Common errors in PLAB 2 Exam

Common Errors Test Takers Make on the PLAB 2 Exam and How to Avoid Them

So you have made it through PLAB 1, the first part of the PLAB exam, congratulations! Being a smart person, of course, you are here researching common errors test takers make on the PLAB 2 Exam. Good move, and as always, we have your back. If by chance, you stumbled on this article, or simply need a refresher, you can read our previous article on the difference between PLAB 1 and PLAB 2. 

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All set? Now let’s dig into these common errors in PLAB 2 exam and most importantly, how to avoid them.

Common Errors PLAB 2 Test Takers Make

1. Not Reading The Test Instructions

 The first and perhaps, the gravest mistake many candidates make on the PLAB 2 exam, is overlooking the exam instructions. This might be due to having reviewed lots of past questions and getting an idea of the overall flow. However it is very dangerous to think you know everything and then skip the instructions for your own exam.

Another variant of this error is to assume that the same instructions will hold for each of the test stations. Never assume that you know what will be asked, as the test instructions are intended to save you from heartbreak. 

2. Letting Your Nerves Get The Best of You

You’re nervous, and that is to be expected, with the PLAB exam being a major career-defining test. However, inability to maintain a good grip on how you are feeling can make you prone to fumbling seriously. This would likely lead to making easily avoidable mistakes.

While many make the mistake of focusing on the clinical knowledge aspect only, never forget that how well you hold under pressure is being assessed too.

3. Poor Interaction with Patients

The PLAB 2 test simulates a real consultation, so you are expected to interact well with the patients, even if they are role-players. Common mistakes test takers make here include using verbose expressions and/or heavy medical jargon that confuse the patient, over-explaining the symptoms of the illness to the patient, asking irrelevant or inappropriate questions, or not even listening to the patient as required. These make the interaction clumsy and can make you lose marks. Another mistake is using the wrong terms to address people, such as using the wrong title, gender, and/or age terms, which can make things awkward. 

READ: Practical Tips on How to Prepare for Your PLAB 2 Exam

4. Cramming The Answers

It is a clever move to have studied past questions, in order to have an idea of what is to come, and to practice well ahead. What is not so clever, however, is to cram the answers and go into the examination with those in your head. Most likely, the scenarios would be different, thus making your crammed answers irrelevant. 

It might then take a while to get yourself in the zone for the current scenario, which can eat into precious time. More so, reciting crammed answers will make you sound unnatural and odd, so do well to avoid this error. 

5. Poor Time Management

8 minutes can fly by, if one does not practice good time management, and this has affected a lot of candidates. This could be due to wasting time initially talking about what they intend to do, instead of just going ahead to do it. Some, even after elapsing their time in a station, remain there and try to rush through things, instead of moving to the next station. This has cost many candidates good time and eaten into their marks. 

6. Addressing the Wrong Person

Another mistake test-takers often make is directing their answers to the wrong person. If the instructions for a test station require that you explain what you’re doing or suggest a possible diagnosis, then the examiner, and not the patient, is the ideal recipient of this. Also, this should only be done if required in the station instructions. Otherwise, do not start explaining unnecessarily. 

READ: How to Apply for a Health and Care Worker Visa

7. Referring patients to the Internet or a senior colleague

The scope of the exam is not beyond the Foundation year 2 of the training program, so you should be able to handle the scenarios before you. If, by chance, you are not able to handle it all, don’t make the error of telling the patient to check the internet. You also do not need to say in their presence that you will escalate the case to your senior colleague. The exceptions to this are situations where that is the most appropriate response. 

8. Pretending 

Some test-takers, in a bid to act as though it were a real situation, start pretending to do things here and there, such as drawing imaginary curtains to give the patient some privacy. This is quite unnecessary, pretentious, and futile, as it won’t even earn them extra marks anyway. 

How to Avoid These Common PLAB 2 Test Errors

1. Breathe and Stay Calm

Work on getting your nerves under control and being calm. This will help you focus better on the task at hand and progress well. Make sure you don’t freeze up or snap at the examiners and/or patients out of nervousness. Remember, this is supposed to simulate a real-life setting, and you don’t want to give the wrong impression. 

2. Review the Instructions

Make sure that you check the instructions for each test station and that you thoroughly understand the task. If needed, you can also review the instructions again, they will be made available in the station too. 

3. Hone Your Communication Skills

Listen to the patient carefully and respond appropriately and clearly. Also be sensitive and empathetic in your approach, without losing the needed level of assertiveness, especially while asking questions or examining the patient to gather relevant clinical data. Avoid oversharing or under-sharing, and review instructions to be clear on the information provided. 

READ: Practical Tips on How to Prepare for Your PLAB 1 Exam

4. Know how and when to address persons

Know when and how to appropriately address the patient, and when to address the examiner. This will serve you well and help you to make a good impression on the examiner, as opposed to mixing things up, which can cost you some precious marks. Also, some situations require you to just “show”, rather than “tell” the examiner what you would do. Know these and stick to the right thing.

5. Don’t forget the principles 

It is possible to have learned and carried out certain procedures a lot, that you can do them by rote. However, make sure that you know the principles behind them, so that you’re able to apply them appropriately when working with patients. 

6. Be mindful of the time

Avoid dilly-dallying on your tasks, but handle them as quickly as possible, without, of course, sacrificing professionalism and quality. If you run out of time on a station, don’t dwell too much on it, but move right to face the next one.

7. Review Useful Materials

Valuable materials like the PLAB guidelines on the General Medical Council website are very useful to help you prepare adequately for your PLAB 2 exam. This will help you out with the must-know protocols and the like. 


Many people have gone through this process and aced their PLAB 2 exams, and you could be one of the success stories too. Now, you know the common errors in PLAB 2 exam. Make sure to do the needful and practice well ahead. Also, it is important to realize that, as much as you try to avoid them, you might still end up making some mistakes. 

If and when this happens, the trick is to try and get yourself back on track as fast as possible, so that it doesn’t affect your performance in the remaining stations and reduce your chances further.

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