If you are dreaming to join NHS in the UK via the GMC route, then you have already figured out that PLAB is your route. If you are starting from scratch and wish to explore everything about PLAB 1 exam- What is it, its Eligibility, Requirements, Total Cost and Fees, Process, Study Material, Syllabus, Results and Dates, then you have landed at the right spot.
In this blog, we will walk you through the basics and explain to you in brief how things are in 2023.
What is PLAB 1 Exam?
PLAB exam stands for “Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board where part 1 is the first step towards acquiring a full GMC registration and ultimately, a license to practice in the UK. It comprises two parts- Part 1 and Part 2.
It is an essential exam required by IMG (International Medical Graduates) to work in the UK as a doctor. The exam tests your skills based on clinical understanding, knowledge and practice in real life. GMC sets the standards so that the IMG meet the sufficient set of skills required by any newly qualified doctors in the UK itself.
PLAB test is a theory-based paper where a total of 180 questions are given and the student has to attempt them in 3 hours. The exam is MCQ based and you are required to mark answers on an answer sheet the examiners provide. Please note, this exam is not Computer-based as many believe otherwise.
As of today, the exam is held four times a year. However, GMC has already announced this exam is going to be replaced by UKMLA in 2024. This is not a new PLAB 1 exam, the name has been changed with some minor adjustments.
|Details||PLAB 1 Exam|
|Number of MCQs||180|
|Pattern||5 Multiple Choice Answers with one correct answer|
|Answered on||Paper-based and answered on booklet and not computer-based|
Most questions comprise clinical stems where you will be given the history of a patient and you will be asked to answer the best for the patient. It is important to note that many will have dilemmas answering ethical questions or differ with answers based on the guidelines in their own country.
Since you are sitting in an exam for the UK, you are required to answer accordingly. It is strongly advised not to mix up your clinical practice with the questions. Follow the guidelines set up by GMC and the rest becomes easy.
To appear in the PLAB test, you need to have a PMQ (Primary Medical Qualification) that is recognized by the GMC. This is usually the MBBS degree that is equivalent to the degree awarded to a doctor in the UK Medical School.
Your first step towards PLAB exam eligibility would be to check if the college or medical school you graduated from is actually listed in the World Directory of Medical School. A complete walkthrough is as follows:
How to Check Eligibility for College
3 minutes 3 minutes
Visit the World Directory of Medical Schools. Enter your country and college name.
Select your College Name
Confirm your college name exists in the WDOMS directory. If it does not, you are not eligible to sit in the exam. If it is not listed, you can contact the administration department of your college can apply for this procedure.
Usually, it takes 1-2 months and requires a substantial amount of effort from the candidates to put pressure on the college to follow up the complete process.
Confirm Your College
Navigate through your college and confirm the name and location. Your next step would involve clicking on “Sponsor Notes” to view if the PMQ is sponsored.
Confirm Sponsor Notes
GMC notes will not be present in this section. Don’t bother looking for them. Instead, check if the ECFMG is present because EPIC verification is part of GMC registration. If these details are not present, you need to contact your college to move the process as soon as possible.
Additionally, this must include 5.5 years of studies- 4.5 years of your MBBS along with 1 year of rotational internship. Bear in mind, you must check the internship criteria before applying to the GMC. This is as follows:
To sit in PLAB 1 test, you must prove that you underwent a rotational clinical internship which should meet the following requirements:
- Minimum 12 months
- Absents no more than 20 days
- Must include at least three months in Medicine and three in surgery
If you have had an internship in a hospital other than your college, then you need to prove:
- Institution/Hospital is recognized
- You can justify why it was not possible to do an internship at your college
To appear in the PLAB test, you need to meet the prerequisites before you can even book a seat. These are as follows:
- Educational– PMQ (Primary Medical Qualifications) which is usually an MBBS degree.
- College Eligibility– The name of your college must be present in the World Directory of Medical Schools.
- Passport– You will need to have it to give English Exam and also open up your GMC account.
- English Proficiency Exam– This can be IELTS or OET. You can follow the complete guide here for IELTS.
IELTS or OET Requirements
We have prepared a table that will help you better grasp the contents of this section. The minimum English proficiency requirements for the PLAB test are as follows:
|Academic version||Medicine version|
|Overall 7.0||Overall B Grade|
|Minimum 7 in each (Writing, Speaking, Listening and Reading)||Minimum B Grade in each (Writing, Speaking, Listening and Reading)|
|Most recent exam||Most recent exam|
|Original form with stamp||Candidate number|
How long is the IELTS valid?
It is valid for 2 years from the date of qualifying for the test. The same applies to OET as well.
What if I get passing marks but in different exams?
It won’t be considered valid. To appear in the exam, you must get an overall 7.0 and a minimum of 7.0 in a single sitting. Two cumulative test results don’t count. If you have not qualified for the proficiency test, you can simply give it again.
Which one is better?
Ideally, OET is far better than IELTS as it is based on medical scenarios which is a booster for doctors planning to sit in this exam. However, it is costly and usually takes time for booking as well as results.
On the other hand, IELTS is relatively cheaper and you can sit in a Computer-based exam for as short as 10 days. On the contrary, the questions are somewhat general and most students end up failing in writing (6.5 is a curse). You can read a complete guide here.
The pros and cons are compared in the following table:
|Cost- 15,500 INR||455 USD (approximately 37,000 INR)|
|Can be booked within 10 days for computer-based||Takes time to book and dates are far|
|Writing is the most difficult for non-medicos||Easier for medicos as the medical scenarios are provided|
|Results declared within 5-7 days||Results take time as long as one month|
Recent dates were announced on 10th December 2022 for 10th August and 2nd November. These were picked immediately and there are currently no available slots for the PLAB exam in 2023. GMC will release their plans for releasing further seats soon. The best way to get updated will be to follow their Twitter handle.
Importantly, the exam is held four times a year. You can give the exam in your country or in the UK itself. Currently, the following are the overseas countries with available exam venues for PLAB 1:
- Saudi Arabia
- South Africa
- Sri Lanka
If you are taking the exam in the UK, the following venues are available:
Although not frequently, the cost of PLAB 1 keeps changing. The latest fees for the PLAB 1 exam in India are as follows:
|Booked made before 31st March 2023||Booked after 1st April 2023|
|24,927 INR||25735 INR|
For bookings made before 31st March 2023, the following amount will be deducted from the initial payment you made if you are planning to cancel the PLAB exam seat:
|Cancellation Period||Amount Deducted|
|More than 42 days before the exam||£24.70 (10% deducted, 90% refunded)|
|Less than 42 days before the exam||£247 (no refund)|
However, if you are booking after 31st March, then the following will be the deductions:
|Cancellation Period||Amount Deducted|
|More than 42 days before the exam||£25.50 (10% deducted, 90% refunded)|
|Less than 42 days before the exam||£255 (no refund)|
Many doctors around the globe don’t even try for the exam because of a traditional belief- “It is too costly”. Actually, PLAB 1 exam costs much less as compared to USMLE. In case you are wondering how much does PLAB 1 costs, for just appearing in part 1, you require almost 40,000-50,000 INR.
The following is a rough estimate you will be spending in 2023 if you are planning to appear in PLAB 1:
|IELTS/OET||15,500 INR or 37,000 INR|
|PLAB 1 Booking||approximate 25,000 INR|
|Total||40,500 INR or 52,000 INR depending on whether you give IELTS or OET|
How to Book PLAB Seat?
As of today, it is very difficult to even get a seat. The GMC last announced the release of PLAB 1 dates on 10th December 2022 for slots in 2023. These included 10th August and 2nd November slots. You can find all the latest dates here.
As previously mentioned, the seats are difficult to get. If you are wondering how other students are getting slots despite GMC not announcing any, the answer is fairly simple- They are booking the cancelled seats. This task requires sheer dedication, patience and time and despite the efforts, the results could not be promising.
To book a slot, you will first need to open a GMC account. You must have a valid passport to open an account. To book a seat, you must have your English Proficiency Exam (IELTS or OET) verified by GMC. Once both these steps are done, you can proceed to the “Book Exam” section and find the available slots.
There is a complete guide we wrote on “9 Hacks on How to Book PLAB 1 Effectively“. You might find some advanced tricks worth noting as well as a complete process on how to book it through the GMC portal.
Most students opt for online platforms which provide sufficient study material to pass PLAB Part 1 test. The renowned platforms include:
There are in fact books that are often recommended. These include:
If you want a complete review of all these and anything, you can read our guide on “PLAB 1 Study Material: Free and Paid“
Don't forget to test yourself with GMC Sample Questions. These are a must-do and can be found at GMC Website! Additionally, you must do as many as PLAb 1 Mock Exam to test your limits and your fallbacks.
There are a number of topics covered in the PLAB 1 exam, however, you are required to focus on the ones which frequently come in the exam. You will require roughly 4-6 hours of study for at least 3-4 months to complete the entire syllabus. Broadly, PLAB 1 exam syllabus consists of 29 subjects which are listed as follows:
- General Surgery
- Vascular Surgery
- Chest Medicine
- Emergency Medicine
- Critical Care
- Obstetrics and Gynaecology
- Infectious Diseases
You can find the complete syllabus at GMC but the blueprint is difficult to understand. We will soon release the syllabus along with the marking scheme for the recent exams.
You can have a taste of the topics covered in these subjects by reviewing the notes we prepared exclusively for PLAB 1:
If you love them, please leave feedback in the comments section so we will drop the complete set directly to your mail.
The PLAB 1 result is typically announced 42 days after the exam has been conducted. Otherwise, in the examination hall itself, the invigilators will tell you the exact date when the result will be declared. You can jot it down, although it is difficult to forget one date that is special to you.
You will be given the time when the results will be announced. Upon entering the portal at the given time, you will be allotted a random queue number. Once your queue timer ends and your queue number comes, you will be redirected to the GMC portal where you can see the results as well book the PLAB 2 exam if you pass.
Your result card will include:
- Your Score
- A Minimum Score to Pass
- The Average Score for the test
- The percentage of questions you passed in each skill area, compared to all other candidates who took the exam:
- Knowledge and Experience
The most recent result dates for 2022 are as follows:
|17th February 2022||31st March 2022- 9.30 AM onwards|
|26th May 2022||9th July 2022- 10 AM onwards|
|11th August 2022||22nd September 2022- 8 PM onwards|
|3rd November 2022||15th December 2022- 8 PM onwards|
The PLAB 1 passing score is usually between 115-120. However, these criteria can vary depending on the difficulty level of the exam and how doctors who sat in the exam performed on average. Therefore, for the most recent exams held in 2022, the passing scores have been between 63.8% to 66.6%.
Interestingly, the GMC sets passing marks based on the Angoff method. So what is the Angoff method (in case you are wondering)? Based on a discussion of the difficulties involved in credentialing and their judgement of the examination, the Angoff method permits experienced judges to decide on an acceptable pass grade for an examination.
Additionally, as per GMC, a standard error of measurement is included.
Following are the year-wise pass rates for PLAB 1 exam:
|2018||69.3% (5,239 out of 7,559)|
|2019||63.1% (7,014 out of 11,118)|
|2020||69.7% (7,384 out of 10,601)|
|2021||74.1% (7,728 out of 10,431)|
|2022||70.9% (10,259 out of 14,470)|
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Tips for passing the PLAB Part 1:
Is the PLAB 1 exam difficult?
Many students who have fresh internship knowledge and have recently passed the exam find the questions relatively easier. This is because the exam tests your clinical knowledge and skills. The exam covers topics which are often seen by trainees entering the FY2 (Foundation Year 2).
On the other hand, this is relatively tough for doctors who have either not been in practice (clinical gaps) or IMG who have difficulty adjusting to how the medical system works in the UK.
How do I register for PLAB Part 1?
You can register for PLAB 1 once you have proved your English proficiency exam. You can then register to take the exam at the GMC portal under the “Test Bookings” section. This is where you will be able to see all the available slots for the exam.
Can I book PLAB 1 without IELTS?
Yes, you can take PLAB 1 without IELTS or OET too given you are a citizen of a country with English as their native language and your Primary Medical Qualification was awarded in the same country. There are over 40 countries recognized by GMC and accepted as “English as First Language” where you will not be required to pass IELTS or OET.
How many attempts does PLAB 1 have?
You can take the exam four times at max. However, you can take a final attempt given you prove to GMC that you meet three requirements. These include:
1. At least 12 months gap from your last attempt to request of additional attempt
2. 12 months of Clinical Practice or a Post-graduation qualification
3. Re-submission of English Proficiency Exam in case it has expired
For the last attempt (5th), you will have to download the Structured Report Form which will be fulfilled by your employee. However, if you have done PG, then you will be required to fill out the Application Form. Either of these must be sent to email@example.com.
How can I apply for PLAB in India?
The requirements to register for the exam are the same as for any other IMG (International Medical Graduate). To sit in the exam, you should have possession of an MBBS degree, a passport and a passing certificate of English Proficiency Exam (IELTS/OET).
Once you have these three, simply head over to GMC and register an account and get your IELTS/OET verified. Upon verification, you can book PLAB 1 which is the first part of GMC registration.
Can I give PLAB during the Internship?
YES, you can sit for PLAB 1 exam before graduation also without requiring an internship. However, to receive the full registration from GMC, that is, a complete license to practice in the UK, you must have completed your internship.
ICC or Internship Completion Certificate is required and a mandatory document during final GMC registration. You only receive this document after MBBS.
Ideally, students should make up their minds during the internship itself and start preparing for the PLAB exam as the freshness of the clinical exposure as well as the application of the knowledge is useful in both parts of the PLAB exam.
How long is the PLAB 1 valid?
PLAB 1 results are valid for up to three years from the date of passing On passing the exam, you can either choose to book the second part of the exam straight away or you can book it later. Please note, the longer you delay, the quicker the slots for part 2 are filled. It is strictly advised to take a seat immediately after the results. Alternatively, you can book it within a month, but more than that is not recommended.
Is PLAB 1 a Pass or Fail type exam?
YES, the scores of the exam do not matter at all. Your main goal is to pass the exam, even with the lowest passing marks if possible. If you successfully get marks above the passing criteria which is usually 115-120, you pass. Below that, even with 1 mark, you are considered as fail.
Can I get my PLAB 1 marks rechecked?
NO, such an option does not exist. GMC clearly states that remarking or rechecking is not done and students should not even approach them for the same. If you are feeling bad about your results, your next step should be to find another slot immediately without wasting a second.