Guidance on understanding your PLAB scores and examiner feedback

Part 1

  • For each exam we select questions on a wide range of topics from the PLAB blueprint, ensuring a consistent balance of questions in each area.
  • The skill areas we test in part 1 are grouped under three main headings or ‘Domains’:
    • Applying knowledge and experience to clinical practice (35 questions)
    • Good clinical care: assessment (90 questions)
    • Good clinical care: management (75 questions).
  • For each correct answer you will be awarded one mark. The total number of correct answers will be your score.
  • We will tell you your total score; the score required to pass the exam and the average score for all candidates.
  • We will also tell you the percentage of the questions you scored correctly in each of the three domains.

Part 2

How we mark your performance in the stations

  • The examiners will mark each station based on your performance against the three marking domains in it
    • Data gathering, technical and assessment skills
    • Clinical management skills
    • Interpersonal skills
  • The examiner awards a grade between A and E for each marking domain. Each domain is worth the same.
  • After the exam, the grades awarded by the examiner in a station are converted to marks
    • A = 4
    • B = 3
    • C = 2
    • D = 1
    • E = 0.
  • A score is calculated for each station by adding the score for each marking domain.
  • In addition to marking the individual objectives in your station, the examiner will also make an overall judgement as to whether your performance rates as Good, Satisfactory, Borderline or Unsatisfactory.
  • We use borderline regression to find the pass mark for the station.
  • To pass a station, your score must meet or exceed the station pass mark. If the score is below the station pass mark you will fail that station.
  • We add up the pass marks for each of the 18 stations in the exam. We then add one standard error of measurement which creates the total score. You must meet or exceed the total score and also pass a minimum of 11 stations to achieve an overall pass in the exam.

What feedback will I get?

We provide two sorts of feedback.

Quantitative feedback

  • We will tell you the marks you were awarded in each of the three marking domains for each station, together with a total for each domain across all 18 stations. Each domain carries the same marks, so you will be able to see in which domains you were stronger.
  • We will also tell you
    • the score you achieved in each station and the score required to pass the station
    • the score you achieved overall and the score required to pass the exam.
  • An example of the quantitative feedback you will receive is shown below:

Example of the quantitative feedback you will receive.

Qualitative feedback

  • When you have finished each station, the examiner will be able to indicate which of 10 pre-set feedback statements they consider apply most to you. The examiners must do this if their overall judgement is that you were Unsatisfactory, but they will also be able to do so if they judged your performance as Borderline, Satisfactory or Good. You will be told which feedback statements were indicated as applying to you in each station.
  • An example of the qualitative feedback you will receive is shown below:

 Example of the qualitative feedback you will receive.

  • The ten feedback statements are listed below. Click on a statement for more information

Consultation

Disorganised / unstructured consultation. Includes illogical and disordered approach to questioning.

You did not demonstrate sufficiently the ability to follow a logical structure in your consultation. For example, your history taking may have appeared disjointed, with your line of questioning erratic and not following reasoned thinking.  You may have undertaken practical tasks or examination in an illogical order that suggested you did not have a full grasp of the reason for completing them or a plan for the consultation.  

Issues

Does not recognise the issues or priorities in the consultation (for example, the patient’s key problem or the immediate management of an acutely ill patient).

You did not recognise the key element of importance in the station. For example, giving health and lifestyle advice to an acutely ill patient.

Time

Shows poor time management.

You showed poor time management, probably taking too long over some elements of the encounter at the expense of other, perhaps more important areas.

Findings

Does not identify abnormal findings or results or fails to recognise their implications.

You did not identify or recognise significant findings in the history, examination or data interpretation.

Examination

Does not undertake physical examination competently, or use instruments proficiently.

Diagnosis

Does not make the correct working diagnosis or identify an appropriate range of differential possibilities.

Management

Does not develop a management plan reflecting current best practice, including follow up and safety netting.

Rapport

Does not appear to develop rapport or show sensitivity for the patient’s feelings and concerns, including use of stock phrases.

You did not demonstrate sufficiently the ability to conduct a patient centred consultation. Perhaps you did not show appropriate empathy or sympathy, or understanding of the patient’s concerns. You may have used stock phrases that show that you were not sensitive to the patient as an individual, or failed to seek agreement to your management plan.

Listening

Does not make adequate use of verbal & non-verbal cues. Poor active listening skills.

You did not demonstrate sufficiently that you were paying full attention to the patient’s agenda, beliefs and preferences. For example, you may have asked a series of questions but not listened to the answers and acted on them.

Language

Does not use language and/or explanations that are relevant and understandable to the patient, including not checking understanding.

The examiner may have felt, for example, that you used medical jargon, or spoken too quickly for the patient to take in what you were saying.

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