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What Is The UKMLA Exam & How Do I Prepare For It?

Find out everything you need to know about the new exams here.

The UK Medical licensing assessment (UKMLA) is a new exam being introduced for all UK medical school graduates and International Medical Graduates. 

The dates of the exam will be determined by the UK medical schools for their own students, and for IMG doctors it will be similar to the PLAB exam in that dates will be available throughout the year.

– Join the Arora PLAB 1 / UKMLA 1 Telegram teaching group here. 
– Join the Arora PLAB 2 / UKMLA 2 Telegram teaching group here
– Register for our next Free PLAB / UKMLA Webinars here

UKMLA exams

What is the UKMLA?

The UK Medical licensing assessment (UKMLA) is a new exam being introduced for all UK medical school graduates and International Medical Graduates. 

It has been designed to ensure that everyone has the right skills, core knowledge and behaviours to practise safely as a doctor in the UK. 

The UKMLA is made up of two parts – the AKT (applied knowledge test) and the CPSA (clinical professional and skills assessment)

What is the UKMLA AKT?

The Applied Knowledge test (AKT) will be an onscreen exam consisting of multiple-choice questions. This exam will test your clinical knowledge and ability to apply this knowledge in different medical scenarios. 

For UK graduates your medical school will let you know when you should take this exam as it will be incorporated as part of your degree.

For IMG doctors this will replace the PLAB 1 exam and you will be able to take this exam at approved centres worldwide.

What is the UKMLA CPSA?

The CPSA is the clinical and professional skills assessment. Depending on your medical school this may be called an OSCE (objective structured clinical examination) exam or OSLER (objective structured long examination record) exam. 

For IMG doctors this will replace the PLAB 2 assessment and will continue to take place at the GMC assessment centre in Manchester.

Good to know

The GMC is rolling out the UKMLA as part of its drive to treat all of its candidates fairly, regardless of where in the world they got their medical degrees from. 

While the second part can only take place in Manchester, everyone can take the first part wherever in the world they are on a computer — as long as there is a facility nearby that can hold the computerised tests. For most people, this is great news as it means you won’t have to travel too far.

UKMLA exams

When will UKMLA replace PLAB?

The UKMLA will be introduced in 2024 for IMG doctors (replacing the PLAB exams) and for UK medical students graduating in the academic year 2024-2025.

The dates of the exam will be determined by the UK medical schools for their own students, and for IMG doctors it will be similar to the PLAB exam in that dates will be available throughout the year.

What should I do during the UKMLA/PLAB transition period?

Until the year 2024, international medical graduates will still need to apply for the PLAB exams if they wish to get a licence and to get registered to practise in the UK.

If you have been caught up in this transition period, here are the steps you’ll need to take:

I am taking a year out (intercalating)

Intercalation refers to the act of taking a year out of your medical degree to study another subject or research area that you are interested in.

If you are intercalating during the year 2022/23 (between your 3rd and 4th year of study) then it is likely that you’ll be amongst the first cohort to sit the UKMLA exams.

I have passed both PLAB 1 and PLAB 2

If you have already passed both PLAB 1 and 2 you won’t need to bother thinking about the UKMLA changes, so long as it’s been fewer than 2 years from the date you passed the exams.

You will be able to apply for GMC registration with a licence to practise.

If it’s been longer than 2 years, you may have to sit both the UKMLA exams.

I have passed the PLAB 1 exam, but not the PLAB 2

If you have already passed your PLAB 1, but have not yet passed your PLAB 2, then you will not have to take the UKMLA AKT exam. 

You’ll only need to take the UKMLA AKT exam if you passed your PLAB 1 more than two years before the official rolling out of UKMLA. So if you passed fewer than two years ago, you may only have to sit the UKMLA CPSA. 

I have attempted the PLAB 1 but did not pass it

If you have attempted (and failed) the PLAB 1, then you will have to sit the UKMLA AKT instead. Then once you have passed the UKMLA CPSA, you will be invited to apply for a registration to practise in the UK.

I have passed PLAB 1 but did not pass the PLAB 2

If you still need to complete the PLAB 2 exam, then at this stage, you’ll likely need to take the UKMLA CPSA. Then once you’ve passed the CPSA, you’ll then have a two-year window to apply for full registration with the GMC to get a licence to practise in the UK.

Important

The number of attempts you take trying to pass the PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 tests will count towards the number of times you’ll be able to sit the UKLMA AKT test and the UKMLA CPSA test. 

For example, you can only attempt the PLAB 1 exam four times. It’s not yet certain how many times you’ll be able to attempt the UKLMA AKT course — but make sure to keep that in mind.

UKMLA exams

How much will the UKMLA cost?

For UK medical students there will be no extra charges for sitting the UKMLA exam as your medical school will have incorporated these charges into your medical school fees. 

For UK citizens studying abroad, European students and IMG doctors there will be a fee to take the exam – the exact costs are yet to be confirmed by the GMC.

UK citizens studying abroad and European students will also have to pay for the exams. 

It’s likely that the UKMLA costs will be similar to the PLAB 1 and 2 exams (approximately £1,200 for both).

UKMLA exams

Will I be able to resit the UKMLA?

Yes — for IMG doctors. For UK medical students, the resit policies are not yet fully known. The assessment will be considered part of your medical degree. And so, like other components of your degree, you would need to pass UKMLA to graduate from medical school. 

For IMG doctors the GMC has confirmed that you would be able to resit the UKMLA if necessary – however, the maximum attempts are yet to be announced.

UKMLA exams

Preparing for the UKMLA

Both the AKT and CPSA will test you based on the following domains:

– Areas of clinical practice

– Clinical and Professional Capabilities

– Areas of professional knowledge

A good place to start is by reading this MLA content map which talks in depth about what the UKMLA tests will cover here. 

This guide is sometimes referred to as the UKMLA content map and it focuses on the skills, knowledge and behaviours one is expected to have when entering the UK Foundation Programme to practise medicine safely. It is regularly updated based on feedback from students. 

We strongly recommend that you focus on the documents and headings highlighted in the MLA content map on the GMC website, but some details are below.

Areas of Clinical Practice

Focuses on a range of clinical presentations and conditions that a Foundation doctor may face in a clinical setting. For example:

– A clinical presentation such as a chronic rash, memory loss or a breast lump
– A specific condition such as asthma, lymphoma etc. 

The content map details further examples under this domain, reflecting the complexity of patient scenarios that a Foundation doctor may face whilst working.

Clinical and Professional Capabilities

This domain focuses on the ability to provide clinical care based on values detailed in the ‘GMC Good Medical Practice’, ‘Outcomes for Graduates’ and ‘Generic Professional Capabilities Network’ documents. 

The GMC expects doctors to practise with empathy and kindness whilst also tailoring care to individual patient needs and understanding their backgrounds – in essence providing holistic care. This domain will also test a doctor’s ability to perform practical skills and procedures in line with the Outcomes for Graduates document.

Keep in mind

Whilst this domain will be mainly tested in the CPSA part of the UKMLA it may also be tested in the AKT.

Areas of Professional Knowledge

This domain refers to understanding and managing aspects of biomedical science as well as medical ethics and law. The MLA content map lists a number of areas that you will need to focus on relating to this domain eg. social and population health, human factors and quality improvement, microbiology, biochemistry etc.

A flowchart of UKMLA exam patterns.
The overarching themes of the UKMLA examinations, as detailed in the content map (source: gmc-uk.org)

What is the format of the UKMLA AKT exam?

Here are some key things that we know about the UKMLA AKT exam so far:

  • It will be similar in nature to the current PLAB 1 exam. It will follow the formula of approximately 150-200 single-best-answer (SBA) questions.
  • The GMC will set the UKMLA AKT for overseas doctors, whereby UK medical students will take an exam run by their respective medical schools.
  • All medical graduates will face the same exam, regardless of whether they are UK graduates or international student graduates.
  • The test will run four times a year for international applicants at facilities where computerised testing can be carried out.
  • For UK graduates, the UKMLA AKT will replace the final exam in medical school.

What is the format of the UKMLA CPSA exam?

The UKMLA CPSA exam will be similar to the PLAB 2 exam in that both exams are Objective Structured Clinical Examinations (OCSE) — and this has been confirmed by the GMC. Unfortunately, that is all we can say at the time of writing, as there is still not enough information out there to say much more. 

Like the PLAB 2, The CPSA exam will take place at the GMC’s Clinical Assessment Centre in Manchester.

Keep in mind

Medical graduates from the UK will still have to sit the Situational Judgement Test (SJT). However, they may not need to sit the Prescribing Safety Assessment (PSA) as this is planned to be incorporated into the UKMLA. This has not been confirmed as of yet, however. 

Important

There are no planned changes to the English language requirements for registration. You will still have to prove that you have a sufficient command of English in order to safely practise in the UK.

UKMLA exams

Frequently Asked Questions

UKMLA vs. PLAB — is it much different?

The UKMLA will eventually replace the PLAB exams. Whilst they are different assessments, from initial information there appear to be similarities between the two. The AKT is an MCQ exam that can be taken in different countries (similar to PLAB 1) and the CPSA is an OSCE exam that is taken in the UK (similar to PLAB 2).

Will the UKMLA be harder than the PLAB exams?

We cannot say at this moment in time, as there isn’t enough information out there to say if it will or not. All we can go on is what the GMC says, and so the expectation is that the UKMLA will be similar in difficulty to the current PLAB examinations.

Is the UKMLA like the USMLE in the United States?

Kind of. You can think of the UKMLA as having the same purpose as the USMLE (United States Medical Licensing Examination) but there are considerable differences. 

For example, the USMLE has three stages of exams, whereas currently the UKMLA and PLAB only have two. The USMLE also requires some clinical experience to have taken place in a US hospital.

UKMLA exams

Summary

The UKMLA will set a common threshold for everyone to practise safe medicine in the UK. Whether you are a UK medical student or an IMG doctor your training will have most likely already covered the topics covered in the content map. 

Decisions such as whether to intercalate or whether to take the PLAB exam earlier should not be impacted by the UKMLA. The assessment is simply testing your ability to apply your clinical knowledge and expertise in various clinical scenarios that you may face as a UK foundation doctor to provide safe, holistic patient care – things that you need to know whether taking medical finals or PLAB. 

The UKMLA is still being reviewed and there may be more changes before it comes out in 2024. For updates, we would suggest regularly reviewing the GMC website as well as staying in touch with us over social media as we will regularly be updating as changes are announced.

Worried about the UKMLA exams? Then we can help you prepare for them.

The UKMLA exams are not here yet, but it’s never too early to start preparing for them. So whether you are a UK medical student or if you have trained abroad as an IMG doctor, we are currently preparing UKMLA online preparation courses to help with both of the UKMLA exams. 

At Arora Medical Education, we have over 10+ years’ worth of experience helping thousands of junior doctors to prepare and pass their PLAB 1 and PLAB 2. 

But don’t just take our word for it. Check out our hundreds of 5-star Trustpilot reviews here to see what our customers are saying about our courses.

– Join the Arora PLAB 1 / UKMLA 1 Telegram teaching group here. 
– Join the Arora PLAB 2 / UKMLA 2 Telegram teaching group here
– Register for our next Free PLAB / UKMLA Webinars here

Author Bio — Dr Aman Arora

Hello and welcome to Arora Medical Education! I am a Portfolio GP with a 24/7/365 passion for helping you fly through your medical exams and maximise your career. You can find out more about me here.

I’ve been fortunate to teach over 50,000 doctors globally through a combination of face-to-face, online, audio and social teaching, helping them pass exams such as MRCGP AKT and RCAMSRA and PLAB.

Feel free to contact me with any thoughts, questions or ideas to help you reach your potential. I look forward to meeting you soon!

aman

Author Bio — Dr Pooja Arora

Dr Pooja Arora is a GP with a background in Medical Politics, where she passionately focuses on improving the opportunities and working conditions for junior doctors. She is proud to hold FRCGP (Fellow of Royal College of General Practitioners).

You can find out more about Pooja’s previous roles and qualifications here.

aman

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