The exam

There are 16 stations and 2 rest stations which is divided into 2 cycles. One cycle comprises of 8 stations and 1 rest station and will either take place in “the ward” or in “consultation rooms”. The areas are situated next to each other.

Each station is 10 minutes long. The stations are broke down as:

  1. 1 minute to read the task which is written on the outside of the door.
  2. 9 minutes to perform the task
    1. you will hear a 2 minute warning bell at the end
    2. and a final 30 second warning bell.

Normally, there will be 2 people in the room. One is the simulator/patient, the other one is the examiner. There may or may not be a BNF (either the book or Ipad form).

The examiners are doctors and will be assessing your performance. They will have an Ipad and marking you during the 9 minutes. Most of the examiners are nice. They understand you are nervous and are not trying to fail you.

The simulators are actors that try to act the role of a patient. They are normally helpful (unless specifically instructed not to be). Most of them are talkative because they want to help you. Because they have memorised their script and know the important points, they might try to steer you in the right direction. Don’t ignore this help and their ques! They will not talk to throw you off per se, they will talk to give you hints! Be polite and thankful! And to my surprise, some of the CSA simulators were the same simulators that I encountered in my PLAB 2 !

Real patients. These stations seem intimidating. And to be honest they are. These patients will have real findings, this can throw you off from your normal examination flow easily.

When you are done with The Consultation Room Cycle (8 stations and a rest station), you will be taken to a room where you can rest, have water and visit the bathroom. This is only for 10 minutes while they prepare the Ward Cycle for the Consultation Cycle (as they don’t want the 2 groups to mix).

Each station has its own pass mark, determined in advance by a panel of
expert teachers and assessors to reflect the degree of difficulty. This is set by a system known as the Angoff method/ regression model. The examiners will not be told the pass
mark for a particular station in advance according to the CSA Handbook. 
Thus, when all the candidates do poorly on a station, the passing average is lowered. So Don’t worry if you do bad on a station! Move onward and “forget about it”.
 I personally thought I failed 1 station horribly. Turned out I actually passed it.