Sample questions


Multiple choice questions

These are the types of questions you can expect to see at the PLAB 1 exam. You can have a go at answering them and check your answers at the bottom of the page.

  1. A 22 year old man has had an acute, painful, red right eye with blurring of vision for one day. He had a similar episode one year ago and has had episodic back pain and stiffness relieved by exercise and diclofenac for four years.

    What is the SINGLE most likely cause of his red eye?
    1. Chorioretinitis
    2. Conjunctivitis
    3. Episcleritis
    4. Iritis
    5. Keratitis
    Check my answer

  2. A 40 year old divorced man with bipolar affective disorder attends hospital following an overdose of 30 tricyclic antidepressant tablets. His new partner has left him and he has stopped taking his medicine and begun drinking heavily. He appears depressed, feels hopeless and is ambivalent about being alive. He is now fit for discharge from the medical ward and acknowledges the benefits of previous treatment.

    What is the SINGLE most appropriate next management?
    1. Admission to the psychiatry ward
    2. Arrange psychiatric outpatient follow-up
    3. Discharge to the care of the general practitioner
    4. Referral to local alcohol treatment team
    5. Referral to clinical psychologist
    Check my answer

  3. A healthy baby boy is born at term to a woman who was unwell with confirmed acute hepatitis B during pregnancy. The mother is very concerned that she may have infected the baby with hepatitis B.

    What SINGLE preventative intervention should be given to the baby?
    1. Full course of hepatitis B vaccine
    2. Hepatitis B immunoglobulin alone
    3. Hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immunoglobulin
    4. Hepatitis B vaccine as single dose
    5. None until hepatitis B status confirmed
    Check my answer

  4. A previously well 15 year old girl had an acute onset of fever, sweating, bruising and petechiae. A blood count showed:
    • Haemoglobin 63 g/L
    • White cell count 1.1 x 109/L
    • Neutrophils 0.1 x 109/L
    • Platelets 14 x 109/L.
    No abnormal white cells were seen on the blood film. She was transfused and given intravenous antibiotics and her condition improved. Three weeks later her blood count has returned to a similar picture.

    What is the SINGLE most likely underlying diagnosis?
    1. Acute lymphoblastic leukaemia
    2. Acute myeloid leukaemia
    3. Aplastic anaemia
    4. Chronic myeloid leukaemia
    5. Pernicious anaemia
    Check my answer

  5. A 25 year old woman has a blood pressure of 160/90 mmHg at week 10 of her first pregnancy. She had recurrent urinary infections in childhood. Her urinalysis shows protein but no blood. Her blood tests show:
    • Haemoglobin 109 g/L
    • Serum urea 7.5 mmol/L
    • Serum creatinine 125 μmol/L.
    What is the SINGLE most likely cause of her hypertension?
    1. Chronic glomerulonephritis
    2. Chronic pyelonephritis
    3. Essential hypertension
    4. Pre-eclampsia
    5. Renal artery stenosis
    Check my answer

  6. An 83 year old woman admitted with a chest infection becomes confused with impaired attention and poor concentration. She is restless and frightened. She is verbally abusive and has perceptual abnormalities. There is no significant previous psychiatric history.

    What is the SINGLE most likely diagnosis?
    1. Delirium
    2. Drug induced psychosis
    3. Lewy body dementia
    4. Multi-infarct dementia
    5. Psychotic depression
    Check my answer

  7. A town has a population of 500,000. In a five year period there are 1250 cases of bladder cancer diagnosed at the only hospital. During the same period the occupational health department diagnosed a further 500 cases.

    What is the annual incidence per million of bladder cancer in this population?
    1. 2100
    2. 1750
    3. 1400
    4. 700
    5. 350
    Check my answer

  8. A 28 year old woman who has had a previous pulmonary embolism in pregnancy wishes to discuss contraception. She has menorrhagia but is otherwise well.

    What is the SINGLE most suitable contraceptive method for this patient?
    1. Combined oral contraceptive pill
    2. Copper intrauterine contraceptive device
    3. Levonorgestrel intra-uterine system
    4. Progestogen implant
    5. Progestogen-only pill
    Check my answer

  9. An eight year old girl has had left earache for two days. The earache subsided about two hours ago with the onset of a purulent discharge which relieved the pain. Her temperature is 39.2°C.

    What is the SINGLE most appropriate antibiotic?
    1. Amoxicillin
    2. Ciprofloxacin
    3. Clindamycin
    4. Erythromycin
    5. Flucloxacillin
    Check my answer

  10. A 38 year old man has disturbing thoughts about his house being infected by germs. He is anxious about safety and checks the locks of his doors repeatedly before going to bed. For the last eight weeks he has been washing his hands every time he touches the lock, 20-30 times a day.

    What is the SINGLE most appropriate management?
    1. Antidepressant
    2. Antipsychotic
    3. Anxiolytic
    4. Cognitive behaviour therapy
    5. Psychodynamic psychotherapy
    Check my answer

  11. A two year old boy fell off his tricycle, hurting his arm. He got up and started to cry but before there was any sound he went pale, unconscious and rigid. He recovered after 1-2 minutes but remained pale. After an hour he was back to normal. His mother says she was afraid he was going to die and that he had a similar episode three months previously after he fell down some steps.

    What SINGLE investigation is indicated?
    1. Computed tomography scan of the head
    2. Electroencephalogram
    3. Full blood count
    4. None
    5. Skeletal survey
    Check my answer
  12. At laparoscopic surgery for gallstones, a trocar is inserted through the midline of the anterior abdominal wall just below the umbilicus.

    Which SINGLE structure(s) would be pierced?
    1. Conjoint tendon
    2. External and internal oblique muscles
    3. External oblique aponeurosis and internal oblique muscle
    4. Linea alba
    5. Rectus abdominus muscle
    Check my answer

  13. A 65 year old man had closure of colostomy performed five days ago. He is not systemically unwell. There is a tender, localised fluctuant swelling 4 cm in diameter in the wound.

    What is the SINGLE most appropriate management?
    1. Abdominal support
    2. Antibiotics
    3. Laparotomy and re-suture
    4. Local exploration of wound
    5. Observation
    Check my answer

  14. A 32 year old woman has had a febrile illness and swelling of the small joints of her hands, feet, wrists and knees for two days. She has a maculopapular rash and a few palpable, small cervical lymph nodes. She was previously well. There is no history of relevant travel outside the UK. She has two young children.

    What is the SINGLE most likely diagnosis?
    1. Psoriasis
    2. Reactive arthritis
    3. Rheumatoid arthritis
    4. Sarcoidosis
    5. Systemic lupus erythematosus
    Check my answer

  15. A 16 year old girl has had an enlarging mass in the right side of her neck for the last six weeks. She has had no other symptoms. She has a 2 x 2 cm enlarged lymph node in the anterior triangle of the neck with several smaller associated lymph nodes palpable. Oropharyngeal examination shows tonsillar membranes.

    What is the SINGLE most likely diagnosis?
    1. Infectious mononucleosis
    2. Leukaemia
    3. Lymphoma
    4. Sarcoidosis
    5. Tuberculosis
    Check my answer

  16. A 19 year old man has been brought by his mother for assessment. She says he has always been aloof and distant. He has no friends, preferring solitary activities. He likes to collect model cars and now has 2,000. He appears to be indifferent to either praise or criticism by his mother.

    What is the SINGLE most likely diagnosis?
    1. Autistic spectrum disorder
    2. Bipolar affective disorder
    3. Borderline personality disorder
    4. Dissocial personality disorder
    5. Obsessive compulsive disorder
    Check my answer

  17. A 60 year old man has had increasing pain in both buttocks, thighs and calves on walking for three months. He has also recently developed impotence. Femoral and distal pulses are absent in both limbs.

    What is the SINGLE most likely site of arterial obstruction?
    1. Aorto iliac
    2. External iliac
    3. Femoropopliteal
    4. Internal iliac
    5. Tibial
    Check my answer

  18. A 72 year old woman has been taking loop diuretics for left ventricular failure. She now has palpitations and muscle weakness.

    What is the SINGLE most likely serum electrolyte pattern to be found?
    1. Sodium 130 mmol/L, potassium 2.5 mmol/L
    2. Sodium 130 mmol/L, potassium 5.0 mmol/L
    3. Sodium 140 mmol/L, potassium 4.5 mmol/L
    4. Sodium 150 mmol/L, potassium 2.5 mmol/L
    5. Sodium 150 mmol/L, potassium 3.5 mmol/L
    Check my answer

  19. A 78 year old man has collapsed. He has had a severe headache for 12 hours and had an upper respiratory tract infection three days ago. He has a temperature of 39.2°C, a pulse of 122 beats/minute, a blood pressure of 84/60 mmHg and a respiratory rate of 34 breaths/minute but his chest is clear. He has a Glasgow Coma Scale score of 10 and some neck stiffness. He has been started on high-flow oxygen.

    What is the SINGLE most appropriate immediate management?
    1. Intravenous antibiotic; computed tomography brain scan
    2. Intravenous antibiotic; lumbar puncture
    3. Intravenous fluids; computed tomography brain scan
    4. Intravenous fluids; intravenous antibiotic
    5. Intravenous fluids; lumbar puncture
    Check my answer

  20. A 16 year old boy was brought to hospital in a comatose state having taken methadone belonging to his sister. He was given naloxone and rapidly became alert. Some hours later, he gradually becomes semi-conscious again.

    What is the SINGLE most likely reason for this patient becoming semi-conscious again in hospital?
    1. Methadone hepatotoxicity has caused acute liver failure
    2. Methadone is eliminated from the body more slowly than naloxone
    3. Naloxone is a partial agonist at the central nervous system opioid receptor
    4. The patient has misused another substance that has caused an intracranial bleed
    5. The patient has misused another substance that is absorbed more slowly than methadone
    Check my answer

  21. A 27 year old woman who takes the combined oral contraceptive pill has had painless vaginal spotting and discharge for three days. Her last menstrual period, which lasted four days, finished 10 days ago. Her last cervical smear two years ago was normal. Abdominal and vaginal examinations are normal apart from a mild ectropion with contact bleeding.

    What is the SINGLE most appropriate initial investigation?
    1. Cervical smear
    2. Colposcopy
    3. Endocervical swab
    4. Endometrial biopsy
    5. Pelvic ultrasound scan
    Check my answer

  22. A 72 year old man being investigated for anaemia is booked for a colonoscopy in 24 hours.

    What is the SINGLE most appropriate management the night before the procedure?
    1. Bisacodyl tablets
    2. Glycerine suppository
    3. Lactulose syrup
    4. Magnesium citrate (orally)
    5. Senna tablets
    Check my answer

  23. A 19 year old woman has had progressive bilateral iliac fossa pain and dyspareunia for three days. She has an offensive vaginal discharge and feels unwell and feverish. Her temperature is 39°C. An initial antimicrobial regimen is commenced.

    What SINGLE set of organisms are the most appropriate for the antimicrobial regimen to cover?
    1. Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Candida albicans
    2. Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Candida albicans and Gardnerella vaginalis
    3. Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis
    4. Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis and Candida albicans
    5. Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis and Gardnerella vaginalis
    Check my answer

  24. A 48 year old man with renal cancer had radiotherapy for metastatic spinal cord compression at the 11th thoracic vertebra four weeks ago. He has retained sensation but is unable to stand. He has pain in a band around his lower trunk controlled by regular oral morphine. He is distressed by increasingly frequent episodes of painful muscle spasms in his right leg.

    What is the SINGLE most appropriate management of his symptoms?
    1. Amitriptyline
    2. Baclofen
    3. Fentanyl patch
    4. Gabapentin
    5. Increase morphine dose
    Check my answer

  25. An 18 year old woman thinks she is overweight and has a mildly depressed mood. For the last 18 months she has reduced her food intake and has been exercising for two hours each day. She has amenorrhoea. Her body mass index is 15.5 kg/m2 and her blood pressure is 90/60 mmHg.

    What is the SINGLE most appropriate management?
    1. Prescribe antidepressants
    2. Refer for psychodynamic therapy
    3. Refer to acute medical services
    4. Refer to dietician
    5. Refer to eating disorder service
    Check my answer

  26. A four year old girl has had a temperature of 38.5°C for two days and has not wanted to eat her food. Yesterday she developed a sore throat and small, painful ulcers inside her mouth. Today she has small blisters on the palms of her hands and soles of her feet which are painful but not itchy.

    What is the SINGLE most likely underlying cause?
    1. Coxsackie virus
    2. Herpes simplex virus
    3. Staphylococcus aureus
    4. Streptococcus pneumoniae
    5. Varicella zoster virus
    Check my answer

  27. A 32 year old woman has had three episodes of slurred speech and two episodes of transient weakness of both legs in the past five years. Each episode has resolved within three months.

    What is the SINGLE most likely diagnosis?
    1. Meningioma
    2. Migraine
    3. Multiple sclerosis
    4. Stroke
    5. Transient ischaemic attack
    Check my answer

  28. A 38 year old man with longstanding alcohol dependence has vertigo and a tremor every morning.

    What is the SINGLE most likely diagnosis?
    1. Anxiety
    2. Benign positional vertigo
    3. Cerebellar degeneration
    4. Optic neuritis
    5. Temporal lobe epilepsy
    Check my answer

  29. An 84 year old woman with Alzheimer's dementia has recently become incontinent and more confused than usual.

    What is the SINGLE most likely diagnosis?
    1. Detrusor overactivity
    2. Neuropathic bladder
    3. Nocturnal enuresis
    4. Urinary tract infection
    5. Uterine prolapse
    Check my answer

  30. A 14 year old girl comes requesting the oral contraceptive pill (OCP). She says she is sexually active. Her boyfriend is in the year above her at school.

    What is the SINGLE most appropriate action?
    1. Advise her about safe sex and prescribe OCP
    2. Contact her parents
    3. Contact the local safeguarding officer
    4. Contact the police
    5. Explain it is illegal to prescribe the pill for her
    Check my answer


Each answer is worth one mark.

PLAB 1 sample questions answers
Question Answer
1 D - Iritis
A - Admission to the psychiatry ward
3 C - Hepatitis B vaccine and hepatitis B immunoglobulin
4 C - Aplastic anaemia
5 B - Chronic pyelonephritis
6 A - Delirium
7 D -  700
8 C - Levonorgestrel intra-uterine system
9 A - Amoxicillin
10 D - Cognitive behaviour therapy
11 D - None
12 D - Linea alba
13 D - Local exploration of wound
14 B - Reactive arthritis
15 A - Infectious mononucleosis
16 A - Autistic spectrum disorder
17 A - Aorto iliac
18 A - Sodium 130 mmol/L, potassium 2.5 mmol/L
19 D - Intravenous fluids; intravenous antibiotic
20 B - Methadone is eliminated from the body more slowly than naloxone
21 C - Endocervical swab
22 D - Magnesium citrate (orally)
23 C - Neisseria gonorrhoeae and Chlamydia trachomatis
24 B - Baclofen
25 E - Refer to eating disorder service
26 A - Coxsackie virus
27 C - Multiple sclerosis
28 C - Cerebellar degeneration
29 D - Urinary tract infection
30 A - Advise her about safe sex and prescribe OCP