An overview of the PLAB test for international doctors wanting to register with the GMC
The Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board test, also known as the PLAB test, is an exam that determines whether an international doctors who has qualified abroad has the knowledge and skills to practise medicine in the UK. We’ve written this blog to give you an overview of the PLAB test, including:
- What is the PLAB exam?
- PLAB exam structure
- Entry requirements
- PLAB Exam Dates and fees
- PLAB preparation
- Results and applying for full GMC registration
What is the PLAB Exam?
The PLAB is a two part exam that determines whether doctors who have qualified abroad have the right knowledge and skills to practise medicine in the UK, and are at least as capable as a doctor starting their second year of foundation training.
Passing the PLAB test is a route which international doctors can take to obtain their licence to practice with the GMC (General Medical Council).
Who needs to take the PLAB test?
- have graduated from a medical school within the EEA or Switzerland
- hold a GMC approved postgraduate qualification
are not required to the PLAB test, as they will already hold the necessary credentials required by the GMC.
Doctors who have graduated outside of the UK, EEA or Switzerland, will most likely need to take the PLAB test or attain a GMC recognised postgraduate qualification.
PLAB Exam Structure
International doctors taking the PLAB exam will need to pass two tests: PLAB 1 and PLAB 2.
- This is a written exam
- The test comprises of 180 multiple choice questions
- Each question begins with a short scenario followed by a related question
- There are 5 possible answers for each question
- You will have 3 hours to complete the exam
Doctors can take the PLAB 1 test in several locations worldwide. Please click here to see the nearest location for you.
- This is an objective structured clinical exam
- The test has 18 scenarios
- Each scenario lasts 8 minutes, giving you a total exam time of 2 hours 24 minutes
- The aim of the exam is to reflect real life settings, including an acute ward or mock consultation
The GMC Clinical Assessment Centre, based in Manchester, hosts PLAB 2 tests. You can view the available dates under the ‘My Tests’ section of GMC Online. You can only do this once you have your PLAB 1 results.
The GMC require applicants for the PLAB exam to have:
- A Primary Medical Qualification from an Institution listed in the World Health Organisation Directory of Medical Schools
- IELTS or OET: you must have obtained the required scores for either
- 12 months of postgraduate clinical experience within a teaching hospital, or an approved hospital by the medical registration authorities in the appropriate country
To book your PLAB 1 exam you’ll need to have a GMC online account to submit your PMQ and English language evidence onto.
Note that the required score for IELTS is 7.5 overall, with a minimum score of 7 points in each category. For the OET, it’s a grade B in each category.
PLAB Exam Dates and Fees
To book your PLAB test, please go to your GMC online account. You’ll find the dates and locations available under the ‘My tests’ section of the page.
The PLAB 1 fee is £239
The PLAB 2 exam fee is £875
As part of our PLAB overview, we’ve written some tips to help you prepare for your PLAB tests:
- We recommend reading the PLAB Blueprint. This covers the topics and skills that you need to pass PLAB 1, as well as setting out the knowledge, skills and behaviours that you are expected to demonstrate in the exam and beyond.
- The topics and skills in the PLAB Blueprint match those typically faced by doctors starting the second year of their UK Foundation Programme training. You can view the Foundation Programme curriculum here.
- The PLAB blueprint is mapped against Good medical practice. You can build and test your knowledge of Good medical practice using this online tool and this online tool.
- Many doctors opt to attend a course for their PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 exams. We recommend looking into the courses available, particularly for PLAB 2.
Results and Applying for GMC Registration
PLAB 1 results will be available six weeks after you sit the exam under the ‘My Tests’ section of your GMC online account.
When your PLAB 2 results are available the GMC will contact you via email to give you access to your results. Again, these will be under the ‘My Tests’ section of your account.
Once you have passed both of your PLAB exams, you’ll be ready to apply for your GMC registration with a licence to practice.
You’ll have two years from when you pass your PLAB 2 test to apply. You’ll need to provide further evidence of your recent medical experience if you apply after this.
Our PLAB overview has been written as a guide to help you better understand the PLAB exams. If you have any questions, please contact our team.
If you are interested in working in the UK, want to discuss available job opportunities or may have already begun your journey and need further advice, please contact our team today.