Saturday, April 24, 2010

PLAB- U.K Licensing Exam


The Professional Linguistic Assessment Board exam, or PLAB. The plab does not have a linguistic component, for this they use IELTS. IELTS is a pre requisite to plab.


The IELTS is a test of the candidate’s English skills. It stands for International English Language Testing System. People are required to take this exam to prove they have the minimum acceptable level of proficiency in the English language needed to engage in their academic or work pursuits in the UK, so its not just for doctors. This exam can be taken in many countries, including Pakistan. Currently, it costs around 80 Pounds Sterling and is held twice a month every month throughout the year.
The exam has four sections: Speaking, Listening, Writing and Reading. The result of the test is given as a number on a scale (called band) from 1 to 9. Each band, or scale represents a certain level of competency in English. A score of 1 means that the candidate has only a rudimentary grasp of the language. A score of 9 means the candidate is as proficient as a native English speaker.
Each of the four sections are scored separately on the band of 1 to 9. The individual band scores in the different sections are then added up to give an average. For example, if a candidate gets 8 in Speaking, 8 in Listening, 7 in Writing and 7 in Reading it will give him an overall band score of 7.5.
In order to be eligible to take the PLAB exam, the candidate must have an overall score of at least 7. However, an imposition is made on the individual scores as well. The candidate must have at least 7 in the Speaking section and at least 6 in the other sections. So if a candidate gets 6.5 in speaking, he will not be eligible to take the PLAB exam - even if his overall score is 7 or above.
The IELTS can be taken even while the candidate is still a medical student, although it should be keep in mind that the IELTS result is valid for two years. The candidate must go on to take his PLAB exam within this two year validity period.


The Professional Linguistic Assessment Board exam, or PLAB doesn’t actually have a linguistic component, otherwise the IELTS would not be required. Nevertheless, the ‘misnomer’ remains to describe an exam of a difficulty level between that of final year and post-graduate (i.e., MRC) examinations. It has two parts -

PLAB Part 1 & PLAB Part 2.

The PLAB is basically a registration examination that allows you to practice medicine in the UK. In that sense it is similar to the USMLE Steps of the US system. However, there are three important differences between the PLAB and USMLE exams:
  • The PLAB exam is considered to be far easier, and less costly than the USMLE exams.

  • There are only 2 parts to the PLAB exam, not 3 like in the USMLE Steps (or 4 if you count USMLE Step 3).

  • The PLAB is a pass/fail exam. It makes absolutely no difference to your credentials if you pass the PLAB by an extremely wide margin or just manage to get through by a single mark. This is in contrast to the USMLE Step 1 and Step 2 CK exams, in which a candidate’s scores affects the strength of his CV.
The first part of the PLAB exam, the Part 1 is administered in a number of countries, including Pakistan where it is held three times a year: in March, July, and November. Currently, the exam cost 145 Pounds Sterling.
In order to be eligible to take the exam, the candidate must be a medical graduate (he cannot give it before graduation) from a WHO-recognized medical college and also have the minimum required IELTS score in hand during the time of application.
The exam consists of a 3 hour paper containing 200 questions. The questions are called “Extended Matching Questions” or EMQs - which simply means they are multiple choice questions with a variable number of possible answers to the questions posed of which the best one is selected. The exam concentrates on the clinical subjects, not on basic sciences. There are also a few questions regarding medical ethics, evidence based medicine, epidemiology, and public health.


This part can only be taken in the UK. Recently, the capacity of the PLAB 2 center in London has been expanded enormously, and now the exam will be held several times a month every month, throughout the year. Currently, the exam costs 430 Pounds Sterling.
The Part 2 is a examination of clinical skills - not a paper-based EMQ exam. The system devised for testing the candidate’s clinical skills is called the Objective Structured Clinical Examination, or OSCE.
When you start the examination, you will go to your first “station” in which you will be given some instructions. It could be taking history from a patient there, performing an clinical examination, or a number of other things. You will have 5 minutes to accomplish your task and 1 minute of pause to think before each station. There are 14 stations in all, with two “rest” stations – so the exam lasts a total of 96 minutes. The primarily skills tested for are:
  • History taking and diagnosis based on history alone.
  • Proficiency at physical examination.
  • Communication skills with patients.
  • Management of emergency cases.

    These days it is very difficult for people to get a job in UK. Almost impossible. Therefore PLAB is only used to be eligible to get a job in middle east.

    Note that this is a licensing type exam NOT a postgraduate degree of UK. Those are FRCS FRCP and diploma's are MRCP etc.


  1. Good post about ielts it is very useful for students

    robust IELTS score

  2. Do we need to take ielts through british council or even IDP is accepted?

  3. can i use certificate of CEF(common european framework) for PLAB instead of IELTS. please anyone tell me.plzzz

  4. Hello everyone, I will suggest to go for PLAB SUCCESS in India. They offer best PLAB training courses with warranty about it. They are different than any other institute in India, that’s why many students from their institute have passed the PLAB exam in first attempt