What is IELTS?

Overseas doctors applying for registration must be able to demonstrate to the General Medical Council (GMC) that they have the necessary knowledge of English. This may be demonstrated through either the International English Language Test System (IELTS) or the Occupational English Test (OET).

These tests don’t apply if you are a national of a country where English is the first and native language and you were awarded your primary medical degree from a country where English is the first and native language.

What is the difference between IELTS and OET?

Both the IELTS and the OET exams are accepted by the GMC, however, the OET tests your ability to communicate in a healthcare setting specifically, and IELTS tests your overall ability to communicate in English. Here’s some more information on IELTS.

IELTS is designed to help you work or migrate to a country where English is the native language. It’s used by overseas doctors to demonstrate their ability to communicate effectively in English and support their application to register with the GMC and subsequently a licence to practise medicine in the UK.

What are the GMC’s requirements?

For your IELTS certificate to be accepted by the GMC, it must meet the following criteria:

  • You must take the academic version of the test
  • You must score at least 7.0 in each testing area and an overall score of 7.5
  • You must have for these scores in the same test
  • You must obtain these scores in your most recent sitting of the test.
  • It must show the original stamp and test report form number

How do I register for IELTS?

Step one: Choose your location, there are more than 1,600 test locations in 140 countries.

Step two: You can register and pay online or download an application form to print, complete, and submit to your local test centre. Don’t forget to provide a copy of your valid identity document. You will need to present the same identity document on the day of the test

Step three: Once your application has been processed your test centre will send you a written confirmation of the date and time of your test. The speaking test can be completed up to a week before or after the other tests, your test centre will advise. More information is available here.

What does the test look like?

There are two types of IELTS: academic and general training. All test takers take the same listening and speaking exams but the reading and writing test differs. Please make sure you take the academic version of the test as outlined by the GMC.

The listening, reading, and writing tests are all completed on the same day, with no breaks in between

The speaking section can be completed up to a week before or after the other tests, this will take 2 hours and 45 minutes.

What sort of questions will I be asked?

You can prepare for your IELTS test with free sample questions available here.

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When will I get my results?

Your results will be available 13 days after your test (3-5 days for computer-delivered IELTS). Test centres will either post your Test Report Form to you or have it ready for you to pick up in person. Check the arrangement at your test centre.

What do my results mean?

The GMC requires you to score at least 7.0 in each testing area and an overall score of 7.5. The results are reported on a 9-band scale. They are designed to be simple and easy to understand.

View the IELTS scale here

How long is my score valid for?

IELTS certificates are valid for two years. If you are taking the PLAB test, your certificate must be valid on the day you sit the PLAB part 1 exam. If you are applying for registration with a licence to practise, it must be valid when the GMC approves your application.

What do I need to do next?

Once you have passed your IELTS with an overall score of 7.5 and at least 7.0 in each testing area, you can sit your PLAB 1 exam.

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 IELTS, register today with Pulse. Our team are here to help international doctors find great work opportunities in the UK. ​


Gmc-uk.org. 2021. Using your IELTS certificate. [online] Available at: https://www.gmc-uk.org/registration-and-licensing/join-the-register/before-you-apply/evidence-of-your-knowledge-of-english/using-your-ielts-certificate [Accessed 27 October 2021].

Ielts.org. 2021. How to register. [online] Available at: https://www.ielts.org/for-test-takers/how-to-register [Accessed 27 October 2021].

Ielts.org. 2021.How IELTS is scored. [online] Available at: https://www.ielts.org/for-test-takers/how-ielts-is-scored [Accessed 27 October 2021].

Ielts.org. 2021. Sample test questions. [online] Available at: https://www.ielts.org/for-test-takers/sample-test-questions [Accessed 27 October 2021].

All of the information in this article was accurate at the time of being written in December 2021.

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