may vary from examination to examination but no more than 30% of the paper will be composed of SBA questions. The emphasis of the test is on clinical management and includes science as applied to clinical problems.
  • The test is confined to core knowledge, skills and attitudes relating to conditions commonly seen by the SHO's to the generic management of the life-threatening situations, and to rarer, but important problems. It will contain 200 questions, dividing into a number of themes. The duration of the test will be three hours.
  • The United Kingdom’s international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in England as a charity.
  • Extended Matching Question: For each group of questions there will be a list of options. Candidates are required to select the most appropriate option for each question.
  • Single Best Answer: Consider each of the questions and decide what you think the answer is to the lead-in question given at the end of each scenario, which typically reads ‘What is the SINGLE most likely diagnosis?’ You should then look for that answer in the list of options below (each of which is identified by a letter of the alphabet). If you cannot find the answer you have thought of, you should look for the option which, in your opinion, is the best answer to the problem posed.
  • One mark is awarded for each correct response, but no marks are deducted for any incorrect answer. Candidates will be required to enter their responses on special answer sheets, which can be read by an optical mark reader. The examination will be marked by computer. (Please contact the GMC for further information on the new test).

Part 2 is only available in the UK and takes the form of Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE), which includes an assessment of clinical and communication skills. It takes the form of 14 clinical scenarios or ‘stations', a rest station and a pilot station. Each station lasts five minutes. You must pass Part 2 within three years of passing Part 1. You must be granted limited registration within three years of passing Part 2 of the test.

Is IELTS compulsory for overseas doctors to take PLAB?
Yes, from January 1997, the IELTS became a pre-requisite for admission to the PLAB Test. The GMC will only accept the Academic module of the IELTS and test results are valid FOR UP TO TWO YEARS from the date which appears on the IELTS certificate.
(Please note that doctors who are accepted for exemption from the PLAB test are required to score 7.0 or above in each band of the IELTS test)

Can I take part 2 of PLAB before appearing for part 1?
NO. Candidates may not enter Part 2 until they have passed Part 1 and must take Part 2 within three years of having passed Part 1.

Re-sitting the PLAB test
Part 1: You can have an unlimited number of attempts but a doctor who has failed severely will not be admitted to re-sit part 1 of the test for at least four months.
Part 2: If a candidate fails, he/she will be sent forms enabling re-application for part 2 of the test. However, if the test is failed at the fourth attempt, the candidate will be required to re-sit the IELTS test and also both parts of the PLAB test (unless you are exempted).

Is passing the PLAB test guarantees the job offer in the United Kingdom?
NO. Finding a job always remained a difficult part for Pakistani and other Asian doctors and recent UK immigration legislation for doctors has made the situation worse then ever. Read more facts about how this law can effect your future
How can I best prepare for the PLAB test?
The examination is testing your ability to apply knowledge to the care of patients rather than how well you can remember and recite facts.

All the questions relate to current best practice, and you should answer them in relation to published evidence and not according to your local arrangements.

Names of drugs are those contained in the most recent edition of the British National Formulary (BNF).

Remember that you are being tested at the level of a doctor who has qualified and completed one year of clinical practice.

Specialist courses for the PLAB test are available in the UK. The courses cover either the combined English and professional component or just the English. The GMC does not inspect these courses and cannot recommend or comment on any particular course. Contact NACPME or your local British Council office for details and a list of available courses.

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