IELTS/OET for PLAB, GMC, and Skilled worker visa

The very first step, and arguably the most difficult step to start your career as a doctor in the UK is taking IELTS/OET for PLAB and GMC registration. There are many confusion regarding which test to take

Do I need to take IELTS for PLAB?
When can I take IELTS?
What is UKNARIC?
What is OET?

Do I need to take IELTS/OET for PLAB?

Yes and no. After February 6, 2018, if you want to apply for PLAB, you can also take another English Language proficiency test called Occupational English Test (OET) instead of IELTS. And that will cover everything from the start to the end.

As a rule of thumb, if you have finished your primary medical graduation in a non-English speaking country, you have to take IELTS/OET for PLAB and GMC registration, even if you are British Citizen. There is NO believable way you can prove to GMC that, in a non-English speaking country –

  • all of the course, including clinical activities, was taught and examined solely in English
  • at least 75% of any course related clinical interaction, including personal contact with patients, their families and other healthcare professionals, was conducted in English.

You also have to take IELTS/OET and subsequently PLAB if you are a non-UK/EEA citizen who have graduated from a EEA university but don’t have license to work as a doctor in the that EEA country.

How can I be exempt from IELTS/OET?

As mentioned above, if you have graduated from a non-English speaking country, there is no way to get exempt from IELTS/OET for PLAB and GMC registration. However, for Tier 2 visa you don’t need any valid IELTS/OET as you would already hold GMC registration. Also you won’t need an IELTS/OET if you are going to the UK for PLAB 2 visa or in Tier 2 Dependent visa.

When can I take IELTS?

Good. Now we’re talking sense. This test is administered by three different organisations around the would in many different venues round the calendar.

  • British Council
  • IDP Education, Australia
  • Cambridge Assessment of ESOL (English for Speakers of Other Languages)

It doesn’t matter under which organization you take this exam, at the end of the day it’s all the same. People say in some countries one organization is more liberal than another in comparison. While this might be true, in my opinion one shouldn’t be bothered/biased by that.

Again, IELTS can be-

  • Academic
  • General Training
  • Life Skills

As we’re aiming for professional registration in the UK, we should be appearing in the academic version of IELTS.

You can take IELTS anytime you want. But keep in mind that it stays valid for 2 years only. So planning here is necessary. A more detailed plan is laid out in how to plan for PLAB 1 and IELTS .

What is this “IELTS for UKVI”?

It’s the same test as the IELTS, the only difference is that it is specifically taken for UK Visa purposes. Among the many types of UK visas, PLAB aspirants should be concerned about two types only:

Starting from October 1, 2019, IELTS for UKVI will NO LONGER be needed to apply for your Tier 2 visa. You can simply appear in the academic IELTS/OET for PLAB, GMC registration, and Tier 2 visa.

How much do I have to score in IELTS?

The requirements of IELTS for PLAB 1, you must have a minimum of 7.5 score with a minimum of 7.0 in all four modules (listening, reading, writing and speaking) e.g. You got 8 overall but in writing you got 6.5- ergo you’re not eligible.

How much does IELTS cost?

Roughly, IELTS costs around £160. Look up the cost of IELTS (under British Council) by choosing your country on this page of British council website.

What about OET?

As I have mentioned earlier, since February 6 2018, GMC approves another form of English language proficiency test- OET. To know further please look here, Occupational English Test. As of October, 2019 – a valid OET can also be used for Tier 2 visa.

UK NARIC (UK National recognition Information Centre), which is responsible for providing information, advice and opinion on academic, vocational and professional qualifications and skills from all over the world. They have a service called the English Language Assessment Service. This service provides an assessment and a statement to confirm for applications to work, study or register with a professional body that an international academic qualification deemed comparable to a UK Bachelor, Masters is taught in English to the standard of CEFR B1, B2 or C1. Here is a sample how their English Language Assessment looks like.

UKNARIC is not required at any step of the entire UK journey anymore.

How to get a UK NARIC done?

It’s a bit of paperwork and a bit of waiting, but people have been known to do this and continued with their lives in the UK. The papers you need for this are:

  • A photocopy or scanned version of your certificate(s) together with final transcript(s) in the original language
  • A photocopy or scanned version of a certified translation in English (if necessary)
  • Evidence of the medium of instruction of your degree from the university’s central administration unit / registry. Sample here.
  • Select a postage/delivery option and include payment for service plus postage/delivery.

You need to make an online account in their website. There are two routes- Blue and red. Be careful to choose your routes as these are NOT interchangeable.

If you are going to use UKNARIC for your Tier 2 visa,you should choose RED route and upload the scanned documents and mail them the copies and letter. The payment will be £133 if you choose international signed Royal Mail, or £205 if you use DHL. To know further, check out their page of English language assessment service.


Let’s look at the comparison between IELTS and OET and UKNARIC below:

Top comparison points between IELTS and OET to note:

  • IELTS is cheaper than OET
  • IELTS takes place in more countries than OET
  • OET doesn’t take place as frequently as IELTS
  • Some might feel that preparing for OET is easier than IELTS, as it is medicine and healthcare related

Frequently asked questions

What about English Proficiency when applying for Specialty Training?

Neither IELTS or OET is needed when you apply for core/specialty training. As you will possibly be working as a non-trainee before you apply for core/specialty training, your supervising consultant can fill a form which testifies your English skills. No further testing is needed in that case.

Do I need IELTS/OET if I apply for the Medical Training Initiative (MTI)?

Yes. You need to have obtained a minimum overall score of 7.5 in the IELTS examination, with minimum scores of 7.0 in all categories. The scores should be obtained in one sitting. The test is valid for 2 years. The certificate must have the original stamp and test report form (TRF) number. And the criteria for OET is Grade B in all modules. The requirement for Medical Training Initiative (MTI) posts is for the purpose of GMC registration.

Do I have to take IELTS/OET for Skilled worker visa (tier 2 visa)?

You do not need to prove your English language proficiency again for Skilled worker visa (previously known as Tier 2 visa) if you had already taken some exam for GMC registration purposes.

Can I take PLAB 1 before IELTS/OET?

No. You will not be able to book PLAB 1 exam without a valid test result of IELTS/OET.

Is IELTS UKVI accepted for PLAB?

Yes, it is. But IELTS for UKVI (academic) costs considerably more than IELTS (academic) and getting IELTS UKVI is not going to give you special advantage. English requirement for skilled worker visa (tier 2 visa) is met by having GMC registration, thus separate IELTS UKVI is not needed.

To summarize

You need to prove your English language proficiency in your road to UK as a doctor at three different steps.

  • PLAB 1 – Academic IELTS or OET are accepted
  • GMC Registration – Both are accepted. The certificates must show:
    • that you got a score of at least 7.0 in each testing area (speaking, listening, reading and writing), and an overall score of 7.5 for IELTS or B in all modules and B overall for OET
    • that you got these scores in the same test
    • that you took the academic version of the test
    • the original stamp and test report form (TRF) number (we use this to validate all certificates)
    • that you obtained the scores in your most recent sitting of the test.
  • TIER 2 Visa– Academic IELTS, OET, or UKNARIC is accepted.

Still curious about using IELTS or OET for PLAB and GMC registration? Never fear, our interactive session will clear up any lingering doubts! Good luck to you all.