UK Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA) Exam: Complete Guide

UK Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA) Exam: Complete Guide 2024

The United Kingdom Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA) – also known as the MLA – is the new exam that has been introduced by the General Medical Council (GMC) from 2024 onwards. The UKMLA will ensure that all doctors registered to practise in the UK have the knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for safe practice.

It will be taken by all students at UK medical schools due to graduate in the academic year 2024-25 onwards, however, some universities are using the MLA format in the 2023-24 academic year. International medical graduates applying to practise in the UK will still be required to take the PLAB. However, from early 2024 the PLAB will become compliant with the requirements of the UKMLA, meaning the PLAB blueprint will be replaced with the UKMLA content map. You can find out more about the UKMLA content map in the section below.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about the UKMLA, including when you need to take the exam, the format of the UKMLA and how to prepare.

Do you need to take the UKMLA?

Our UKMLA AKT question bank and UKMLA CPSA question bank, designed specifically to match the exam syllabus, can help!

The UKMLA syllabus differs from old-style medical finals or the PLAB.

Ensure that any question bank provider you use hasn’t just changed the name of their old question bank. Medicine is vast, and you may waste considerable time revising topics not in the MLA.

All providers should be able to give you a breakdown of exactly how their question bank matches the UKMLA content map. Find ours here.

Find out more

What is the UKMLA?

The GMC sets the standard for medical education and doctors working within the UK; all doctors working in the UK must be registered with the GMC and have a licence to practise.

The UKMLA has been designed as a standardised assessment for all doctors applying for a licence to practise medicine. It will ensure that those graduating in the UK and abroad meet the same standard for safe practice before they are licensed to practise.

Previously, medical schools chose their finals, and this inevitably meant there was variation across different universities, and those who qualified abroad were required to complete the PLAB which is an entirely different exam to UK students. The UKMLA will provide a UK-wide threshold for safe practice in the UK.

What is the format of the UKMLA?

The exam is made up of two parts:

  1. Applied Knowledge Test (AKT): This is an on-screen, multiple-choice exam, made up of 200 single-best-answer (SBA) questions. It aims to assess your ability to apply medical knowledge to different scenarios.
  2. Clinical and Professional Skills Assessment (CPSA): This is a practical exam that involves demonstrating your clinical and professional skills in response to scenarios which you might encounter in clinical practice. You may hear the CPSA referred to as an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) or Objective Structured Long Examination Record (OSLER).

If you’re studying at a UK university, both parts of the exam will be set and delivered by your medical school; although the GMC will set the requirements that all AKTs and CPSAs must meet. Alternatively, if you’re an international graduate applying to practise medicine in the UK, your UKMLA will be set by the General Medical Council (GMC).

MLA Content Map

The MLA content map sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours required to practise medicine in the UK. Within this document, you will find the topics and areas that the AKT and CPSA assessments may cover.

The content map is based on the following key documents:

  1. The GMC’s Outcomes for Graduates – this sets out the knowledge and skills you must possess as a newly qualified doctor from a UK medical school.
  2. The GMC’s Generic Professional Capabilities Framework – this sets out the ‘essential generic capabilities needed for safe, effective and high-quality medical care in the UK’.
  3. Relevant parts of the UK Foundation Programme Curriculum and situations you will typically face during the UK Foundation Programme.

There are 3 overarching themes:

  1. Readiness for safe practice
  2. Managing uncertainty
  3. Delivering person-centred care

And six sections (called domains):

  1. Areas of clinical practice – for example, mental health and surgery.
  2. Areas of professional knowledge – for example, biomedical sciences and medical ethics and law.
  3. Clinical and professional capabilities – for example, assessing and managing risk, and safeguarding vulnerable patients.
  4. Practical skills and procedures – these are set out in the GMC’s Outcomes for Graduates.
  5. Patient presentations – this refers to the signs, symptoms, investigation results and other relevant patient-related issues typically seen by doctors in a first appointment within the UK Foundation Programme. The examples given are a chronic rash or breast lump.
  6. Conditions (pathophysiological diseases or clinical diagnoses) – again, this refers to those typically seen by doctors in a first appointment within the UK Foundation Programme. The examples given are asthma and eating disorders.

You can find more information, including a breakdown of the areas of clinical practice and professional knowledge, in the MLA content map.

UKMLA Exam Dates 2024

All UK medicine graduates will soon need to take the UKMLA.

Some students will be taking the UKMLA this year, and this will apply to all students graduating from UK medical schools in the academic year 2024–2025 and onwards. You will take the UKMLA as part of your medical degree and you must pass before you can join the GMC medical register. The exam will be taken at your medical school and on dates chosen by them. Finals are normally taken anywhere from January – July in either the 4th or 5th year.

The most up-to-date information provided by the GMC states that international applicants who are currently required to take the PLAB will continue to do so and will not be required to sit the UKMLA. However, from 2024 onwards the PLAB blueprint will be replaced by the UKMLA content map to make the exam compliant with the requirements of the UKMLA. The name is also expected to be “modernised” at some point, so you may find that it eventually becomes named the MLA. If you’re an international graduate applying to practise in the UK, you can find everything you need to know about how the introduction of the UKMLA will affect you in our PLAB and UKMLA blog.

Is UKMLA pass or fail and what score do I need?

Yes, the UKMLA is a pass or fail assessment. Students at UK medical schools will need to pass the exam in order to graduate and apply for a licence to practise medicine. Currently, we do not know what score you need to pass the UKMLA, however, we expect this to become more clear in the coming months as further information is released.

When will I get my UKMLA results?

Your results for both the AKT and CPSA sections of the MLA will be given to you by your medical school. The time in which you receive these after your exam will vary, and we recommend finding out the results policy for your specific medical school.

What happens if I fail the UKMLA?

The UKMLA exam is to be treated like any other part of your degree, and passing it is a requirement for graduating. The GMC states that they expect to “agree a maximum number of permitted attempts, and an appeals system for the AKT” however, this is yet to be released, and we recommend setting proficient time aside to prepare for your UKMLA exam to ensure you do not fall into this category. We will tell you a little bit more about our dedicated UKMLA question bank below, which you can use to help you prepare.

Will I have to pay for the UKMLA?

Students at UK medical schools will not be charged to take the UKMLA as their university will cover the cost of the exam. However, you may have to pay for any resits that you need to take.

Will the UKMLA be similar to PLAB?

The PLAB is the current exam some international medical graduates take when applying for a licence to practise medicine in the UK. You can find more information, including who is required to complete the exam, in our PLAB Guide.

Although there will undoubtedly be differences between the UKMLA and the PLAB – they’re different exams after all – there are similarities too, mainly:

  • The exam is made up of two parts.
  • The AKT (the first part of the UKMLA) and the PLAB 1 are both theory-based exams with multiple choice questions.
  • The CPSA ( the second part of the UKMLA) and the PLAB 2 are both practical exams. For each, you’ll be given scenarios reflecting real-life settings and patient interactions.
  • You need to pass the AKT before you can take the CPSA; the same rule applies for passing PLAB 1 before taking PLAB 2.
  • The same number of resits are available – you can attempt the UKMLA and the PLAB up to 4 times.

And remember, although the PLAB is not changing to the UKMLA, the PLAB blueprint will be replaced with the UKMLA content map from 2024, so the exam will assess you against the UKMLA criteria rather than the current PLAB criteria.

UKMLA Preparation

Getting to grips with the UKMLA content map is the best place to start. This contains the knowledge, skills and behaviours you need to pass the exam. 

The vast majority of people will prepare using this, their university notes, and online question banks. 

The UKMLA content map can seem quite daunting, with a breakdown of the six ‘domains’ and an ‘A-Z of presentations’, it’s not the easiest document to revise from. That’s why we’ve created a brand new and totally comprehensive UKMLA question bank tailored specifically to the MLA content map. With over 4000 questions covering every MLA presentation and condition, we have designed it to make revising for the MLA simple and effective, and you can see how many questions we have for each condition here. We haven’t just rebranded our previous finals question bank; our question bank has been created solely for the UKMLA.

How to choose your UKMLA Question Bank

As mentioned above, the MLA content map details every area and presentation you could be assessed on. When you are choosing your question bank, look for one that has been mapped against this and that gives you the opportunity to practise answering questions covering all elements of the exam, to ensure that you’re as prepared as possible for any question you may encounter. Medicine is vast, and finals are tough, so you need to ensure you are revising exactly what you need to for the exam, and not spending hours revising topics that won’t come up.

UKMLA AKT Example Question

Example of an AKT question from the Medibuddy UKMLA Question Bank.

A question bank which includes detailed explanations will also support your revision further, ensuring that you can learn from any mistakes you make and expand your knowledge across the MLA topics. Our UKMLA question bank provides a comprehensive overview of every topic, allowing you to learn about the relevant subject after each question, or to access it all in our ‘library’ to work through topics at your own pace.

UKMLA AKT Explanation

Example of a detailed AKT explanation from the Medibuddy UKMLA Question Bank.

How artificial intelligence technology can improve your UKMLA score

Our UKMLA AKT question bank uses our state-of-the-art AI technology to personalise your learning experience. Using machine learning algorithms, it continually assesses your strengths and weaknesses as you’re answering questions, and adapts based on your needs, giving you topics and questions most suited to further your learning. But what does this mean? You won’t spend time answering questions on topics you already know, and you won’t spend hours answering questions on topics you aren’t familiar with yet, the question bank will build you up to these. This ensures that your exam revision is focused on areas which will have the biggest impact on your progress, makes the most effective use of your time and helps maximise your UKMLA score.

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