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What to study for PLAB

  • The main emphasis of the Examination is on clinical management and includes science as applied to clinical problems.
  • The Examination is confined to core knowledge, skills and attitudes relating to conditions commonly seen by SHOs, to the generic management of life-threatening situations, and to rarer, but important, problems.
  • The Examination assesses the ability to apply knowledge to the care of patients.
  • Four groups of skills will be tested in approximately equal proportions:

Diagnosis: Given the important facts about a patient (such as age, sex, nature of presenting symptoms, duration of symptoms) you are asked to select the most likely diagnosis from a range of possibilities.

Investigations: This may refer to the selection or the interpretation of diagnostic tests. Given the important facts about a patient, you will be asked to select the investigation which is most likely to provide the key to the diagnosis. Alternatively, you may be given the findings of investigations and asked to relate these to a patient's condition or to choose the most appropriate next course of action.
Management/Treatment: Given the important facts about a patient's condition, you will be asked to choose the most suitable treatment including therapeutics from a range of possibilities. In the case of medical treatments you will be asked to choose the correct drug therapy and will be expected to know about side effects.

The context of clinical practice: This may include:
  1. Explanation of disease process: The natural history of the untreated disease.
  2. Legal ethical: You are expected to know the major legal and ethical principles set out in the General Medical Council publication.
  3. Practice of evidence-based medicine: Questions on diagnosis, investigations and management may draw upon recent evidence published in peer-reviewed journals. In addition, there may be questions on the principles and practice of evidence-based medicine.
  4. Understanding of epidemiology: You may be tested on the principles of epidemiology, and on the prevalence of important diseases in the UK.
  5. Health promotion: The prevention of disease through health promotion and knowledge of risk factors.
  6. Awareness of multicultural society: You may be tested on your appreciation of the impact on the practice of medicine of the health beliefs and cultural values of the major cultural groups represented in the UK population.
  7. Application of scientific understanding to medicine: You may be tested on the scientific disciplines which underpin medicine. Examples include anatomy, genetics and pathology.
The candidate will be expected to know about conditions that are common or important in the United Kingdom for all the systems outlined below.


Accident and emergency medicine Examples:
Abdominal, chest and head injuries (isolated or multiple injuries), bites and stings, bruising, burns, chest pain, collapse, cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), eye problems, shock, trauma.

Blood Examples: Anaemias, coagulation defects, haemoglobinopathies, purpura.

Cardiovascular system Examples: Aortic aneurysm, arrhythmias, chest pain, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), heart failure, hypertension, ischaemic limb, myocardial infarction, myocardial ischaemia, stroke, varicose veins.

Dermatology, allergy, immunology and infectious diseases Examples: Allergy, fever and rashes, meningitis, serious infections including HIV, hepatitis B and tropical diseases, skin cancers.

ENT and eyes Examples: Dysphagia, earache, epistaxis, hearing problems, hoarseness, glaucoma, red eye, sudden visual loss.

Gastrointestinal tract, liver and biliary system, and nutrition Examples: Abdominal pain, constipation, diarrhoea, difficulty in swallowing, digestive disorders, gastrointestinal bleeding, jaundice, rectal bleeding/pain, vomiting, weight problems.

Metabolism, endocrinology and diabetes Examples: Diabetes mellitus, thyroid disorders, weight problems.

Nervous system Examples: Coma, convulsions, eye problems, headache, loss of consciousness, seizures, stroke, transient ischaemic attacks, vertigo.

Orthopaedics and rheumatology Examples: Arthritis, back pain, dislocations, fractures, joint pain/swelling, sprains and strains.

Psychiatry Examples: Alcohol abuse, anxiety, assessing suicidal risk, confusion and delirium, depression, drug abuse, overdoses and self harm, post-natal problems.

Renal System Examples: Haematuria, renal failure, sexual health, testicular pain, urinary calculi and infections.

Respiratory system Examples: Asthma, breathlessness/wheeze, cough, haemoptysis, pneumonia.

Disorders of childhood Examples: Abdominal pain, asthma, child development, childhood illnesses, earache, epilepsy, eye problems, fetal medicine, fever and rashes, joint pain/swelling, loss of consciousness, meningitis, non-accidental injury, sexual abuse, testicular pain, urinary disorders.

Disorders of the elderly Examples: Altered bowel habit, dementia, depression, digestive disorders, urinary disorders.

Peri-operative management Examples: Anti-emetics, pain relief, peri-operative monitoring, post-operative complications, pre-operative assessment.

Palliative Care, Oncology Examples: Blood dyscrasias, general malignancy, pain relief, terminal care.

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