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.
Table of Contents
- 1 What is PLAB?
- 2 Who needs to take the exam
- 3 Entry requirements to take the exam
- 4 PLAB part 1
- 5 PLAB part 2
- 6 When can you take the PLAB exam
- 7 Cost
- 8 What happens after you pass the exam
- 9 How to prepare for the test
- 10 How many times can you sit the exam?
- 11 What can you bring to the PLAB test?
- 12 What can you not bring to the PLAB test?
- 13 Pass rate
- 14 PLAB and UKMLA
What is PLAB?
The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board test – PLAB test – assesses International Medical Graduates’ knowledge and skills to safely practice medicine in the UK. It checks if you have enough knowledge as a doctor starting in year two of 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 medical license in the UK.
Who needs to take the exam
Every International Medical Graduate (IMG) must pass the UK PLAB test to become a certified doctor. This excludes everyone who has studied outside the UK, European Economic Area - EEA, or Switzerland.
Simply put, the test helps qualified doctors abroad have the proper knowledge and skills to practice medicine in the UK.
Entry requirements to take the exam
Every student studying medicine abroad must set up a GMC account online to take the test. You must show that your knowledge and English skills are good enough. This can be done by presenting a language proficiency test or going through a GMC test online.
Afterwards, you can book your place for 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 anywhere. 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 is in Manchester, and 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 test is usually taken around 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
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 for 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 mentioned before, the test assesses your knowledge and skills. You will need to demonstrate that your understanding and skills are at least at the level of a second-year doctor starting the second year of their Foundation Programme training.
Here are a couple of resources provided by the General Medical Council in the UK:
- Prepare for the PLAB exam by reading the curriculum here: https://foundationprogramme.nhs.uk/curriculum/
- Look at the PLAB 1 sample questions https://www.gmc-uk.org/registration-and-licensing/join-the-register/plab/plab-1-guide/sample-questions
- Or practice using GMC’s online simulation: https://www.gmc-uk.org/gmpinaction/
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:
- A document verifying your identity- your passport, UK driving licence, EU identity card, or another official document.
- HB pencils
- An eraser
- Pencil sharpener
- Face mask
You may also bring:
- A bottle of water
- Two items of fruit to snack on
- Ordinary analogue or digital watches (excluding smartwatches)
- 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:
- Telephones or other electronic devices
Sidenote: Your friends and family also won’t be allowed to enter.
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.