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Notes for overseas medical graduates intending to train in the UK
Part 3
revised December 1999
Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test

Doctors who are seeking limited registration must first pass, or be exempt from a test conducted on behalf of the GMC by the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB). It is made up of two components: a test of professional medical knowledge and competence and a test of proficiency in English. To be eligible to take the PLAB test, a doctor must hold an acceptable primary medical qualification and normally have satisfactorily completed (overseas) an acceptable internship of twelve months' duration, or other experience regarded by the GMC as equivalent. The GMC require doctors to pass an English test known as the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) in order to be eligible to sit for the PLAB test. Doctors must achieve a minimum overall IELTS band score of 7.0, with a minimum of 6.0 in each of the four individual sections to satisfy the entry requirements to the PLAB Test.

Doctors who hold qualifications recognized by the GMC for full and provisional registration are not required to take the PLAB test, the exception being those doctors who have qualified at certain universities in South Africa who may be required as a condition of registration to pass the IELTS. EEA doctors may sometimes be asked by their prospective employers to take an English language test, as a condition of being offered a post.

Doctors who are sponsored by the British Council, or other official sponsoring bodies, or who are on the Overseas Doctors Training Scheme (ODTS), do not have to take the PLAB test and must not do so before or during the period of their sponsorship. If they take the PLAB test and fail it they will no longer be eligible for sponsorship.

General information about PLAB and courses to prepare for PLAB may be obtained from the British Council. Detailed information and application forms must be obtained direct from the GMC. EEA doctors who have been asked to take the IELTS by their employers should contact the British Council. Applications to sit the PLAB test should be sent to the GMC well in advance as there is usually a waiting list of several months.

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

There are fewer vacancies in some specialties 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.

International English Language Testing System (IELTS)

The GMC uses the list of overseas medical qualifications published by the World Health Organisation as an alternative to maintaining a list based on its own assessment. It is likely that this policy will lead to an increase in the number of overseas-qualified doctors wishing to consider applying for limited registration in the UK. These doctors should begin the process of becoming eligible for registration by taking the IELTS in or near their home countries.

From 1 January 1997 the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) became a pre-requisite for admission to the PLAB test. The IELTS replaced the examination of spoken English and the written English examination. The PLAB oral examination will continue to assess communication skills for the purpose of medical practice in the UK. Doctors must achieve a minimum overall IELTS band score of 7.0, with a minimum of 6.0 in each of the four individual sections to be eligible to sit the PLAB Test. Please note that some Royal Colleges require a higher score for the IELTS, for doctors applying for the Overseas Doctors Training Scheme (ODTS) see the NACPME information sheet Overseas doctors training scheme.

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  Produced in the United Kingdom by The British Council © 1999. The British Council is the United Kingdom's international organisation for educational and cultural relations. Registered in England as a Charity.