PLAB Guide 2022

If you’re planning to register to practise medicine in the UK and are required to carry out the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test, our comprehensive PLAB guide will provide you with key information about the exam, including what to expect, key dates and how to prepare.

All doctors who practise medicine in the UK must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) and have a licence to practise; for the majority of international medical graduates, the application process will include a PLAB test. The exam is designed to ensure that doctors who qualified outside of the UK have the relevant knowledge and skills to practise medicine within the UK.

Which countries accept PLAB?

The PLAB is the GMC’s method of assessing the knowledge and skills required for practising medicine within the UK. It is used as evidence for applicants who don’t hold a UK or ‘relevant European qualification’. There are some exceptions, which you can find here, but generally if you qualified outside of the UK and don’t hold a ‘relevant European qualification’ you will be required to undertake the PLAB test as part of your GMC registration.

PLAB exam pattern

The PLAB test is divided into two parts, the PLAB 1 and PLAB 2, which you’ll undertake separately; the next section has more information on what is involved in each of the exams.

You must pass both parts of the PLAB test to be able to apply for registration with a license to practise medicine in the UK.

PLAB exam steps and length

The following is an overview of the two parts of the PLAB test:

PLAB 1

  • PLAB 1 is a written multiple choice exam.
  • Exam duration: 3 hours.
  • Number of questions: 180 ‘single best answer’ multiple choice questions.
  • Structure: For each one you’ll be provided with a short scenario, followed by a question and five possible answers.

PLAB 2

The GMC provides further guidance regarding the PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 tests. You’ll also find more information in our ‘PLAB Pathway/Route’ blog.

Exam requirements

Before you can book your PLAB test, you need to provide the GMC with the additional evidence required for your registration, including evidence of your medical qualification and knowledge of English. You can find more information about the evidence requirements for your registration here.

Once you’ve provided these, you’ll be able to book your PLAB 1 test; you’re not able to book the second part of the exam, PLAB 2, until you’ve received your results for PLAB 1.

PLAB dates

PLAB 1

The GMC offers PLAB 1 exams four times throughout the year, both within the UK and at a number of overseas locations. The places are limited and in high demand; to find available places and test locations, you need to register for a GMC online account.

The following are the upcoming test dates, both within the UK and overseas, provided by the GMC:

Exam date Overseas closing date UK closing date
17 February 2022 6 January 2022 3 February 2022
26 May 2022 14 April 2022 12 May 2022
11 August 2022 30 June 2022 28 July 2022
3 November 2022 22 September 2022 20 October 2022

You can find more information about ‘when and where you can take PLAB 1’, including overseas test locations, here.

PLAB 2

The GMC offers PLAB 2 tests throughout the year at their clinical assessment centre in Manchester. As with the PLAB 1 test, you can view available places and book your test through your GMC online account; remember you’re not able to do this until you’ve received your PLAB 1 results.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, unfortunately PLAB 2 bookings for January and February 2022 were cancelled for candidates not in the UK, or whom do not have job offers. In February 2022, tests for candidates already in the UK or with job offers will go ahead. Currently, the GMC has confirmed there will be dates available from summer 2022, and advise keeping an eye out for earlier dates in case of cancellations.

PLAB cost

The following are the test fees for the PLAB exams, as provided by the GMC:

PLAB test fees Effective from 1 April 2021 Effective from 1 April 2022
Part 1 of the PLAB test (PLAB 1) £240 £247
Part 2 of the PLAB test (PLAB 2) £879 £906

The GMC also provides the following information relating to cancellation fees:

PLAB test cancellation fees Effective from 1 April 2021 Effective from 1 April 2022
PLAB 1 – cancellations over 42 days before exam £24 £24.70
PLAB 1 – cancellations less than 42 days before exam £240 £247
PLAB 2 – cancellations over 42 days before exam £87.90 £90.60
PLAB 2 – cancellations between 42 and 28 days before exam £439.50 £453
PLAB 2 – cancellations less than 28 days before exam £879 £906

Exam syllabus

The GMC provides a PLAB test blueprint which provides details of the knowledge, skills and behaviours you’ll be expected to demonstrate during the exam. The blueprint provides a knowledge section, which outlines what will be tested, as well as a domains section, which links to the GMC’s core guidance, good medical practice.

The GMC states that the blueprint document is mapped against the following documents, which you may find useful to explore further:

  • Good medical practice – the GMC’s core guidance which all registered doctors must adhere to. You must be able to demonstrate the values and behaviours set out in this document during your PLAB exam and during your practice in the UK.
  • Outcomes for provisionally registered doctors – these are the outcomes doctors must meet following completion of their first year of Foundation Programme training to be able to apply for full registration with a license to practise.
  • The UK Foundation Programme curriculum – this is the framework which is used in the UK to support the first two years of educational training for doctors.

To pass the PLAB test you must be able to demonstrate that you possess the ‘skills, professional values and behaviours [the GMC] expect of all licensed doctors working in the UK‘.

You can download the blueprint here, as well as the supporting user guide, which explains how to read and use the blueprint.

Important Skills

The advice relating to the required skills for the PLAB test is the same for both parts of the exam and are covered in the blueprint provided by the GMC. These skills ‘match those typically faced by doctors starting the second year of their UK Foundation Programme training’, to ensure that doctors passing the PLAB are at the same level as doctors who qualify in the UK. Therefore, the Foundation Programme curriculum is a useful document to explore, along with the blueprint, to determine the skills you’ll be expected to demonstrate in the PLAB exam.

PLAB test preparation

To prepare for the PLAB test, the GMC recommends that you use the PLAB blueprint, the Foundation Programme curriculum and the good medical practice guidance; all of which are covered in the previous two sections.

They also provide the following additional resources in relation to the good medical practice guidance, to support you to develop and test your knowledge of the document:

  • Explanatory guidance – further guidance and advice relating to specific ethical topics.
  • Good medical practice in action – an online interactive tool which provides ‘60 real-world scenarios’ to practise applying the GMC guidance.
  • Welcome to UK practice – a free online workshop which provides practical advice and ethical scenarios to practise applying the GMC guidance

PLAB example/sample practice questions

The GMC offers a selection of sample questions for PLAB 1 with answers, explanations and links to the relevant GMC guidance.

Likewise, for PLAB 2 the GMC provides a sample OSCE station, detailing the scenario, what the examiner will be looking for and what you need to demonstrate to be successful.

For thousands of professionally written practice questions and tests, keep an eye out for our adaptive PLAB question bank, launching soon. Powered by artificial intelligence, our PLAB practice questions respond to your strengths and weaknesses, and ensure that you focus on your areas for development. Helping you to progress faster and take your PLAB preparation to the next level.

PLAB difficulty

The PLAB test assesses you against the level of knowledge and skills expected of doctors beginning the second year of their Foundation Programme training in the UK. To gain a deeper understanding of the level of difficulty this involves, you can explore the Foundation Programme curriculum here.

Good PLAB passing score

The GMC does not provide a pass score for either of the PLAB exams, as this changes depending on the individual tests; therefore, it’s impossible to know for certain what mark you must achieve. However, they do provide a total number of scenarios (see below) that you need to pass in the PLAB 2 exam, which gives you some indication of the achievement required.

Although an overall pass score isn’t provided, the GMC does set out how this is calculated, which varies across the two PLAB tests.

PLAB 1

Within PLAB 1, you’ll be awarded one mark for each correct answer within the 180 multiple choice questions, with the total number of correct answers being your test score. To calculate the pass mark for each individual test, the GMC uses the ‘internationally recognised Angoff method and include[s] one standard error of measurement’.

You can find more information about how your PLAB 1 test will be scored and how the GMC ensures consistent and fair pass scores here.

PLAB 2

During the PLAB 2, you’ll be assessed at each of the 18 scenario stations against the following ‘marking domains’, as outlined by the GMC:

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

You’ll receive a score for each scenario, from which it’ll be judged as to whether you’ve passed the station or not. There isn’t a set pass mark for the stations; rather, the GMC uses the ‘borderline regression scoring method’ meaning that ‘the pass mark varies with the difficulty of the station and for each exam’. However, to pass the PLAB 2 exam, you must meet or exceed the total score required and pass a minimum of 10 stations overall.

You can find more information about how the total score is calculated and your test is assessed, as well as the type of feedback you’ll receive following the exam, on the GMC’s website here.

PLAB pass rate

The GMC provides the following data in relation to the pass rates for the PLAB examinations:

Recent PLAB 1 pass rates

Year Number of candidates who sat PLAB 1 Number of candidates who passed PLAB 1 Percentage of candidates who passed PLAB 1
2016 3,314 2,471 74.6%
2017  5,411  4,089  75.6%
2018 7,559 5,239 69.3%
2019 11,118 7,014 63.1%
2020 10,601 7,384 69.7%

Recent PLAB 2 pass rates

Year Number of candidates who sat PLAB 2 Number of candidates who passed PLAB 2 Percentage of candidates who passed PLAB 2
2016 2,454  1,798 73%
2017 2,966   2,333  79%
2018 5,229  3,428  66%
2019 8,702 5,780  67%
2020 3,654 2,438 67%

For each of the exams, you have a maximum of four attempts to pass, and you must pass both the PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 to be able to register for license to practise medicine within the UK.

Future of the PLAB and replacement by the UKMLA in 2024

The Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA or UKMLA) is a new GMC assessment scheduled to begin in 2024.

Rather than undertaking the PLAB test, as you would currently, medical graduates who qualified outside of the EEA will be required to take the new UKMLA from 2024, as part of the registration process to be granted a license to practise medicine within the UK.

This exam will also be taken by UK students as part of their medical degree, prior to being able to join the medical register, and will be applicable to students qualifying in the academic year 2024–25 onwards.

The GMC has also confirmed that they hope to include the UKMLA in the application process for medical graduates from the EEA registering with them. This would allow for a common assessment for almost all doctors registering to practise in the UK.

The GMC provides additional guidance on the UKMLA for UK medical students and international medical graduates, on their website here.

New guidance

Finally, the GMC has provided additional guidance for candidates undertaking the PLAB tests during the COVID-19 pandemic, which you can access here.

If you want to find out more about how Brexit will affect requirements for the PLAB, our ‘PLAB After Brexit’ blog has everything you need to know.

Professionally written PLAB question bank

Competition is fierce, so let us give you that extra edge to get the job.

PLAB AI Powered, Adaptive Question Bank

Take your PLAB revision to the next level with our artificial intelligence powered, adaptive question bank. Our state of the art algorithms will help you progress faster than ever.

Coming soon...

Further reading

More tips on smashing your PLAB interview.

PLAB

PLAB 1 Guide

Our comprehensive PLAB 1 guide will provide you with all the information you need – including registration, fees and dates; what the exam entails; and how to prepare – if you’re planning to take the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) 1 exam in 2022. The PLAB exam (PLAB 1 and PLAB 2) is an […]

By Medibuddy — 14 March 2022

PLAB

PLAB Pathway / Route

If you’re planning to undertake the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test, our PLAB pathway / route guide will provide you with key information about the process, from preparing and submitting your application through to receiving your exam results and what happens next. The PLAB is designed to assess that doctors who qualified outside […]

By Medibuddy — 06 January 2022

PLAB

PLAB After Brexit

The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test assesses the knowledge and skills of doctors who qualified outside of the UK, as part of the General Medical Council’s (GMC’s) registration process. All doctors practising medicine in the UK must be registered with the GMC. Following the end of the Brexit transition period, you may be […]

By Medibuddy — 05 January 2022