Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) part 2 

The PLAB test is the main route by which International Medical Graduates (IMGs) demonstrate that they have the necessary skills and knowledge to practice medicine in the United Kingdom. PLAB part 2 is an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). It consists of 17 OSCE stations. Of these, one is a rest station and two are pilot stations. Very rarely there may be only one pilot station. This leaves 14 active clinical scenarios or “stations” which will contribute towards the results. 



A 5-minute rest station is part of the exam, during which a candidate has no clinical scenario or task to tackle. The rest station can fall at any point in the exam; at the beginning, in the middle or at the end.  The main pitfall to look out for here is to avoid thinking excessively about any mistakes you might have made in the previous station(s). Try to maintain a positive and composed attitude. 



A pilot station is one where the GMC checks whether a station can be used in future examinations. Pilot stations are usually new scenarios. The marks for pilot stations will not count towards the final results. It is, however, difficult to know which one is a pilot station. Therefore, the candidate should  try not to approach any station casually because even scenarios that appear for the first time can end up being active stations. 

There will be 16 candidates sitting an exam in one batch and there are usually three batches in a day: The 9 a.m. batch, 11 a.m. batch and the 2 p.m. batch, which comes to a total of 48 candidates sitting the PLAB 2 exam each day. Candidates are usually given a particular time to come for the exam. Usually, candidates sitting the exam at 09:00 a.m. are asked to come at 08:00, the 11 a.m.  batch will come at 09:00 a.m. and the 2 p.m. batch will come at 10 am. The times are usually specified in the candidate’s PLAB 2 booking confirmation email. It is advisable NOT to come later than the specified times. Candidates who come in after the stated time might not be allowed to sit the exam. Each station lasts five minutes. An additional minute is allocated to read the scenario before the candidate enters the cubicle. There are 17 rooms or cubicles and each candidate will be placed outside each room before the exam starts. When the exam starts, candidates will be moving from one cubicle to the next, following each other until all the 17 stations are completed. Therefore, some candidates might have the rest station as their first station. 



A minute is allocated to read the scenario while standing outside the rooms. This time must be used very well. It is advisable NOT to use this time to think about the mistakes made in previous stations but to concentrate on the current station. You are encouraged to read and understand what the task requires and think of how to begin the station i.e. does the patient know about all the information given in the question or do I need to inform him? What will be my opening phrase? 

If you feel that there was not enough time for you to read everything in one minute, there is a copy of the same question inside the cubicle. You can read the task again once inside the cubicle but remember the 5 minutes will have already started and therefore you will be using your precious 5 minutes. On the other hand, it is pointless to start performing a task which you did not understand very well. Therefore, it is better to read the task again, even if it means using some of the five minutes. 


After one minute of reading the task outside the cubicle, you will be asked to enter the station. You will meet the examiner inside the cubicle, who will check your name and candidate number on your badge. The badge will be provided by the GMC on the day of the exam upon arrival. You will be expected to wear the badge for the entire duration of the exam. 

The examiner will usually take their time to write your candidate number as it is important for them to know who they will be examining. By the time you start the real task you will have spent about 30 seconds of the five minutes, especially if you read the task again inside the cubicle. When there is 30 seconds remaining to finish the task, you will hear a reminder bell: “The task is 30 seconds remaining”. This is called the 4:30 bell. Therefore, you lose about 30 seconds in the beginning taken partly by the examiner and partly by you as you walk into the cubicle. So the actual time left to perform the task is approximately four minutes. It may sound little, but if you understand the task and do only what it asks of you, there is enough time. In fact, in most of the stations, you will manage to give the patient all the information required and still have time to spare. There are, of course, some stations which will be difficult to complete due to the time factor, but you are not always expected to finish the task, especially in counselling stations. At the end of the five minutes, you will hear a bell telling you to move on to the next station. During the five minutes, you will not be provided with pen and paper to write anything down. You should keep all the information in your head. The only time you will be provided with pen and paper is in scenarios where you are required to explain a procedure to a patient and drawing may help the patient to understand better e.g. when explaining hemicolectomy with primary anastomosis, ectopic pregnancy, open ovarian cystectomy, vasectomy etc. But you will NOT be provided with pen and paper in all stations where you are required to explain a procedure or an operation. 

It is therefore important to check in each station if you have been provided with these. If so, failure to use them may result in scoring low marks and possibly not passing the station. However, if you are not provided with pen and paper, you do not need to ask for them. The rule is therefore: if provided with pen and paper and you do not use them, it is a mistake. The other stations where you will be provided with pen and paper are Mini Mental State Examination (MMSE) and Insulin dose calculation. In these two stations you are always provided with pen and paper because you need to write things down.