What is the PLAB test?

Published on 25/03/2021 in
What is the PLAB test

PLAB is a test that safely assesses international students’ ability and knowledge to practice medicine in the UK.

The test is divided into two parts. PLAB 1 being the online exam, and PLAB 2 being a clinical exam. After you pass both parts, you can apply for the license to practice medicine in the UK and become a legal, medical practitioner. 

In this article, we will tell you all about what the PLAB test is.

What is PLAB?

The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board test – PLAB test – assesses International Medical Graduates’ knowledge and skills to practice medicine in the UK safely. It checks if you have enough knowledge as a doctor starting in year two foundation program training in the UK.

This is a 2-part test that can be taken within 2-year intervals. After you pass PLAB part 1, you must pass PLAB part 2 within two years. 

Once you finish both PLAB part 1 and part 2, you can apply for a license to practice medicine in the UK.

Who needs to take the exam

Every International Medical Graduate (IMG) needs to pass the PLAB test in the UK to become a certified doctor. This excludes everyone who has studied outside of the UK, European Economic Area - EEA, or Switzerland.

Simply put, the test helps doctors who qualified abroad have the proper knowledge and skills to practice medicine in the UK.

Entry requirements to take the exam

To take the test, every student studying medicine abroad must set up a GMC account online. You will have to show that your knowledge and English skills are good enough. This can be done by presenting a language proficiency test or by going through a GMC test online.

Afterwards, you can book your place at the part 1 PLAB exam.

PLAB part 1

PLAB part 1 is an online exam containing 180 multiple-choice questions, which must be completed within 3 hours. Each question begins with a short medical scenario that gives you a quick, clear understanding of the issue. After reading the question, you need to find the right solution (answer) out of the 5 available.

It’s an online exam, so you can take it almost anywhere you want. For more information, check out GMC’s guide for registering for the PLAB 1 here: https://www.gmc-uk.org/registration-and-licensing/join-the-register/plab/plab-1-guide/when-and-where-can-you-take-plab-1 

If you fail PLAB 1, you can retake the test up to 4 times.

PLAB part 2

PLAB part 2 is a practical clinical exam that runs throughout the year at GMC’s clinical assessment centres in the UK. It includes 18 questions, each lasting for 8 minutes. During these 8 minutes, your task will be to assess the patient and make an accurate diagnosis.

The main test centre being in Manchester, there are a couple of testing centres in Cambridge and London. 

If you fail PLAB 2, you can retake the test up to 4 times.

When can you take the PLAB exam

PLAB 1 Upcoming test for 2021 is during the following dates:

  • 18 February - register before 4 February - results: 1 April
  • 20 May - register before 6 May - results: 1 July
  • 12 August - register before 1 July - results: 23 September
  • 4 November - register before 23 September - results: 16 December

Cost

Part one is online, so it costs only £240

Because part 2 must be taken physically in the UK, the price is higher: £875

In total, the PLAB examination will cost you approximately £1120

Additionally, if you want to cancel your PLAB part 1 examination, you can do it free on the General Medical Council’s platform.

However, cancelling the PLAB part 2 examination will cost you £120

What happens after you pass the exam

After you get your results from PLAB part 1, you will see the available PLAB 2 test dates. Once you do that, congratulations! You’ve passed the entire PLAB test. But, there is one last step that you need to take.

Once you’ve finished PLAB 2, you can apply for a license to practice medicine in the UK within two years.

How to prepare for the test

As was mentioned before, the test aims to assess your knowledge and skills. You will need to demonstrate that your level of understanding and skills is at least at the level of a second-year doctor starting their second year of their Foundation Programme training.

Here’s a couple of resources provided by the General Medical Council in the UK:

How many times can you sit the exam?

You can sit each part of the PLAB exam 5 times in total. After your first trial, you can try 4 more times.

What can you bring to the PLAB test?

You should bring:

  1. A document verifying your identity- your passport, UK driving licence, EU identity card, or another official document.
  2. HB pencils
  3. An eraser
  4. Pencil sharpener
  5. Face mask

You may also bring:

  1. A bottle of water
  2. Two items of fruit to snack on
  3. Medication
  4. Ordinary analogue or digital watches (excluding smartwatches)
  5. Jumper/ Cardigan because the weather in the UK, especially during the winter, might get cold.

What can you not bring to the PLAB test?

You can’t bring:

  • Calculator
  • Coats
  • Bags
  • Telephones or other electronic devices

Sidenote: Your friends and family also won’t be allowed to enter.

Pass rate

Pass rates of PLAB part 1 examination during 2016-2017 were 70.2%

Pass rates of PLAB part 2 examination during 2016-2017 were 72.6%

Unfortunately, more recent information isn’t available to the public yet.

PLAB and UKMLA

In 2024, the PLAB test will be replaced by the UKMLA exam. 

What are the key differences? 

Every student will have to sit this exam. It won’t matter if they studied abroad in Europe, the UK, or other countries. UKMLA will treat all students equally, based on their knowledge and skills.

To learn more, read our article about the UKMLA.

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Article written by Medlink Students
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