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Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) Test and categories of exemption
April 2001

The General Medical Council (GMC) will only grant Limited Registration to an overseas doctor provided that he or she has passed or been exempted from the PLAB test. The doctor's primary medical qualification needs to be acceptable to the GMC for the purpose of Limited Registration. Doctors may be able to enter the UK as visitors for a period of up to six months for the purposes of sitting or re-sitting the PLAB test.

Please note that passing the PLAB test will not guarantee the offer of a job in the United Kingdom. Finding a job remains the responsibility of the doctor who should ensure that he/she is well informed about opportunities for work before embarking on the PLAB test.

There are fewer vacancies in some specialities than in others. Additionally it should be noted that there is almost always a delay of several weeks, possibly months, between passing the test and starting a job.

Nature of the test
The test assesses suitability to undertake hospital employment at Senior House Officer level (SHO) in a UK hospital by examining the candidate's medical knowledge and clinical and communication skills. The PLAB test currently consists of the following examinations:

Part 1
Part 1 of the PLAB test is in Extended Matching Question (EMQ) format. The emphasis of the test is on clinical management and includes science as applied to clinical problems. This new examination format is effective from July 2000.

The test is confined to core knowledge, skills and attitudes relating to conditions commonly seen by SHOs, to the generic management of life-threatening situations, and to rarer, but important problems. It will contain 200 questions, divided into a number of themes. The duration of the test will be two and a half hours.

For each group of questions there will be a list of options. Candidates are required to select the most appropriate option for each question. One mark is awarded for each correct response, but no marks are deducted for an incorrect answer.
Candidates will be required to enter their responses on special answer sheets which can be read by an optical mark reader. The examination will be marked by computer. (Please contact the GMC for further information on the new test).

Part 2
Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE). The aim of PLAB OSCE is to test candidates' clinical and communication skills in a number of controlled situations.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)
From January 1997, the IELTS became a pre-requisite for admission to the PLAB Test. The IELTS replaced the examination of Comprehension of Spoken English and the written English examination. The PLAB OSCE will continue to assess
communication skills for the purpose of medical practice in the UK.

With effect from June 2000 the minimum IELTS scores will have changed. The new minimum scores are: Speaking 7.0, Listening 6.0, Academic Reading 6.0, Academic Writing 6.0 overall score: 7.0

The GMC will only accept the Academic module of the IELTS and test results are valid FOR UP TO TWO YEARS from the date which appears on the IELTS certificate.

(Please note that doctors who are accepted for exemption from the PLAB test are required to score 7.0 or above in each band of the IELTS test).

Further information is contained in the British Council information sheet 'International English Language Testing System (IELTS) which is available from The British Council, Information Centre, Bridgewater House, 58 Whitworth Street, Manchester M1 6BB.

Experience required
Prior to coming to the UK, an overseas doctor will be expected to have a primary medical qualification approved by the GMC. Doctors are also expected to have completed an appropriate period of experience, or internship of not less than twelve months which is acceptable to the GMC. This is not mandatory but doctors from overseas should be aware that the number of PRHO posts available in the UK is related to the number of doctors graduating from UK medical schools and opportunities are, therefore, limited.

The GMC accepts degrees from medical schools which are on the World Health Organisation list.

The fee for taking Part 1 of the PLAB test is 145, and Part 2 is 430. These fees remain the same for subsequent attempts. Entry fees do not include the 100 scrutiny fee which was previously paid by PLAB applicants. If you do not pay this fee before entering the PLAB test, you will be liable to pay it when you have passed the test and are applying for Limited Registration.

Cancellation fees
There is a sliding scale of cancellation charges ranging from 87 to 145 (part 1) and 186 to 310 (part 2): candidates who cancel a test place less than twenty-one days in advance of the test will forfeit their whole test fee.

For information on the IELTS fees, contact your local IELTS test centre.

Test centres
Part 1 of the PLAB test can be taken in the UK at test centres in London, Birmingham, Edinburgh or Glasgow. Part 1 of the test may also be taken overseas in Egypt, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. A list of specific test dates and centres can be obtained from the GMC or from British Council offices in each of these countries.

Part 2 of the test can only be taken in the UK.

The IELTS examination can be taken in the UK and overseas. Lists of test centres are available from British Council offices in the UK or overseas.

Re-sitting the PLAB test
Part 1: A doctor who has failed severely will not be admitted to re-sit part 1 of the test for at least four months.
Part 2: If a candidate fails, they will be sent forms enabling re-application for part 2 of the test. However, if the test is failed at the fourth attempt, the candidate will be required to re-sit the IELTS test and also the whole of the PLAB test.

Preparation for the PLAB test
Specialist courses for the PLAB test are available in the UK. The courses cover either the combined English and professional component or just the English. The GMC does not inspect these courses and cannot recommend or comment on any particular course. Contact NACPME or your local British Council office for details and a list of available courses.

PasTest produce publications/learning materials for the PLAB examination.

Specimen papers for the new Part 1 (EMQ) test are NOT yet available. It is expected that speciman papers will be available from the GMC later this year. All enquiries about speciman test papers should be directed to the GMC.

Application to sit the test
Demand for test places is very high and tests often become fully booked months in advance of the test date. Please contact the GMC directly to book a test date (contact details given below).

Obtaining full registration without taking the PLAB test This is not intended to be a means of avoiding taking the PLAB test.

Doctors are exempt from the PLAB test because they qualified as follows:
in Australia, New Zealand or the West Indies at the Universities of Cape Town, Natal or the Witwatersrand in South Africa; or at certain universities in Hong Kong, or Singapore where the language of instruction is English, or at the University of Malaya on or before 31 December 1987.As from 1 January 1999, doctors who hold a qualification from the countries listed in sections a) to d) will be required to pass the IELTS test with a minimum overall score in 7.0 in the Academic module with not less than 7.0 in each band. doctors who, in addition to their primary overseas medical qualifications, also hold or have passed all the examinations for one of the following primary medical qualifications:

LRCS England/LRCP London
LMSSA London
LRCP Edinburgh/LRCS Edinburgh/LRCPS Glasgow

Limited Registration for non-EEA Nationals with Irish Primary Medical Qualifications
Following a decision by the Overseas Committee, non-EEA nationals with Irish qualifications will, with effect from 1 January 2000, cease to be exempt from the PLAB test solely by virtue of their primary qualifications. From this date, such doctors who wish to apply for limited registration will be required either to pass the PLAB test or to provide other objective evidence of their capability for medical practice in the UK.

Note:Applications for Limited Registration should be made on Form LR2 which can be obtained from the GMC. Doctors with one of the qualifications described above who have previously failed the PLAB test should ask the GMC for advice about their position before applying.

Further ways to obtain Limited Registration without taking the PLAB test
To be eligible for Limited Registration without taking the PLAB, a doctor must be sponsored by a body whose selection arrangements have been approved by the GMC. This includes most of the Royal Colleges and also the British Council.

The doctor must fulfil the following criteria:

he/she must hold a medical degree from a Medical College on the WHO list; and
he/she must have completed an acceptable internship of not less than twelve months;and
he/she must have met the individual requirements of the sponsoring body. This would usually mean having completed not less than two years of specialist training in a recognised teaching hospital in the subject they wish to study in the UK; and
he/she must have a minimum overall score of 7.0 in the IELTS academic modules with not less than 7.0 in each band.Doctors who have FULL membership of one of the medical Royal Colleges can also be exempted from the PLAB test. They must meet the IELTS requirement described above.

This is only a summary of the requirements. Doctors should contact the GMC for further details about sponsorship and the other ways to obtain Limited Registration without taking the PLAB test.

Useful addresses
The National Advice Centre for Postgraduate Medical Education (NACPME)
The British Council, Bridgewater House, 58 Whitworth Street, Manchester, M1 6BB
Tel: +44 (0) 161 957 7218
Fax:+44 (0) 161 957 7029
Email: nacpme@britishcouncil.org
Website: www.britishcouncil.org/health/nacpme

The General Medical Council
178 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5JE
Tel: +44 (0) 20 7 915 3481 (enquiry line for first time enquirers)

Egerton Court, Parkgate Estate, Knutsford, Cheshire, WA16 7BR
Tel: +44 (0) 1565 752000/Freephone: (0) 800 980 9814
Fax:+44 (0) 1565 650264

For further information on PLAB,
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