Part 2 can be taken only in the United Kingdom. Exam sessions are run 10 times a year. You must pass your part 2 within two years of passing your part 1, and you are allowed a maximum of four attempts. Otherwise you have to sit the part 1 and IELTS again. Although the official closing date is just over two weeks before each test, the sessions are often overbooked so it is wise to apply early.
Part 2 consists of a objective structured clinical examination (OSCE) with 14 stations and tests your clinical and communication skills. You are examined for five minutes at each station. There are two rest stations, and the whole examination lasts 96 minutes. You are assessed on your clinical management of conditions seen across a range of medical and surgical areas commonly seen by junior doctors. The five main skills tested are:
Taking a history and reaching a diagnosis
Carrying out a physical examination and recording your findings
Performing practical skills
Managing emergency situations.
At most stations, you will be demonstrating these skills on manikins, models, or standardised patients (actors who give a history or display symptoms according to a predetermined script).
At each station, you are assessed on a number of objectives in the five skill areas. But you are not told of the objectives you are assessed against at each station.
You will be given a grade from A to E for each objective. Each of the objectives may carry different weights, and an overall grade is calculated. To pass the test, you must obtain an overall grade of C or above at 10 or more of the 14 stations, and must not have a grade E at more than one station.
Tips on preparation
Arrange a short clinical attachment in the United Kingdom before your test to help familiarise you with: how doctors interact with patients in Britain; the legal and ethical advice in Duties of a Doctor4 and Good Medical Practice put into practice2; the colloquial terms commonly used by patients; and the equipment routinely available
If possible, enrol on a PLAB part 2 course with practice OSCE
Alternatively, ask your senior colleagues to give you five-minute mock station tests
Get access to a clinical skills laboratory and practise the practical skills listed on p 32 of "PLAB part 2advice to candidates"
Drill yourself thoroughly on the management of common emergency conditions such as basic adult and paediatric cardiopulmonary resuscitation
Tips on taking the test
Before each station, you have one minute to read the instructions, which tell you what you need to do. Read them carefully and mentally plan your approach. Aim to complete the task within five minutes. Note whether you should address the standardised patient or the examiner.
(Credit: SUE SHARPLES)
Carry out the tasks efficiently. But don't rush, and pay attention to the communication aspects. Spend the first 30 seconds establishing rapport.
You will hear a warning bell 30 seconds before your allotted time at each station. Make good use of the remaining time to mention any other key points or perform key tasks.
When you move to the next station, concentrate on the tasks ahead and forget what happened in previous stations.
Wai-Ching Leung, locum general practitioner, Tyne and Wear