Details you need to know about the PLAB exam

The PLAB test, or Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board, is for international doctors who wish to practice medicine in the UK. It is the licensing exam for international medical professionals and international medical students in the UK. If you are a doctor who has already qualified overseas and wants to work as a Senior House Officer (SHO) at a UK NHS hospital, then you must take and pass the PLAB exam. Clearing the exam demonstrates your ability to work successfully as an SHO at a UK NHS hospital.

You will need to take the PLAB test if you graduated from a medical school outside the UK, European Economic Area, or Switzerland since the exam assesses your ability to perform the same duties as a doctor starting the second year of the Foundation Training program in the UK and ensures you have the proper knowledge and training to practice medicine.

What is the exam structure and format?

The PLAB exam assesses your ability to perform at the same level as trainees entering the second year of the Foundation Program in the UK. It covers common, important or acute situations like those common in emergency departments and the management of long-term conditions in primary care. There are 2 parts to the PLAB exam which can be taken within 2-year intervals.

Part 1- The first part is a written multiple choice exam with 180 single best answer questions. Each question describes a medical scenario and requires you to pick the right answer out of 5 choices. You will have 3 hours to complete Part 1 and the exam can be taken online as well.

Part 2 - The second is a practical Objective Structured Clinical Exam, or OSCE, with 18 scenarios each lasting 8 minutes, so the total exam duration for Part 2 is 2 hours and 24 minutes. Part 2 must be taken in person in the UK, and the scenarios require you to assess the patient and make a diagnosis. Part 2 of the PLAB exam assesses your ability to perform in real-life medical situations.

There are several entry criteria for taking the PLAB test:

1. A primary medical qualification accepted by an institution in the World Directory of Medical Schools.

2. IELTS Academic score of 7.5 overall and minimum 7.0 in each of the four language skills.

How does it work?

"You can take both PLAB Part 1 and 2, four times, as long as you clear Part 2 within 2 years of clearing Part 1. If you are unable to clear Part 2 within 2 years after clearing Part 1, or if you fail Part 2 four times, then you must take Part 1 and 2 again.

The results of the PLAB Part 1 are released 4-6 weeks after the exam, and the results of PLAB Part 2 are released 4 weeks after the exam. The results will be available online and delivered via post at your address. Once you clear both exams, you can apply for a license to practice medicine in the UK."

Other entry criteria and the list of evidence required can be found on the General Medical Council (GMC) website.

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