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What is the UKMLA AKT exam? Formerly known as PLAB 1

Your UKMLA AKT Preparation Guide. Understand what the MLA AKT is and the best methods to effectively prepare for it.

Hello! If you are planning to sit the UKMLA AKT (formerly PLAB 1) exam then this blog is for you. 

Having been a previous GMC PLAB examiner, and having taught many doctors for both Part 1 and Part 2, I have seen first-hand how a focused and structured approach helps passing this exam in a major way.

– Join the Arora UKMLA PLAB 1 Telegram teaching group here
– Register for our next Free UKMLA PLAB 1 Webinar here
– Start using the Arora UKMLA PLAB 1 Ultimate package here.

What is the MLA AKT exam? Formerly known as PLAB 1

What is MLA AKT?

MLA AKT  is the first part of the UKMLA (UK Medical Licensing Assessment)  run by the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK. It will be introduced for International Medical Graduates from August 2024 and for UK medical students from the academic year 2024/25 onwards.

The exam is MCQ-based and can be taken all over the world including the UK, India, Australia, Canada and more. For more information, please visit the GMC website.

If you are a doctor training overseas, this allows you to work in the UK as a doctor.

MLA AKT versus CPSA: The key difference

As with the MLA AKT exam it tests your application of knowledge to deal with some of the issues seen by a UK-trained foundation doctor.

But CPSA is not based on fact, recital and memorisation – it assumes you have certain levels of knowledge having cleared MLA AKT.

Instead, the CPSA exam assesses how you can apply that knowledge in various situations that you might see as a doctor in the UK, whether that be a mock consultation or a ward-based situation.

It is important to remember that CPSA assesses you against UK’s current best practice so bear that in mind when you’re preparing or when you are practising role plays and situation scenarios.

What to expect from the CPSA this year

The CPSA will be assessed differently for UK medical students depending on how your medical school decides to run the assessment. 

However for IMG doctors the GMC has announced there will be no change from the PLAB 2 exam except that it follows the MLA content map instead of the PLAB blueprint from May 2024 onwards. Hence it will be similar to the set up below:

– 16 stations in total.
– Each station lasts 8 minutes.
– 90-second break between each station.
– 2 rest stations included.
– Approximately 3 hours for the exam.

What is the difference between PLAB 1 and MLA AKT?

The GMC decided to transition to the UKMLA to provide greater confidence for patients and employers as all doctors starting work in the UK will have passed the same assessment to gain their GMC registration regardless of where they previously studied. 

The GMC have announced there is not much difference between the PLAB 1 exam and the new UKMLA AKT. The main difference is that from August 2024 the MLA AKT will be based on the UKMLA content map instead of the PLAB blueprint. The test for the foreseeable future will still be called PLAB, but will be changed to AKT at a later date.

 The MLA AKT is designed to test your theoretical knowledge with issues which UK-trained doctors experience. 

UK MLA AKT Exam Structure Infographic

For UK medical students it is up to your individual medical school whether they introduce the MLA AKT as part of your finals or as a separate assessment. 

For IMG doctors this will be the first part of the UKMLA assessment and you will need to pass this before being able to take the CPSA (the second part of the UKMLA). 

How much does MLA AKT cost?

It is thought the MLA AKT cost will be the same as PLAB 1, as some candidates have booked their PLAB 1 places after the transition in August 2024 and have not been notified of any price hikes. The PLAB 1 exam currently costs £268.

If you’ve booked it and can no longer attend, you will face a cancellation fee; £26.80 if you give over 42 days notice, £255 if you give less than 42 days notice. Therefore, we highly recommend clearing your calendar and making sure you can attend the exam.

For information, please visit the GMC website.

What is the MLA AKT exam? Formerly known as PLAB 1

Is there any criteria required before starting MLA AKT?

The GMC have stated there will be no change in eligibility to take the MLA AKT. These are currently the criteria required before you take your MLA AKT exam:

– You MUST have your primary medical degree from a university that’s listed in the WHO list of registered medical schools
– You MUST have 12 months of clinical experience in a teaching hospital
– You MUST have passed an English language test, either from IELTS or OET.

IELTS requires an overall score of 7.5, with a minimum of 7 in each section
OET requires a minimum B grade in each section

What is the MLA AKT exam? Formerly known as PLAB 1

How is it marked?

The MLA AKT exam follows the same structure all over the world:

Style: Single best answer
Duration: 3 hours
Number of questions: 200
Structure: Each question has a stem alongside five potential answers. You have to pick the single best one.

You are awarded one mark for each correct answer, with the total number of correct answers being your final score. GMC sets the pass mark for every test using the Angoff method and includes one standard error of measurement.

What is the MLA AKT exam? Formerly known as PLAB 1

MLA AKT Exam Dates & Results Released

For UK graduates your individual medical schools will inform you of when your exam will be. For IMG doctors the  exam runs four times a year in the UK and overseas. The current 2024 exam dates for MLA AKT are:

– 8th August 2024
– 7th November 2024

For overseas students, the GMC will release further dates on 14th March 2024. Specific locations and bookings can be made through the “My Tests” section of your GMC online account. 

As exam places are limited and in high demand, we recommend clearing your calendar and signing up as early as possible. 

For UK medical students your medical school will provide the results. For IMG doctors your MLA AKT results are expected to come out at a similar time to the current PLAB 1 results which is usually 6 weeks after you’ve sat the exam. The GMC sends an email providing you with details on how to access your results in the ‘My Tests’ section of your GMC Online account. The GMC will not provide your results by any other means e.g. via telephone or in person.

What is the MLA AKT exam? Formerly known as PLAB 1

How to prepare for MLA AKT?

The UKMLA AKT  is designed to test your application knowledge and it can be passed with the right preparation. 

The exam isn’t looking to see how many causes of heart failure you know, this is already expected of you having completed your undergraduate degree (i.e. MBBS). Instead, the exam looks to see how you can apply your knowledge and whether you’ll be able to work in the UK environment. Hence the reason why it is called the Applied Knowledge Test.

The MLA Content map 

The first thing I would do is go to the GMC website and download the  MLA Content Map, which guides you through all the potential topics they will test you on. It’s divided into sections and lets you plan your preparation accordingly.

Question Banks

Question banks are a major part of the preparation for MLA AKT and there are many high-question bank options available. 

Our bespoke PLAB 1 Ultimate Package  allows you to practice challenging questions in a time-pressured environment – just like in the real exam. It has been updated to reflect the new MLA Content map. 

Make sure you find a question bank that works for you as an individual – what works for someone else may not work for you. And remember it is not the number of questions you do that is important – it is the quality of feedback and what you learn from each question (whether you answer right or wrong) that matters.

Online courses

Consider attending a course or a webinar. At Arora Medical, our PLAB 1 Online course is by far our most comprehensive course out there, focused on flexible learning – it covers all GMC MLA content topics in 20+ hours of online learning. 

Social media

Social media is really important. There are many Facebook groups in terms of PLAB preparation. 

We have our own dedicated PLAB Support Facebook Group and Telegram Group, where we give plenty of daily free information and education for PLAB. We also teach daily on Instagram @dr_aman_arora.

YouTube videos are a great source of free teaching on a variety of topics – once again we have over 400 videos on our own YouTube channel (Dr Aman Arora), aimed at quick-fire teaching for PLAB 1.

Group Study

Finally, consider practising in a group – whether finding colleagues digitally via our MLA AKT telegram group: https://t.me/aroraplab1 or as a formal group where you regularly meet colleagues and work through MLA AKT questions and UKMLA topics.


Sometimes, when you are preparing for an exam like this on your own amongst all the business of daily life, it can get quite boring and tiresome – your preparation effectiveness is not as good as it would be when you are stimulated by other people.

Ultimately, there are many ways to prepare for MLA AKT – there is certainly no right way or wrong way. It is sometimes worth trying a few different things and figuring out what works for you.

For more details about the UKMLA read our UKMLA ultimate guide.

What is the MLA AKT exam? Formerly known as PLAB 1

How Arora can help you pass MLA AKT

At Arora Medical, we’ve created the ultimate PLAB 1 package (updated according to the MLA Content Map) which includes:

– 2-Day Live Virtual Course
– 7 x Mock Exams
– 1 x Video Course
– Audio Course
– 150 Guideline Flashcards
– 100 Pharmacology Flashcards

See our full MLA AKT resources for further information.  

We also run MLA AKT booster webinars, led by Dr Aman, covering everything you need to know to ace your exam.

What is the MLA AKT exam? Formerly known as PLAB 1


Is the MLA AKT exam hard?

The MLA AKT exam is designed to test your application knowledge, rather than your ability to answer “what is” or “how many” questions. 

The exam can be passed with the right amount of preparation.  

Do I need to travel to the UK to take MLA AKT?

You do not. For UK medical you will take the AKT exam as part of your medical degree. For IMG doctors the exam can be taken overseas in many different countries – for the full list, please visit the GMC website

Remember that the MLA AKT answers are based on UK best practice, and not the best practice of the country you are taking it in. 

What is the MLA AKT pass rate?

The exam will be introduced for IMG doctors in August 2024 and for UK students from the  2024/25 academic year onwards, so we do not have this data yet.

How long does it take to prepare for MLA AKT?

This depends on individual circumstances and how familiar you are with 

1. The clinical topics outlined in the MLA Content map
2. How the NHS operates & how to communicate within it effectively
3. Dealing with patients deemed “acutely unwell”
4. GMC Good Medical Practice 

Everyone has different methods of study, and some take more or less time than others, but you should give yourself at least 3-4 months to prepare for the exam. 

What happens if you fail MLA AKT? 

The GMC have stated that the resit policy will not change compared to PLAB 1. Based on this you are currently allowed four attempts to sit the exam. For UK medical students this will depend on the criteria your medical school sets.

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 SCAMSRA and PLAB. You can find out more about my previous roles and qualifications here.

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

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.

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