A Comprehensive Guide to PLAB Exam Syllabus & Pattern

Jan 23, 2024 4 min read
PLAB Exam Syllabus & Pattern

Key Takeaways:

  • Gain a deep understanding of the PLAB exam syllabus so that you cover all essential topics and areas of knowledge required for success.
  • Equip yourself with the confidence to tackle the PLAB exam by familiarising yourself with its structure and format.
  • Reduce exam-day anxiety through a thorough grasp of what to expect.

Introduction

Once you finish your undergraduate medical degree, there will be a plethora of options on what to do next. If you are someone who wants to take on the PLAB Exam i.e. Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board Exam, then you must be aware of what to expect in the exam, isn’t it?

A solid understanding of the PLAB exam syllabus and pattern is essential to ensure success. In this blog, we will uncover the key aspects of the PLAB exam, providing you with valuable insights and strategies to navigate this critical step in your medical career.

PLAB Exam Syllabus

Every target has a set of plans through which it can be achieved successfully. For the PLAB Exam, one must be aware of the exam syllabus. This is a crucial process because, without a syllabus, it is like walking blindly without a proper destination.

So here are the essential topics for the PLAB Exam:

Subject 

Topics

Blood and lymph

Abnormal blood film

Bruising/ bleeding/ purpura

Generalised enlarged lymph nodes

Pallor

BreastBreast lump and/or pain
Cardiovascular

Chest pain

Fatigue

Heart murmur

Hypertension

Palpitations

Peripheral arterial disease

Peripheral oedema, breathlessness

Peripheral venous problems

Child health

Congenital abnormalities

Developmental problems

Failure to thrive

Digestive

Abdominal mass

Abdominal pain

Anorexia and weight loss

Facial pain and swelling

Jaundice

Lower GI symptoms

Upper GI symptoms

Nutrition

Endocrine

Abnormal blood sugar

General endocrine disorder

Thyroid abnormalities

ENT

Ear ache

Hearing problems

Hoarseness and/or stridor

Nasal symptoms

Vertigo

Ethical and professional

Drawing from GMC explanatory guidance

Drawing from Good medical practice (2013) Duties of a doctor

Eye

Eye pain

Orbital swelling

Red eye

Visual impairment

Genitourinary

Urethral discharge

Vaginal discharge

Homeostatic

Acid-base imbalance and blood gas abnormalities

Electrolyte abnormalities

Infectious disease

Hospital-acquired infection

Serious infection

Travel medicine and tropical infections

Viral infections

Mental health

Alcohol and drug use disorder and dependence

Anxiety

Deliberate self-harm

Eating problems

Learning and communication problems

Medically unexplained physical symptoms 

Mood (affective) problems

Confusion

Personality and behavioural disorders

Psychosis

Legal frameworks

Musculoskeletal 

Back and neck problems

Connective tissue disorders

Foot and ankle problems

Hand and wrist problems

Hip problems

Knee problems

Rheumatological problems

Shoulder/upper limb problems

Skeletal problems including fractures

Neurological

Blackouts and faints (funny turns) 

Cranial nerve problems

Falls

Headache

Movement disorders including tremors and gait problems

Peripheral nerve problems and abnormalities of sensation

Seizures

Speech and language disorder

Weakness and fatigue

Older adults

Confusion

Symptoms of terminal illness

Pharmacological

Clinical pharmacology

Clinical pharmacology

Renal

Abnormalities of the urine

Renal problems

Urinary excretion

Contraception

Fertility problems

Normal pregnancy and care

Problems in pregnancy including bleeding

Irregular vaginal bleeding

Cervical smear/ colposcopy

Pelvic mass

Pelvic pain

Vulval and vaginal lumps/lesions

Prolapse

Urinary incontinence

Respiratory

Breathlessness

Chest pain

Cough and haemoptysis

Wheeze/ Stridor

Seriously ill patient

Collapse

Fever/ Infection

Multiple trauma

Shock

Skin

Bites and stings

Bullous 

Dermatological manifestations of systemic disease

Extremes of temperature

Hair and nail problems

Itchy and/or scaly rashes

Infections

Lumps

Moles and pigmented lesions

Ulcers

Urological

Groin/scrotal pain and/or swelling

Urinary tract obstruction

Abnormalities of the urine

Urinary symptoms

PLAB Exam Pattern

The examination contains various tests and scenarios that a doctor trained in the United Kingdom would relate to current best practices in the UK and equipment routinely available in UK hospitals. 

The focus lies in evaluating your capacity to apply knowledge to patient care, prioritising practical application over rote memorisation.

The questions are designed to assess your ability to apply current best practices, emphasising an evidence-based approach. Your responses should be grounded in published evidence rather than influenced by specific local protocols or arrangements.

PLAB 1

PLAB 1 is a written examination of 180 multiple-choice questions that candidates must respond to within 3 hours. 

Each question is presented with a brief scenario, and candidates need to select the correct answer from the provided options. The questions cover a range of medical topics, and candidates must navigate through these scenarios, demonstrating their knowledge and decision-making abilities within the allocated time. 

The format involves choosing the most appropriate response from five possible answers for each question.

PLAB 2

The PLAB 2 test will be held at the clinical assessment centre in Manchester. 

The test consists of a series of clinical scenarios; these will test you in a mock consultation setting to reflect how you would apply your knowledge and skills in real life. 

The exam format goes like this:

You will have 90 seconds to read the instructions and review any patient information displayed on the wall outside each station. 

After six minutes, a two-minute warning will be announced.  You have to stay at your station until instructed to move on. Follow floor signs for directions. 

When prompted, proceed to the next station in numerical order. You have 90 seconds to read instructions at each station. The cycle repeats until all stations are visited. 

The exam takes about three hours, involving interactions with actors portraying patients or healthcare professionals, either in-person or via telephone

Conclusion

The PLAB exam syllabus and exam pattern are meticulously designed to evaluate a candidate's competence and application of medical knowledge, particularly in the context of patient care. 

Aspiring healthcare professionals should approach the PLAB exam with a focus on critical thinking, evidence-based practice, and effective communication skills to succeed in this thorough assessment of their readiness for the responsibilities of medical practice in the UK.

"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." - Albert Schweitzer

This quote emphasises the importance of passion and dedication in the pursuit of success, a sentiment relevant to the PLAB exam journey where a solid understanding of the syllabus and a strategic approach to the pattern can lead to clearing the PLAB Exam with flying colours.

FAQs

1.What is the structure of the PLAB exam?

A. The PLAB exam consists of two parts: PLAB 1, which involves multiple-choice questions testing medical knowledge, and PLAB 2, an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) assessing clinical and communication skills through practical scenarios with simulated patients. Both parts aim to evaluate the readiness of international medical graduates to practice in the UK. 

2. What are the pass marks for PLAB?

A. In PLAB 1, you must score at least 120 out of 180 to pass. For PLAB 2, you must meet or exceed the total score and pass a minimum of 10 stations to achieve an overall pass.

3. Is 2 months enough for PLAB 1?

A. While the adequacy of preparation time for the PLAB 1 exam varies among individuals, many candidates find that dedicating approximately 2 months to focused and consistent study is often sufficient. However, individual circumstances, prior knowledge, and study habits play a role. Join Academically to get a better picture to approach the exam. 

4. Does PLAB have a negative marking?

A. There is no negative marking for the PLAB Exam.

Dr. Indu K
Dr. Indu K
about the author

Dr. Indu K is a dentist with one year of clinical experience. She seamlessly transitioned into content writing three years ago. Her passion lies in making complex medical information accessible to everyone. She uses her unique blend of medical knowledge and exceptional writing skills to bridge the gap between healthcare and the general audience.