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 of the UK have the relevant knowledge and skills to practise medicine within the UK. As part of the registration process with the General Medical Council (GMC) – compulsory for all doctors wishing to practise medicine within the UK – overseas medical graduates who don’t hold a relevant European qualification are required to complete the PLAB test.
The PLAB test involves a written multiple choice exam (Part 1 / PLAB 1) and a practical clinical exam (Part 2 / PLAB 2); you can find more information about both elements of the exam below. Before you can apply to the GMC for registration with a license to practise medicine, you’re required to pass both parts of the PLAB test.
Before you get started / preparation
Before you can book the PLAB exam, you need to set up a GMC online account and demonstrate that you meet the eligibility criteria required for license registration; more information relating to the eligibility criteria can be found in the section below. Once you have completed this and provided the necessary evidence, you’ll be able to book Part 1 of the PLAB exam through your GMC online account. Note: you can only book Part 2 of the exam once you have passed Part 1.
To apply for GMC registration with a licence to practise medicine, you need to provide the following evidence to demonstrate that you meet the eligibility criteria:
- Evidence of your English language skills
The GMC provides further guidance on the evidence required prior to being able to undertake the PLAB. Usually, for doctors who qualified outside of the UK, this is evidenced by meeting the minimum score requirements for the IELTS test or OET (medicine version).
- Evidence of your fitness to practise
This includes providing details of your ‘postgraduate medical experience, non-medical experience and certain other activities for the last five years or since you graduated’. The GMC provides more information about the evidence requirements for fitness to practise.
- Primary source verification
If your primary medical qualification was completed outside of the UK, you’ll need to have this independently verified, as part of your GMC registration. You may also need to have other documentation verified as part of this process. You can find more information about document verification required by the GMC on their website here.
Once you have successfully met the eligibility requirements, you’ll then be able to book your PLAB exam. Passing the PLAB test demonstrates that you have the necessary knowledge and skills to practise medicine in the UK and, therefore, provides evidence that you meet this final requirement for registration.
Preparing for the PLAB exam
The GMC provides the following key documents which they recommend applicants to use in order to prepare for the PLAB exam:
- The PLAB blueprint
The blueprint provides details of the knowledge, skills and behaviours which will be assessed during the PLAB exam; while the supporting user guide demonstrates how to read and use the blueprint document. The PLAB blueprint is mapped against the following three documents, which the GMC also advises applicants explore as part of their PLAB preparations.
- The GMC’s good medical practice
This is the GMC’s core guidance which all doctors registered with the GMC and licensed to practise medicine in the UK must adhere to. You’ll be expected to demonstrate the values and behaviours outlined in good medical practice within your PLAB exam and whilst practising within the UK.
- The UK Foundation Programme curriculum
The PLAB assesses that applicants have the same knowledge and skills as doctors beginning the second year of their Foundation Programme training in the UK. As the Foundation Programme curriculum is the framework used for this training programme, it is a useful document for identifying key skills and competencies you’ll be expected to demonstrate during your PLAB exam.
- The GMC’s outcomes for provisionally registered doctors
This document details the outcomes doctors are required to meet following completion of their first year of Foundation Programme training and prior to being able to apply for full GMC registration with a license to practice medicine. Again, as you’ll be expected to meet the same standards as doctors beginning year 2 of their Foundation Programme training, these outcomes are relevant for the PLAB exam, and demonstrate the standards required.
You can find further support for preparing for both Part 1 and Part 2 of the PLAB exam, including where you can access PLAB sample practice questions, within our PLAB Guide 2021 blog.
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.
Submitting the Application
When applying for the PLAB exam it’s worth bearing in mind that there are only four Part 1 exam dates each year; therefore, it’s essential that you’re aware of the deadline for the exam date you require and submit your application prior to this. The Part 2 assessment does not have the same date restrictions as Part 1, with exam dates throughout the year; however, you must pass Part 1 before you can book Part 2 of the PLAB.
You can find more information about the PLAB test dates, including deadlines for applying, locations and costs, in our PLAB Guide 2021.
Part 1 – written exam
Part 1 / PLAB 1 is a 3-hour written exam, consisting of 180 multiple choice questions. For each question you’ll be given a short scenario and five possible answers, from which to choose the ‘single best answer’.
Unlike Part 2, Part 1 of the PLAB exam can be taken at various locations across the UK and a number of countries outside of the UK; you can view the available test locations and dates within your GMC online account. You can also find further information relating to Part 1 within the GMC’s PLAB 1 guide.
Part 2 – practical exam
Part 2 / PLAB 2 is a practical objective structured clinical exam (known as an OSCE), consisting of 18 scenarios, each lasting 8 minutes. The scenarios within the PLAB 2 exam aim to reflect real life settings and situations you may encounter working as a doctor within the UK, including a ‘mock consultation or an acute ward.’
Part 2 of the PLAB exam can only be completed at the GMC’s clinical assessment centre in Manchester, UK. However, Part 2 tests run throughout the year, providing more flexibility in terms of test dates, in comparison to Part 1. Further information relating to Part 2 of the PLAB is available within the GMC’s PLAB 2 guide.
When you receive results
The time between completing the exam and receiving your results varies across the two PLAB tests:
Part 1 / PLAB 1 results
For Part 1 of the PLAB test, your results will be published six weeks after you sit the exam. You’ll receive an email from the GMC allowing you access to your results in the ‘My Tests’ section of your GMC online account.
The result dates for PLAB Part 1 exams in 2021 are as follows:
|Exam date||Result date|
|18 February 2021||1 April 2021 at approximately 09:30|
|20 May 2021||1 July 2021 at approximately 09:30|
|12 August 2021||23 September 2021 at approximately 09:30|
|4 November 2021||16 December 2021 at approximately 09:30|
You can find more information about your Part 1 test results, including ‘understanding your results’ and how the pass mark is set, within the GMC PLAB 1 guide.
Once it’s confirmed that you’ve passed Part 1 of the PLAB test, you’ll be able to view and book a test date for Part 2 through your GMC online account. Note: you’re unable to do this until you’ve received your Part 1 result confirming that you’ve passed. You’ll then have three years from the date you passed Part 1 to pass Part 2 of the PLAB.
If you fail Part 1 of the PLAB, you’re able to resit the exam up to a maximum of four times, provided you still meet all eligibility requirements. Following four failed attempts, you are able to apply for one final attempt, through an application to the GMC which demonstrates evidence of additional learning over a 12 month period.
Part 2 / PLAB 2 results
For Part 2 of the PLAB test, your results will be published within four weeks of you sitting the exam. As with Part 1 of the exam, you’ll receive an email from the GMC allowing you to access your results in the ‘My Test’ section of your GMC online account, once they are available.
As with Part 1, if you fail Part 2 of the PLAB, you can resit it up to a maximum of four times, provided you still meet all elements of the eligibility criteria. Likewise, you can also submit an application to the GMC for one final attempt, following four failed attempts at PLAB 2, in which you’ll need to demonstrate evidence of additional learning over a 12 month period. You also have the option to appeal your PLAB result.
What happens after
Once you have confirmation that you’ve passed Part 2, and therefore both parts of the PLAB, you can submit your application to the GMC for registration with a license to practise medicine. Once approved by the GMC, you can work as a doctor within the UK.
It’s worth noting that your registration needs to be approved within two years of you passing Part 2 of the PLAB. If more time has elapsed between you passing PLAB 2 and submitting your registration application and receiving approval, the GMC will request additional evidence of your knowledge and skills to support your application.
PLAB after Brexit
Following the end of the Brexit transition period, you may have questions regarding how any possible changes may affect your registration with the GMC, your ability to work in different countries and/or any requirements to complete the PLAB exam. Our PLAB after Brexit blog provides guidance on how Brexit will affect each of these for individuals in a variety of situations.