The PLAB and the UK Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA) Exam
The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) exam is a requirement for the majority of international medical graduates applying to the General Medical Council (GMC) for a licence to practise medicine in the UK. The exam assesses whether you have the knowledge and skills required for UK practice.
The UK Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA or MLA) is a new exam being introduced by the GMC. It is designed to assess the core knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for safe practice and ensure a common and consistent threshold for all doctors registered to practise in the UK.
Understandably, there has been much confusion about what the introduction of the UKMLA means for international medical graduates, and whether they are still required to pass the PLAB before they can register with the GMC.
If you’re an international medical graduate, this guide will provide you with everything you need to know about how the UKMLA will affect you!
Is the UKMLA replacing the PLAB?
For many people, this will no doubt be their biggest question about the PLAB and UKMLA right now, as they try to figure out what this all means for them.
Initially, the UKMLA was set to replace the PLAB from 2024 onwards – and in fact, there is a great deal of outdated information online which still states this – however, this is no longer the case!
|The most up-to-date information from the GMC states that if you’re currently required to take the PLAB, you will continue to do so, and you will not need to complete the UKMLA.|
However, from early 2024, the PLAB blueprint will be replaced by the MLA content map, which outlines the core knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for practising within the UK. This will make the PLAB compliant with the requirements of the UKMLA and ensure that all those registered with the GMC to practise medicine in the UK are assessed against the same standards. The MLA content map will also provide shared topics for the PLAB and UKMLA assessment areas.
This means if you plan to take the PLAB exam in 2024, it may be based on the MLA content map rather than the PLAB blueprint. If this is the case, you’ll be contacted by the GMC at least 3 months before your exam to let you know. You can learn more about the MLA content map in our Guide to UKMLA.
In the future, the name of the exam is also expected to be “modernised”, so you may find that the PLAB is eventually called the UKMLA. However, you should notice very little change during this transition period and should continue to refer to the GMC’s PLAB guides for information and advice about the exam.
What are the requirements for the PLAB and MLA?
The PLAB forms part of your GMC application for a licence to practise medicine within the UK. Before you can book your PLAB exam, you need to set up a GMC online account, demonstrate that you meet the eligibility criteria and provide the necessary evidence. You can find out more about the eligibility criteria for registering with the GMC in our PLAB Pathway blog.
The UKMLA is required for all UK medical students due to graduate in the academic year 2024/25 onwards. You do not need to apply to take the UKMLA; this will be included in your medical degree and will be a requirement for graduating and being able to apply for GMC registration.
English language requirements for the UKMLA / PLAB
English language requirements are included in the eligibility criteria for GMC registration. As part of your application, you must provide evidence that you meet the English language requirements for practising within the UK, before you can book your PLAB exam.
How much will the UKMLA / PLAB cost?
The current PLAB fees for booking from 1 April 2023 onwards are as follows:
|Part 1 / PLAB 1||£255|
|Part 2 / PLAB 2||£934|
Cancellation fees also apply for the PLAB. You can find details of these in our PLAB Guide.
There are no fees for UK medical students undertaking the UKMLA as the cost will be covered by your medical school. However, a fee may be charged for any possible resits.
What is the UKMLA / PLAB exam structure?
The PLAB is made up of the following 2 exams:
This is a 3-hour multiple choice written exam. It consists of 180 single-best-answer (SBA) questions. For each question, you’ll be given a scenario, followed by a question and five possible answers. You can see an example from our PLAB 1 question bank below to give you an idea of the question structure:
You can also find more information in our PLAB 1 Guide.
This is a practical ‘objective structured clinical exam’ (OSCE). It consists of 16 scenarios, each lasting 8 minutes, which aim to reflect real life situations and settings. You can find out more about the PLAB 2 exam in our PLAB Guide.
The UKMLA similarly consists of 2 exams:
The Applied Knowledge Test (AKT)
This on-screen, multiple-choice exam is made up of 2 papers. Each paper consists of 100 single-best-answer (SBA) questions, each with 5 answer options. You can find more information, including the areas of clinical practice that are assessed within the exam, in our Guide to the AKT.
Clinical and professional skills assessment (CPSA)
This is a practical assessment of your clinical and professional skills, knowledge and behaviours. You may see this referred to as an ‘objective structured clinical examination’ (OSCE) or ‘objective structured long examination record’ (OSLER). You can find out more about the CPSA, including what topics are covered, in our CPSA Guide.
The GMC has confirmed that PLAB 1 will meet the requirements of the UKMLA AKT, and PLAB 2 will meet the requirements of the UKMLA CPSA.
Do IMG doctors need to do PLAB and the UKMLA?
The majority of international medical graduates applying for a licence to practise medicine in the UK will be required to pass the PLAB only.
As a general rule, if you qualified outside of the UK and don’t hold a ‘relevant European qualification’, you must complete the PLAB as part of your registration application. There are some exceptions to this, which you can learn more about on the GMC’s website.
The current advice from the GMC is that the UKMLA will only be used to assess UK medical graduates.
What if I took PLAB 1 and it becomes UKMLA?
If you have already passed PLAB 1, this will remain valid, and you will have 3 years in which to pass PLAB 2, as is the current rule from the GMC. If you subsequently need to complete PLAB 2 after the changes are introduced, you may find that your PLAB 2 exam is mapped against the MLA content map. However, this will not affect the registration process, and you should notice no other changes in requirements.
Will UKMLA be harder than the PLAB?
As the MLA content map will be used for PLAB exams from early 2024, you may be wondering what this means for the difficulty of the exam. Will the UKMLA be harder than the PLAB? And if so, will this in turn make the PLAB more difficult to pass?
The MLA content map will set out the core knowledge, skills and behaviours needed for UK practice. As the PLAB exam already covers these areas, the standard of the test and the types of questions you’ll experience will not change. Therefore, the introduction of the MLA content map should not affect your PLAB preparation or your test day experience.
To give you an idea of the PLAB difficulty, you can find the most recent pass rates in our PLAB Guide.
Will post-graduate exams be replaced by UKMLA?
The introduction of the UKMLA will not change the post-graduate pathway. The UKMLA is intended to assess doctors applying for a licence to practise medicine and, therefore, will have no impact on the exams you may take during the foundation programme and beyond.
How do I prepare for the UKMLA / PLAB?
To prepare for the PLAB exam, the GMC recommends that you refer to the following documentation:
- PLAB blueprint (remember from early 2024 this will be replaced by the MLA content map)
- Foundation Programme curriculum
- Good medical practice guidance
Although these resources provide comprehensive guidance for UK medical practice, revising for an exam from this type of document is difficult. Therefore, most people supplement this with the use of question banks.
The GMC offers 30 sample questions for PLAB 1 and a sample OSCE station for PLAB 2. These are great starting points for your revision, but you’ll need to practise with a wider range of questions to prepare effectively.
Our personalised PLAB 1 Question Bank covers all aspects of the PLAB blueprint to ensure your revision is comprehensive and effective. What’s more, our AI-powered algorithm automatically assesses your progress and adapts to your individual learning needs. By providing you with questions that are targeted to your areas of development, it ensures your learning is more focused, and therefore makes the best use of your revision time!
The question bank dashboard (below) also makes it easy for you to see how you’re performing in all areas of the exam so you can take control and choose which topics you want to focus on.
A high-quality question bank, with detailed explanations and learning personalised to you, such as our PLAB 1 question bank, is the perfect accompaniment to the GMC resources.
For the UKMLA, the GMC states that your UK medical degree is the best preparation for the exam, and you won’t need to learn anything beyond what is covered in the curriculum. The MLA content map outlines the topics that will be assessed and is a useful tool for identifying areas which you may need to revise or develop further to ensure you’re prepared for the AKT and CPSA.
However, as with the PLAB blueprint, the MLA content map is not easy to revise from. Our brand new, comprehensive UKMLA question bank has been specifically tailored to the MLA content map, to make revising for the exam simple and effective.
Mapped against the MLA content map, there are over 4000 questions covering every MLA presentation and condition, so you can practise answering questions across all elements of the exam. Designed to the same high standards as our PLAB question bank, it uses AI technology to personalise your learning experience, and provides detailed explanations and a learning library to further your knowledge.
We hope this guide has been useful in providing you with up-to-date and accurate information about the PLAB and UKMLA. We know it can be confusing and stressful when information is changing and developing, so we’ll continue to update this as more information becomes available from the GMC.
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