The Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) exam is an essential test for many doctors who qualified from overseas medical schools. If you qualified as a doctor outside the EEA, you will need to pass your PLAB exam before you can practice medicine in the UK.

To do this, you must pass a PLAB 1 test and a PLAB 2 test.

Our comprehensive PLAB exam revision materials include PLAB question banks, mock papers, flashcard sets, audiobooks, and more. They are expertly designed by Dr. Aman Arora; a former GMC PLAB examiner and question writer.

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A Guide to PLAB Exams

The Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board exam (more commonly referred to as the PLAB exam) is taken by doctors who have qualified abroad. The PLAB exam helps these doctors to demonstrate that they have the correct skills and knowledge to practice medicine in the UK. The aim of passing the PLAB test is to show that you are at the same level as a doctor entering British Foundation Programme training.

If you qualified as a doctor overseas and graduated from a medical school outside of the EEA or Switzerland, you will likely need to pass a PLAB exam before you can begin legally practising medicine in Britain. The PLAB exam is split into two parts: PLAB 1 and PLAB 2. You must pass both parts before you can work as a doctor in the UK. The PLAB 1 exam is structured as a written multiple-choice test. This contains 180 questions, and you must select the best answer for each question to earn a mark. You can take the PLAB 1 exams in multiple countries at approved test centres. PLAB part 2  is a practical exam that only takes place in the UK. You can only book your PLAB 2 exam after passing your PLAB 1 exam first. If you’re searching for PLAB dates, it’s worth knowing that parts 1 & 2 both run throughout the year.

Once you’ve passed a PLAB test, you can register for a licence to practice medicine from the General Medical Council (GMC). Once you have a licence to practice medicine you can apply for jobs within the NHS as a medical doctor.

THE PLAB 1 EXAM

PLAB 1 is a written paper testing your clinical knowledge based on the clinical areas highlighted in the GMC PLAB blueprint. It has 180 multiple choice questions for which you have 180 minutes to complete the paper. It can be taken in multiple countries including the UK – details of which can be found on the GMC website.

What are the PLAB 1 Requirements?

In order to book the exam you need to ensure you meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • Have 12 months of post-graduate clinical experience at a teaching hospital
  • A primary medical qualification listed in the World Health Organisation Directory of Medical Schools
  • Have passed IELTS with an overall score of 7.5 and a minimum score of 7 in each section or passed OET with a minimum of grade B in each section

If you meet the above criteria then you will be able to create a GMC online account in order to book the exam. The PLAB 1 exam happens throughout the year and costs £247.

How to Pass PLAB 1?

Passing PLAB 1 requires you to retain a large amount of information on several clinical areas. To score highly in PLAB 1, candidates should focus on gaining an in-depth understanding of all the areas outlined in the GMC’s PLAB 1 blueprint. These are Medicine (which is the subject for the majority of the 180 questions), Surgery, Paediatrics, Ophthalmology, OBGYN (obstetrics and gynaecology), ENT (ears, nose and throat), Psychiatry and Ethics.

To pass your PLAB 1 test, you need to cover each of these areas in detail in your revision to ensure you can easily answer questions about any of the subjects. The exam consists of 180 questions, and these change every time. It is crucial you take time to practice questions as well as learn the clinical topics. Many candidates run out of time or fail because of poor exam technique. While it is beneficial to use PLAB 1 questions banks to aid your revision, you cannot rely on memorising answers alone to pass the exam.

Revising for PLAB 1

Use mock exams to help you improve the speed at which you complete questions as well as fine-tune your technique. Ultimately you need to ensure you have knowledge that can be applied to different scenarios under time pressure.

THE PLAB 2 EXAM

The PLAB 2 exam is an OSCE-based assessment made up of 16 stations – for each station you have 8 minutes to demonstrate your skills. The PLAB 2 exam will test your ability to apply your knowledge when caring for patients in a variety of clinical situations. This may include examinations on mannequins, dealing with acute scenarios or breaking bad news. You will be expected to have the skills and expertise similar to that of a UK foundation year 2 trainee/SHO.

What are the PLAB 2 Requirements?

After passing the PLAB 1 exam, the GMC will send you an email to book your preferred PLAB 2 date. You will not be able to book the PLAB 2 exam until you have passed PLAB 1. It is important to note PLAB 2 only takes place at the GMC assessment centre in Manchester. For more details on how to book or cancel your PLAB 2 date please visit the GMC website. It costs £906 to sit the PLAB 2 exam.

Booking your PLAB 2 Exam

When booking your PLAB 2 date ensure you give yourself adequate time to apply and get your visa to come to the UK, as well as sort out accommodation. Many candidates use this time period to start preparing their CV in preparation for apply for jobs in the NHS. For instance, they may plan a prolonged stay in the UK so that they can attend PLAB 2 courses in preparation for their exam as well as book a clinical attachment (sometimes referred to as an observership). It is therefore worth thinking about what you wish to do once you come to the UK for the exam before deciding on your PLAB 2 date.

Similarly to PLAB 1 there are PLAB 2 dates throughout the year. PLAB 2 is a practical exam and is based on testing your knowledge and examination skills in a hospital or consultation setting. You will be tested on 3 domains:

  • Data gathering, technical and assessment skills
  • Clinical management skills
  • Interpersonal skills

On the day of the exam you will need to provide a proof of ID, details of which will be emailed to you prior to your exam date. You will not need to bring any of your own medical equipment, everything you need for each station will be provided. You will have approximately 1.5 minutes to read the scenario for each station, before your 8 minutes start and there will be 2 rest stations in total. It is important you dress appropriately as if you were working in a UK hospital or consultation setting. After the exam you will be notified via email when the results become available. You will be able to view your score on the ‘My tests’ section of your GMC online account. If you have passed you can then apply for GMC registration.

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