During my preparation for the exam, I contacted some of the PLAB academies and was informed that the CSA is similar to the PLAB and that my attending the PLAB2 course , I would be able to cover 70-80% of the CSA content. Though they were definitely right about there being an over lap, I will be a bit conservative here and say there is a 50-60% similarity.
The below content is my personal opinion alone and does not reflect absolute facts.
I know of candidates who sat the CSA exam without having attended a PLAB 2 course and did well. Actually better than I. These were both local candidates and IMG’s.
However, most of these candidates did take a CSA preparatory course, either from PLAB Right or from Samson PLAB Academy.
However, I did notice that quite a few candidates who did not attend a PLAB 2 course did struggle with quite a few topics. An example is that of IMG candidates not knowing what the DVLA was, or how to take a proper psychiatry history.
Also, the number of cases these candidates were exposed to was quite limited. PLAB 2 candidates are trained to handle quite a few varied number of clinical scenarios.
For those who did attend a PLAB 2 course, it was a good refresher course. In addition, it provided an atmosphere were you were in a high pressure atmosphere with colleagues. Th ability to do mock exams was also a plus, allowing candidates to practice against the clock. Also, the exams are quite similar in terms of station structure, time management and criteria being tested (to some degree).
The bad point is that the PLAB 2 is not the same as the CSA.
The PLAB 2 tests FY2 competency and skills, while the CSA tests FY1 competency and skills. Arguably, the CSA can be considered more of a challenging exam given the emphasis on clinical examinations and real patients.
I remember the PLAB 2 teachers speaking about the CSA exam as a more challenging exam. However, that is arguable.
The CSA also has stations that the PLAB 2 does not have, e.g. prescription writing stations, which is a challenging station for quite a few candidates.
At the end of the day, attending a CSA tailored course is the best option in my opinion. However, attending a PLAB 2 course adds to your knowledge and confidence, though it is not necessarily a must.