We are writing this blog to help you understand various methods you can use for your preparation and have tried to answer the most common questions that usually crosses every candidate's mind. Embrace yourself for a rather bigger and a detailed post but very informative one
Do you really need to join an Academy?
To be honest it is really difficult to answer this question, it is your individual preference. Every academy essentially teaches you the same thing and all the scripts basically give you the core idea of how a station would proceed. On one hand some people choose the academy based on the location, word of mouth from their seniors or colleagues, personal liking of the scripts and other parameters. So feel free to choose any academy if you think you need that extra orientation.
On the other hand we personally know some of our friends & we all have heard about success stories of those who did not opt for any academy and yet passed the exams with very good scores. So it is completely your choice if you wish to !!!
How do I Study/make use of scripts from an Academy?
Scripts give you a clear orientation on how an OSCE station would most likely to be. Scripts are always written keeping in mind all possible combination of questions that you may ask or might have to answer but that does not mean you have to do the same in an OSCE examination. It is always better to refer to more than 1 Academy's script. But do not try to read everything from everywhere.
If you are a first timer: Start reading 📖 with medical stations as they give you a basic structure of how the consultation should go about. Once you get the hang of it move onto other type of stations. Cover the stations symptom wise starting with simple ones like chest pain, cough and then get cracking. As you read the counselling stations make sure you highlight the patient concerns (comes in handy later during revision).
Tip: For examination stations you could rely more on videos than scripts as it saves time and can be better retained in your memory!
Should I make my own notes 📝?
Definitely, Why not !! Making 'Concise Notes' (DO NOT MAKE A BOOK !) as you read along will go a long way in you preparation. It will make your preparation much easier and highly effective in terms of efficiency and time management, especially as you get closer to your exam date.
Tip: Write up the note by following a structure, using different colours to make things stand out. Ex: Not to be missed points, Red flag 🚩symptoms, must ask etc.
Use your own style of short hand writing. Get innovative and make it fun. Ex: How to write MAFTOSA in your note
Note: Remember to ask only relevant questions on PMH. In the Example above the greens circles show which questions are most relevant for the scenario.
How should I practise?
We cannot stress enough the importance of practice for an OSCE exam like PLAB2. The ability to think on your feet, to know what to say and what information to withhold and yet being able to present wholesome consultation comes only by a considerable amount of consistent practice. Having said that, it's equally important to know the background of the station and start practicing. So if you are one who wants to know the background of the station before you go into practising please feel free to do so. Don't pay heed to others constant nibble. 😌
The more you practise the more effortless your flow of speech becomes and you will be surprised to find yourself covering every aspect of the consultation within the narrow frame of just 8 minutes.
Number of Stations?
For beginners: Start practising from day one you begin to read the scripts🚦
Aim for 5 to 6 stations a day during the initial days of your practice.
Ramp it up to at least 10 stations per day by the 3rd week into your practice.
You should try to cover a good 70% by your 4th week of your practice.
If you are a repeater or if you are in your revision phase, practise one station from each symptom block and counselling block instead of doing each and every the station on the list. 📌 Remember you only need to revise the core idea of the station.
Our suggestion would be to have one study partner till you cover at least a good chunk (60 -70%) of the portions. But half way through preparation start practicing with different people, beginning from the very 1st station you started with (this in itself becomes like a revision). Towards the last weeks of your preparation it is wise to practise with as many different people as possible as this will give you the scope to fine tune your communication skills you would have already acquired by now.
Being the Simulator?
Be the difficult patient when you simulate as a patient for other candidates.
Before you simulate think from patient's shoes and come up with new concerns that may not necessarily be written in the scripts.
Try not to defer/ deviate too much from the topic (Ex: giving a positive HTN history in a skin condition station). It would only suck up the time and make the candidate under confident as he/she may not finish the station on time.
Remember, being difficult doesn’t mean giving many +ve points while simulating
Be quick to respond to the doctor's questions. If you don't, you will only take up their time by thinking what to answer and this again will affect the doctors confidence. Have a story in ur Hx (eg: Fall Hx, think the story beforehand) before you start the station so that you don't fumble as a simulator.
Timer: Your Best Friend! 👯♂️👯♀️
The 8 minute GMC timer is your best friend during the course of your preparation. It is what is going to rigorously train your brain and streamline your thought process for the exam.
Don't use it if you have just begun to practise as a beginner
Start using an 8 minute timer once you get the hang of different structures and the flow with stations.
Use a 7 minute timer closer to your exam date (last 14 to 21 days). We have uploaded both the timers below 👇
How to revise?
This is where your Notes and highlights come into play. During your revision it is necessary that you start practising random stations without a heads up. This will make you think on your feet and help you realise your shortcomings. Work on it 🏋️♂️.
Practise with 7 min timer ⌛️
Don't practise each & every station. Do one prototype station from a symptom block and revise only management for the rest in it.
Your areas of focus while revising should be For Medical Stations 🡪 Revise Risk Factors/DDx and Management For Ethical and Counselling Stations 🡪 Revise only Concerns
Don’t forget to practise mannequins towards the end week of your preparation
Now is the time to fine tune your way of talking (i.e, your interpersonal skills). Work on how you would explain any diagnosis: keep it simplified, keep it short ( maximum 2 to 3 sentences), to the point and avoid using too much of medical jargon.
How much time is required for preparation?
Well, honestly speaking, it differs from individual to individual. Ideally a good 8 to 10 weeks after your academy would be sufficient. You could breakdown the 8 weeks as follows:
However, if you are pressed for time, DON'T PANICK. Practice 1-2 stations with timer and for rest of the stations that are similar practise only the management of each.
Also, make sure to give a good 4 or 5 days exclusively for Examination and Mannequins.
What extra can I do?
You can refer to Dr Aman Arora’s Audio book 🗣📚to refine your IPS. It is always better to avoid using exact same sentences. Feel free to adapt it to your style of speech. Link: Communication Skills on the Go, How to Explain on the Go
Come up with your own way of answering questions and patients concerns. This will ensure candidates do not have a similar style amongst each other thereby 🌟making you stand out 🌟on the day of your exam.
Remember, this DOES NOT necessarily mean that if you blurt out 🤮 unique phrases/solutions (you would have researched and know that majority won't know) you will get a good score or pass for sure because that might not even be the patient’s concern or even the core of the station. So speak judiciously and relevantly even if you are offering simple solutions!
Watch OSCE videos (preferably UK 🇬🇧 based ones) to imbibe new and better ways of communication.
Ask your Seniors/ friends who have passed the exam to assess you and help you identify your areas that need improvement.
Make sure that you are covering the major chunk of the station within the time limit during your practice.
Must know tips & techniques
Make sure that you adhere to the basic structure to ensure all domains are covered.
The Red Flags 🚩and Safety net ensure the consultation is safe (Very Important skill)
ICE ❄ is a good way of eliciting a patient-centred history. (ICE- Idea, Concerns, Expectation)
You cannot obtain scores for unspoken thoughts, for example if you are concerned about patient’s safety then make sure to speak it clearly out to help them understand what is being said.
Verbalise 🗣 as you do any examination even if there are no positive findings.
Don’t be under a wrong impression 🙅♂️ that your IPS starts with your management. It’s been observed and scored during the entire 8 minutes⏱, starting from you entering the station till you leave the station.
Remember to involve the patient in your management plan 🧐 thereby demonstrating shared management plan (A key skill)
Don’t restrict yourself to certain treatment rather offer management options and check patients understanding and willingness.
If you are unsure if the patient has properly understood or if you have spoken for a pretty long time ... STOP ! 🔴 Ask politely to check their understanding and offer them to repeat yourself. (We will discuss in detail in a separate blog about the IPS skills and various important elements associated with it)
It is important to give yourself adequate breaks 🎉🥳 to recharge and keep yourself going. Eat healthy and sleep well😴.
Lastly, the PLAB 2 journey can be quite an emotional one 😁🥺. During the course of your preparation you will find yourself doubting your confidence or your decisions, panicking and at times even feeling depressed & helpless not knowing what to do. Trust me everyone of us have been through it, be it before the exam or after. It is very normal to feel this way. The key is to not give up and be consistent 💪 in whatever you do. Ask for any little help from people around you but remember to stay away from negative vibes.
Take in healthy criticism and work on it. Try to maintain a positive attitude throughout, even after the day of your results. This is a DOABLE exam ! ✔️