Dr Rashmi Yadav AKA 'Akanksha' (RxPG Nick) passed PLAB Part 1 recently with a score of 88.5%. Like everyone else we were also curious to know about the secrets of her success. So we got hold of her at "Chennai Dosa" in London wherein she talked about her experience of PLAB exam over a mouth watering afternoon meal. Here is the interview.
RxPG: You scored 177/200 in PLAB Part 1 which is a mind boggling score. What is the secret of your success in PLAB Part 1 exam?
Rashmi: Well, there's no secret mantra as such to clear any exam for that matter. It all depends on how well you know the pattern of exam and how well you are prepared for the 'deviations' in this pattern. Every exam (that includes PLAB Part 1
as well) has a certain pattern and there are "Typical Questions", which gets repeated on and off, and even new questions are usually only modified
derivations of these questions. Switching over my preparation from Indian PG Entrance
Examinations to PLAB Part 1 was difficult, for I had to 'UNLEARN' so many facts which suited very well for Indian setting but were extremely vague for PLAB, especially when it came to investigation of first choice or treatment of first choice. Knowing what the
question expects us to answer than what we think the answer should be is, I suppose, the key factor to excel in any exam.
Dr Rashmi YadavRxPG: How much time do you think one requires for serious preparation for this exam?
Rashmi: This varies widely between different individuals for I know of people who have read for less than a month and cleared the exam and
also people who read for more than 6 months but could not pass. Average expected duration required is around 5-6 months, but for me I think 3 months was just
optimum - 6 months would have given me more chances of brushing up and polishing but, would have also made me over confident and made me acquire a complacent
attitude towards the exam. I think 3-4 months time with at least 8-10 hours of quality study will help any average student to sail confidently through the
exam. (Ed: How to prepapre for PLAB Part 1 - RxPG Article)
RxPG: Which books did you read for the theory part?
Rashmi: Well, OHCM/OHCS are
the bible for the exam and I think there was hardly any question in the exam which was not covered in these small books. Even those weird looking questions
on epidemiology of psychiatric diseases and joint pain were all quoted verbatim from these. For references, Bailey and Love
(Surgery) and Ten Teachers (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) top the list.
RxPG: Which books did you read for EMQ and SBA practice?
Rashmi: As for start I had nothing expect First Aid (RxPG First Aid for PLAB by Tyagi &
Vidyarthi); I did that book thoroughly twice alongside reading relevant topics in OHCM/OHCS. Once I got familiar with the EMQs and the art
of deriving the answers through these books, I practised EMQs and SBAs from Pastest, Una Coales and Maju Mathews. Questions from onexamination.com are also good but there the standard is set at a difficult level. So if you are
going for it, I recommend that you practise these questions towards the end of your preparation rather than starting your preparation with it.
RxPG: Picture tests are a new addition to PLAB Part 1 exam. Where did prepare for picture tests?
Rashmi: Well, I was not quite aware that picture tests are also a part of the
exam, but I did go through those coloured slides in the OHCM. The slides given in the exam were the usual ones we have seen in the clinical atlases all
these years and also accompanied by a brief case history, so it wasn't difficult to arrive at diagnosis. Of course, it's a good idea to practice the already
asked questions in the exam as there is always a high probability of repetition.
RxPG: What is your final impression of PLAB Part 1 exam?
Rashmi: Well, it’s an easy exam when u think in the view of its practical application. The exam is mainly intended to test your basic
knowledge and how you apply these in day to day scenario in the wards in UK setting. Again there are always a good amount of questions, which are repeated.
So solving previous papers should form your main bulk of preparation. But then, it’s tricky too! The trick lies in the way they repeat these previous papers, for they very rarely repeat the questions verbatim. These repeated questions are almost always with some 'minor' changes, which usually make major differences in the final answer, and for our score it's the final answer what matters. The only way to identify these tricky changes is to know the topic thoroughly. While solving previous papers always make sure that you know the entire topic in and out at least through OHCM/OHCS. Any theme, you come across make sure you know it in terms of Diagnosis, Investigation, Next step in management and Treatment of Choice. Nowadays, they are also covering headings like Risk Factor, Prognosis and Epidemiology as well. It will be a good idea to keep a note of these facts as well while you go through the questions or any particular topic in OHCM/OHCS.
RxPG: How important you think is internet in preparation for PLAB Part 1?
Rashmi: Well, internet played a major role in my preparation. My major part of preparation was spent over the discussions at
www.rxpgonline.com. Again, www.fpnotebook.co.uk, www.gpnotebook.co.uk, bnf.org were among very useful sites which gave me instant and updated answers to most of my doubts and saved my time browsing through text books.
RxPG: What prompted you to choose UK as your destination?
Rashmi: Obviously there is nothing in the current job situation at UK which could allure any medical graduate. Destination UK came in scene
only after I could not get my subject of choice through the different Indian entrance exams despite my sincere attempts.
RxPG: How did your parents, family and friends contribute to your success?
Rashmi: It wasn't possible without immense support I got from my parents to boost up my confidence when I was down after all my failures in
various PG entrance examinations in India. Only with their support in my decision provided me with a definite goal to look forward. Just can’t help thanking
all my friends for their support and help in all possible ways. Thanks to the great crowd we have at RxPG. Thanks to Reynolds, Konthan & Gomez for your
immense support. Miss ya all!
RxPG: Had you not been successful in PLAB Part 1, what would have been your reaction ? Which other career option would you have gone in-opted for?
Rashmi: hmmm….GOOD (difficult) question…!!!!!!!! Truly speaking, I never thought about this….may be I would have just dropped the idea of
taking any more exams for sometime…and started concentrating more on my personal life….searched for a nice guy…and get at least my family life settled.
RxPG: How would you visualise your success?
Rashmi: I am definitely happy with my results, but then this is just the first step of more exams n struggle ahead…just keeping my fingers
RxPG: Whom do you attribute your success to?
Rashmi: ….to my parents, my friends, the circumstances in which I appeared for this exam…and to HIM above who always has some mysterious plans
in his mind and HE expects us only to interpret his signals and follow them.
RxPG: Is the pattern of the examination appropriate? Would you recommend any improvement?
Rashmi: Well, PLAB 1 is a very intelligently created exam which tests an individuals basic
as well as practical knowledge from every angle. However, I personally felt that the questions created for the exam are a bit too lengthy, especially when we
look at it from the exam point of view. It becomes extremely taxing for the candidates in the examination hall, when the time is so limited. I think it would
be more candidate-friendly as well as examiner-friendly if the questions are framed concise and short. Again, when it comes to testing knowledge in a short
time, I feel SBAs are better at it than the EMQs.
RxPG: What do you think is the better way of preparation between selective, intensive study and wide, extensive study ?
Rashmi: A selective intensive study is always more fruitful than wide, extensive study, when it comes to a competitive examination like PLAB. As I have already mentioned, try and understand the basic format of the exam and read accordingly. One
might have a great knowledge in a particular subject, but it’s different when you apply the same knowledge in solving the EMQs. Try and learn to apply your knowledge by solving as many questions as possible. Also, don't forget that
the exam is directed to see how efficient you would be as a doctor in UK setting, so mould your knowledge accordingly. Best way is to solve EMQs and read the corresponding topic from OHCM/OHCS. Again getting a right book is very important. A right
book is one which has EMQs as well as good quality explanatory answers and tells you not only about the
correct answer but also how you arrive at it. I personally found First Aid for PLAB an extremely useful
book in this respect.
RxPG: What do you want to specialise in UK?
Rashmi: Well, surgery is my dream subject….just keeping my fingers crossed!
RxPG: Did you attend any coaching for PLAB Part 1?
RxPG: Which coaching institutes have you attended for PLAB Part 2 and why? Were they useful?
Rashmi: I attended PLAB Trainer (Swami's) 10 day course for PLAB 2. They provide a good support for the sponsored candidates starting from sponsorship letter to help you
in your visa, arranging accommodation especially when you are travelling to London for the first time and alone and also the course fee is very reasonable.
The 10 day course was good and exhaustive and whenever possible the staff did take sincere efforts to re-take the classes which we thought were not up to the
mark. Of course, for any course you take you can use it maximally in your favour only when you actively participate in the classes. The Mock Tests are the
most imp part of any course and until and unless you take these, you actually won’t know where exactly you need to improve. Mock Tests at Swami's gave me
real taste of what the real PLAB 2 would look like and also the feedback sessions were of real help in
improving our grades. However, I think the 'grey zones' in certain topics need to be standardised among the examiners to avoid confusion among the
RxPG: What is your strategy for getting clinical attachments?
Rashmi: Decide on your stream and make a good CV accordingly. After that comes the communication part. For most, try and get your request to the consultants for clinical attachments directly than approaching through his/her secretary or any other medical personnel. Again, luck is the most important factor….if you are lucky, any damn strategy will work for you. Good Luck!
RxPG: Are you looking forward to give any other exams in UK? If so, when and why?
Rashmi: Hmmm..yes! The next exam in my list is MRCS Part 1. I am planning to take it in January 06. Once I clear this, it will make my CV strong to apply for jobs in the field of surgery.
RxPG: RxPG is the largest and most active community website for medical students. How do you visualise the role of RxPG in moulding the careers of
the medicos? What is your opinion about RxPG?
Rashmi: Well, at the stage in the life of med graduate, after we are through our internships are standing on the crossroads leading to various options of PG entrances examinations on the national and international levels, I think today, RxPG has the best resource available to give us CORRECT info in all the scenarios and then, not only help us choose a best suited path for ourselves, but also help preparing ourselves to tread thru those chosen path. The great crowd we have here at RxPG only makes this fact more strong. It is definitely the biggest virtual platform for all the medicos worldwide with all great resources under one roof. The articles, discussion threads and every other feature is all loaded with info. RxPG is definitely a perfect combination of IT and medicine.
RxPG: When did you join RxPG and how did you come to know about it?
Rashmi: I accidentally landed here back in 2003 when I was searching for a useful discussion forum to aid in my preparation for various PG
entrance examinations more so when it was getting quite difficult for me to study alone at home and keep myself updated with the rest of the medical world.
RxPG: How did RxPG help you in your preparation?
Rashmi: As I already said, discussions at RxPG formed the major part of my preparation, without which I don't think I would have gained
confidence with the EMQs and SBAs.
RxPG: What is your advice to the future aspirants ?
Rashmi: Practice, practice and practice!!!! Try and solve as many EMQs and SBAs as possible for u. Reading only from OHCM/OHCS will not help you if you don't know to apply your
knowledge in solving questions.
RxPG Interviewers: Dr Himanshu Tyagi & Dr Sanjukta Acharya.
Note: Registered users can sign Akanksha's (Rashmi) Guestbook at this link: http://www.rxpgonline.com/guestbook465.html