About PLAB 1 & Booking PLAB 1

What is PLAB?

If you graduated outside the UK or the EEA, you will need to take the PLAB test ( there are some exceptions). The PLAB consists of two parts, part 1 is theory based and part 2 is a practical exam. Once you have passed both parts, you can register with the GMC & then apply for jobs.

Before you can take Plab 1, you need to create an account with the General Medical Council, which is the medical council in the UK. Creating an account with the GMC involves details about your medical qualification & proof of English language which is usually IELTS.

For me, I did not have to take the IELTS because of two reasons. I had done the IELTS exam in 2010 and achieved the required marks, however I was applying for my PLAB 1 exam in 2019 so my IELTS results had expired ( IELTS certificates are only valid for two years).

At the time, I was studying for a Masters in Public Health at the University of Michigan, so I was able to use my expired score & a letter from my lecturer that proved my English was at an acceptable level. Because I was studying in a country where English was the first langauge, I was able to skip the IELTS exam. You can find more details about this here.

Once you have got your GMC number, you can then book your Plab 1 exam.

Plab 1 Timeline

  • Booked Plab 1 on December 15th 2018 – I booked my Plab 1 for March 14th 2019 in Manchester, UK. At that time, I was living in the USA, so booking PLAB 1 in the UK made sense to me.
  • Wrote the Plab 1 exam on March 14th
  • Results out in April 26th
  • Booked plab 2 two or three days after my result was out.

Plab 1 Resources & Preparation

Resources used for PLAB 1


I had roughly 2.5 months to prepare for the plab 1 exam, which were more than enough for me. I was also studying full time, if you are not studying full time then I think it can be done in 1.5 or even 1 month. At the time, I was a full time student in my master’s program so I was studying for the plab 1 and going to classes at the same time. I should also say that the plab 1 exam questions were very similar to my final year medical school exam MCQs, so I think I had a little advantage.

I only used Plabable and the Oxford Handbook – I did the question bank 2 times completely, and then some sections which I was weak in like Anatomy, I did 3 or 4 times.

I would also make notes regarding the explanations in a word document whilst doing the question bank. So for example, I would do all the Cardiology questions and then things I didn’t know, even in the questions I got right, I would write down in a word document called ‘Cardiology plabable’. I did this for every section in Plabable and I think it really benefited me.

My weaker sections in Plabable like Orthopedics & Anatomy, I did multiple times. DO NOT memorize the questions, but try and learn the concept that is behind the question.

Closer to the exam, like 1 month before the exam, I started reading relevant sections in the Oxford handbook. I did not read the Oxford handbook cover to cover, but for example, I would read the Rheumatology section because I knew I was bad at all the Vasculitis questions.

1-2 weeks before the exam, I just kept going through the question bank and the word documents that I had made notes in.

I did not use any academy or any notes or do any mocks, I just focused on the questions in Plabable as I was busy with my classes, however this is just my experience, I know many people have benefited from notes found on facebook groups & questions. I think I had a little bit of an advantage as my medical school had questions that were very similar to Plab 1.

Exam Experience

I arrived in Manchester on the 10th of March, I had booked an Airbnb and stayed in there for 3 days before the exam.

My strategy with MCQ exams is that I will go through the paper a couple of times. The first time, I answer all the questions that I one hundred percent know. The second time, I take my time and go back to the questions I don’t know.

I received my result on April 26th, I did not score very high but I scored an average mark. I think I would have scored more had I been preparing for the Plab 1 full time, but I was doing it whilst I was also a student.

Final Tips

  • DO NOT memorize questions, try and learn the concepts.
  • Try and read through the explanations in plabable even in the questions that you get correct. There is always valuable information in them.
  • Everyone has different ways of preparing for an exam, do what suits you and what has gotten you through your medical school.
  • Relax, you have gotten through medical school, you can pass this exam with a little bit of hard work.

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