PLAB 1 exam: The ultimate guide for doctors

This article was originally published in November 2021 and updated in March 2023.

What is the PLAB 1 exam?

PLAB is the Professional Linguistic and Assessments Board exam, consisting of a written test (PLAB 1) and a practical test (PLAB 2). Administered by the General Medical Council, the test does not measure your ability to recite information but your ability to apply your knowledge in patient care scenarios.

Our comprehensive PLAB 1 guide provides key information for those planning to register in order to practice medicine in the UK and who are required to take the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test. Within this guide, we will look at:

Do IMG doctors need to do PLAB and the Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA)?

From 2024, UK medical students and most graduates outside the European Economic Area (EEA) will need to take a new exam. The Medical Licensing Assessment (MLA) builds on the GMC’s existing assurance work to set a common threshold for safe practice. UK students will take the MLA as part of their medical degree. Medical graduates trained outside the EEA will take the MLA instead of the PLAB test.

What are the entry requirements for PLAB?

To be eligible to take the PLAB exam you must have:

  • An acceptable overseas primary medical qualification
  • Evidence of the necessary knowledge of English. You can do this by submitting your International English Language Testing System (IELTS) or Occupational English Test (OET) results
  • At least 12 months of postgraduate clinical experience in a teaching hospital or hospital approved by medical registration authorities
  • An account with the GMC to submit test results for verification. You will also need this account in order to book or cancel your PLAB exam

Who needs to take the PLAB exam?

If you graduated from a medical school outside of the UK, European Economic Area (EEA), or Switzerland, there is a strong possibility that you will need to take the PLAB test.

The purpose of the test is to check if you can do the same as a doctor starting the second year of their Foundation Programme training (FY2) in the UK. This covers common, important, and acute conditions seen by trainees and the management of long-term conditions seen in primary care.

What are the PLAB 1 test dates, and do I have to travel to the UK?

The PLAB 1 test runs four times a year in the UK and several overseas locations. Overseas locations include Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Egypt, Ghana, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sri Lanka, Sudan, and UAE. A full list of dates, locations, and contact details can be found here.

  • 25th May 2023
  • 10th August 2023
  • 2nd November 2023
  • 15th February 2024
  • 23rd May 2024

What are the PLAB 1 exam fees?

Bookings after the 1st of April 2023 will cost £255 for PLAB 1.

How do I book my PLAB 1 exam?

Once you have created an account with the GMC, you will be able to navigate to the “My Tests” area to view available locations and dates and then book. The demand for test places is very high so availability may be limited.

Is PLAB 1 computer or paper-based?

PLAB 1 is a written exam. You can see an example of the exam sheet here.

What is the PLAB 1 exam structure?

PLAB 1 is a written exam made up of 180 multiple-choice questions. Each has a short scenario followed by a question and five answers to choose from. You have three hours to complete the exam.

What sort of questions will I be asked?

The PLAB blueprint is available to download from the GMC website and outlines the knowledge, skills, and behaviours that candidates are expected to demonstrate in the text and beyond. Before using the blueprint, you should be familiar with good medical practice guidance which has four domains describing what it means to be a good doctor.

You can download the blueprint here.

Register with us

Register your interest and we will be in touch to discuss your work preferences.

How should I prepare for the PLAB 1 exam?

You should map your revision from the PLAB blueprint covering all 23 topics across the 4 domains.

The 23 topics include blood and lymph, breast, cardiovascular, child health, digestive, endocrine, ENT, ethical and professional, eye, genitourinary, homeostatic, infectious disease, mental health, musculoskeletal, neurological, older adults, pharmacological, renal, reproductive, respiratory seriously ill patient, skin and urological.

The 4 domains are as follows:

  • Knowledge, skill, and performance
  • Safety and Quality
  • Communication, partnership, and teamwork
  • Maintaining trust

As well as using the PLAB blueprint you should take a look at some sample questions so that you are prepared for the format familiar with the good medical practice content.

What do I need to bring to the exam?

You need to bring the following items to the PLAB exam:

  • Proof of identification
  • Booking confirmation with GMC
  • HB pencil, eraser, and sharpener
  • Bottle of water

Further details or which items you can and can’t bring into the exam are here.

What is the PLAB 1 exam pass rate?

The pass rate for PLAB 1 is as follows:

YearGrade (%)

How many times can I sit the test?

If you fail PLAB 1, you can book to take the exam again provided you still meet all the requirements. You can attempt the exam a maximum of four times.

When will I get my results?

Your results will be available six weeks after you take your exam. They will be sent to you by email and the GMC are unable to give you results over the phone or in person.

How long is my score valid?

The GMC has extended the validity of the pass from two years to three years as of March 2018. This is to give candidates time to book onto PLAB 2. You must pass PLAB 2 within three years of the date you passed PLAB 1. This will automatically be reflected on your GMC account.

I’ve passed my PLAB 1 exam, what do I need to do next?

Congratulations, now you have passed your PLAB 1 exam, you can apply immediately to take PLAB 2 using the GMC online. PLAB 2 is held at the GMC’s two assessment centre sites in Manchester, UK.

Find out more about the PLAB 2 here.

What happens when I have passed PLAB 1 and PLAB 2?

Once you’ve passed both parts, you can apply for registration with a licence to practise. Your application must be approved within two years of passing part 2 of the PLAB exam. Once the GMC approves your application and you gain registration, you can work as a doctor in the UK.

At Pulse, we’re passionate about the quality of our people and proud of the services we provide. If you need information or guidance with your PLAB 1 exam, register today with Pulse. Our team is here to help international doctors find great work opportunities in the UK.

Resources 2021. PLAB 1 guide. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 November 2021] 2021. Good medical practice. [online] Available at: [Accessed 1 November 2021]
richardchankins, V., 2021. Coronavirus and its impact on PLAB. [online] Improving medical education and practice across the UK. Available at: [Accessed 1 November 2021]

Register with us

Register your interest and we will be in touch to discuss your work preferences.

Register today

Search jobs for doctors

We offer a huge variety of temporary and permanent jobs to choose from.

Search and apply

Leave a comment