How to plan your PLAB journey: A complete guide for IMGs

So many of us have started to consider making a career in the UK by taking PLAB, but it’s hard to do so without having everything in your journey laid out in front of you. We will outline every step towards your PLAB journey and guide how to plan it ahead.

Where do I start?
What will I need?
How do I plan and map out the entire road to the UK?

1. Getting your Primary Medical Qualification (PMQ)

You can’t sit for the PLAB exams without your PMQ (primary medical qualification, e.g. MBBS). That means you can’t sit for PLAB being a medical student. You don’t necessarily need to have the main diploma/certificate in order to appear for PLAB, but you will need them before you apply for GMC registration. Just a pass result in your final exams will make you eligible to embark on the PLAB route. But I will highly suggest getting a provisional MBBS degree until you get the main one.

That being said, for International Medical Graduates (IMGs), it’s highly recommended to apply for GMC registration AFTER completion of the internship/house job, as that makes one eligible for FULL GMC registration.

Check this article to make sure your medical college/university is accepted by GMC or not – How to get Medical Qualification (PMQ) recognised by GMC.

2. Completing an acceptable pattern of internship

Internship is not needed to appear in the PLABs. But, an acceptable pattern of internship is necessary for FULL GMC registration. Those who haven’t completed any form of internship after graduation can clear PLABs and get provisional GMC registration, but that’s only suggestible if you intend on getting into the UK medical graduates’ internship- UKFPO Foundation programme . Otherwise, obtaining provisional GMC registration means nothing if you are not going to apply for UKFP. Your best bet will be complete an acceptable pattern of internship elsewhere.

3. English Language Proficiency

Before you can take PLAB 1 exam, you need to have the obtained required score in either IELTS or OET.

Looking for materials for IELTS or materials for OET?

4. Taking PLAB 1

Overseas, generally PLAB 1 takes place twice, in March & November. Take a look here to find the overseas centres for PLAB 1. In the UK, it happens four times a year; March, June, September & November. There is no hard and fast rule like if your country has centres that you can’t take PLAB 1 in the UK.

5. EPIC Verification of your credentials

It is best that you complete your EPIC verification of your PMQ after your PLAB 1 pass results are out. You can also do it any time before that, but it would be wise to make sure your have your EPIC verification done by the time your PLAB 2 results are out.

6. Booking PLAB 2 and applying for UK Visitor Visa

This is a huge discussion and there is a dedicated category containing related posts to it in our blog. It is highly advisable to read through the posts and ask in the comments if you need anything to be clarified. Here is the category link, UK Visa Guidance for PLAB.

  • PLAB 1 can be taken by your own preparation, but for PLAB 2 many attend different courses/academies. Planning for them is crucial as you would want to get everything (up to your GMC registration) done in one visa (6 months) time period, so know how to plan for PLAB 2 & course.
  • Before going for PLAB 2 and potentially completing your GMC registration in the same visa period, you should ensure you have all the papers needed for GMC registration.

7. Visiting UK for taking PLAB 2

The standard visitor visa you will be assigned will last for 6 months, during which so much can be completed:

  1. PLAB 2 academy and self-practice before the exam
  2. PLAB 2 exam itself.
  3. Waiting for the result. Fun times!
  4. Application for GMC registration
  5. Applying for jobs online
  6. Attending job interviews in person or online

Related posts in our blog will help you handle all of these things smoothly:

You potentially can return to your country after you are done with PLAB 2. Applications for GMC registration, jobs and interview can all be done online.

8. Applying for GMC registration

If you are in the UK when your PLAB 2 results are out and you have all the evidences required for GMC registration at hand, you should apply for GMC registration. GMC registration is applied from the same GMC online account and the payment can be done by anyone’s credit card.

You technically can bypass most of the above steps if you are making your GMC registration on the basis of your GMC accepted PG qualification. You don’t have to take PLAB, if you have any of those accepted degrees (but IELTS/OET and EPIC still applies).

9. Looking for jobs in the NHS

Once you obtain FULL GMC registration with a license to practice, you officially can be appointed as a doctor anywhere in the UK. Congrats! So, that’s when your job hunt will begin. It is always advisable to start at a non-training job like LAS or trust grade post to get into system rather than jumping into training application without any NHS experience.

10. Applying for Tier 2 (work) Visa

You have aced your interviews and landed a job. Congrats again! Now the last thing on your plate is to apply for a S killed Worker Visa . The process is much easier compared to the standard visitor visa. And guess what? We have a dedicated category containing related blog posts for it as well. Please have a look at our Tier 2 Visa Guidance.

To summarize

How long can the entire PLAB journey take?

Let’s take a look back at all the steps in a timeline, with allowances for a hassle free approach:

  • December, 2018 – Took IELTS.
  • January, 2019 – IELTS results came out.
  • March, 2019 – Took PLAB 1.
  • April, 2019 – Passed PLAB 1.
  • June, 2019 – EPIC Verification completed. (You can start the process in March, after appearing PLAB 1)
  • July, 2019 – Booked PLAB 2 exam in October, 2019 and course in mid to ending August, 2019. Applied for Standard Visitor Visa.

~ UK Visa for 6 months starts ~

  • August – September, 2019 –  Course and self-practice for PLAB 2 exam.
  • October, 2019 – Took PLAB 2.
  • November, 2019 – Passed PLAB 2. Applied for GMC Registration. Job application via NHS Jobs website.
  • December, 2019 – January, 2020 – Job application via NHS jobs continues. Attending interviews in person if possible.

~ UK visa for 6 months ends ~

  • January – February, 2020 – Application for jobs and possibly a few successful interviews by then.
  • March – April, 2020 – Tier 2 visa application and commencing as a doctor in the UK.

Please keep in mind that this is a general timeline. You don’t need to follow it to a T. As you can see, in this timeline, it shows March 2019 to March 2020, a year from your taking PLAB 1 until you start a job. You can cut short the entire process to a minimum of 6-8 months. How?

  • Get EPIC verification done way before you embark on your PLAB journey.
  • Take less time preparing for PLAB 2 exam.
  • Take PLAB 1 in the UK and PLAB 2 in the same visa. Read more to know the associated risks involved in completing PLAB 1 & 2 in 6 months.

To keep it simple, it is safe to say that your PLAB journey should not take more than 1.5 – 2 years if you are diligent in your planning and approach. But, yes, failing in any of the exams like IELTS, PLAB 1 or PLAB 2- can push you back a little in the timeline, but as the saying goes – good things come to those who wait.

How much will the PLAB journey cost?

The total cost of PLAB is a matter than needs to be understood and sorted before you begin your road to the UK. You can have a step by step cost breakdown from how to plan funding for the PLAB Journey. 

To sum, many may think this is the road less travelled, the road of hurdles and uncertainty, but rest assured that it is doable, especially when we are there for every step of your journey.

Good luck!