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What is the GMC PLAB Exam?

If you are considering applying for the PLAB exams in order to work in the UK then this blog is for you. We cover PLAB exam eligibility, PLAB timelines and common questions that we are asked by IMG (International Medical Graduate) doctors. 

Register for our next Free PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 webinars here.

For our All-in-one PLAB 1 Gold Pass Package click here.

For our All-in-one PLAB 2 Gold Pass Package click here.

Join our PLAB support group on Facebook here

What is the PLAB exam?

The Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board exam (more commonly referred to as the PLAB exam) is taken by doctors who qualified from medical school outside of the UK. The PLAB exam allows IMG (International Medical Graduate) doctors to demonstrate that they have the appropriate skills and knowledge to practice medicine in the UK. The aim of passing PLAB is to show that you are at the same level as a doctor entering the second year of UK Foundation Programme training.

There are two parts to the exam (covered in brief below). For full details of PLAB 1 click here. For full details of PLAB 2 click here

PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 dates run throughout the year – the latest dates can be found on the GMC website.

Who needs to take the PLAB exam?

If you graduated from a medical school that is not from the UK, Switzerland or EEA (European economic area) you will most likely need to take the PLAB exam in order to work as a doctor in the UK.

Who can take the PLAB exam?

You are eligible to apply for the PLAB exam if you have met the following requirements:

  • 1) You have 12 months of post graduate clinical experience at a teaching hospital.
  • 2) You have a primary medical qualification listed in the World health Organisation Directory of Medical Schools.
  • 3) You have passed IELTS with an overall score of 7.5 (and a minimum score of 7 in each section) or you have passed OET with a minimum of grade B in each section.

How many parts are there to the PLAB exam?

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, which you have 3 hours to complete the exam. You can take the PLAB 1 exam in multiple countries at approved test centres. For all PLAB 1 resources and details click here

The PLAB 2 exam is a practical exam which only takes place in the UK – in the GMC assessment centres in Manchester. You can only book your PLAB 2 exam after passing your PLAB 1 exam first. For all PLAB 2 and details resources click here. 

What is the difference between PLAB and USMLE?

PLAB is the medical licensing exam for those doctors who wish to work in the UK. USMLE is the US medical licensing exam for those wanting to work in the US. The USMLE is made up of three steps and it can be taken during medical school unlike PLAB. 

In the UK after passing the PLAB exam you can apply for GMC registration which allows you to work as a doctor in the UK. However in the US you cannot start working until you have a residency job. 

Will I need to take the UKMLA?

The GMC has now confirmed that UKMLA (UK Medical licensing assessment) will be introduced for IMG doctors from 2024 onwards. If you have not completed PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 before 2024, you will need to prepare for the UKMLA exam. 

If you have already completed PLAB 1 then you will only need to sit the practical part of the UKMLA – the CPSA (replacement for PLAB 2).

If you have passed PLAB 1 but failed PLAB 2 then you will still need to take the CPSA and your previous PLAB 2 attempts will be counted towards your total number of attempts.

What is UKMLA?

The UKMLA will replace PLAB in 2024 and will become the new exam that IMG doctors will need to pass in order to gain GMC registration with a licence to practise in the UK. 

Similarly to PLAB it will be made up of 2 parts: the AKT (applied knowledge tests – note this is different to the MRCGP AKT exam) and the CPSA (clinical and professional skills assessment). The required level of knowledge is expected to be similar to someone who just finishes medical school, as opposed to an SHO level which the current PLAB exam assesses against. The reason for this is that from the academic year 2024-2025 all UK medical students will also need to take the UKMLA as part of their degree to work as a doctor in the UK. For full details of the UKMLA, click here.

Are there any alternative routes to PLAB?

PLAB is just one of the routes to gain GMC registration. There are other options available which include:

  • – Sponsorship
  • – Acceptable postgraduate qualifications
  • – Specialist registration
  • – GP registration

More details about these alternative routes can be found on the GMC website.

In summary, key steps

  1. 1). Decide the best route for you to acquire GMC registration to practise medicine in the UK (for most doctors this will be the PLAB route until 2024).
  2. 2) If you and taking PLAB, check your eligibility and apply for the PLAB 1 exam.
  3. 3) After passing the PLAB 1 exam, then apply for PLAB 2 (GMC will send details about availability for PLAB 2 details once you have passed PLAB 1)
  4. 4) Book PLAB 2 date – leaving enough time to arrange a visa to travel to the UK – perhaps consider doing a clinical attachment during your stay in the UK when taking PLAB 2 (click here for clinical attachment details).
  5. 5) After passing PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 apply for GMC registration.
  6. 6) Once registered with the GMC apply for your first NHS job.

Preparing for PLAB 1 and PLAB 2

If preparing for PLAB 1 then our resources are here (including our PLAB 1 Gold Pass Package).

If preparing for PLAB 2 then our resources are here (including our PLAB 2 Gold Pass Package). 

Other blogs that will help

What is the UKMLA?

How to prepare for PLAB 1

How to prepare for PLAB 2

How to become a GP in the UK

What is a clinical attachment?

About Dr Aman and Dr Pooja

Dr Aman Arora is a GP who is now 100% committed to transforming medical education, helping doctors across the globe to ace their exams and enhance their careers. He is proud to hold FRCGP (Fellow of Royal College of General Practitioners). Previous roles include:

  • GP Training Programme Director
  • NHS GP Appraiser
  • GMC PLAB 2 Examiner
  • GP Recruitment Examiner
  • GP Recruitment Question-writer
  • HEWM IMG Board Member
  • HEWM Advanced MRCGP AKT Trainer

Dr Pooja Arora is a GP with a background in Medical Politics, passionately focusing on improving the opportunities and working conditions for junior doctors. Previous roles include:

  • Vice Chair Birmingham LMC
  • BMA Council Member
  • BMA General Practitioners Committee elected representative 
  • BMA Sessional GP Committee elected representative 
  • BMA National Deputy Policy lead for working at scale
  • HEE GP Ambassador
  • HEE GP Stage 3 Assessor
  • RCGP Midland Faculty AiT representative

* Blogs written on our website are not for professional, financial or medical advice. Please seek appropriate professional, legal or financial advice where appropriate *

 

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