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.
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 thaext, 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 if you are a national of an English speaking country. 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-
- 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-
- 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:
- Standard Visitor Visa (PLAB 2 visa)
- Tier 2 Visa (work permit post-GMC registration)
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.
IELTS for UKVI can be-
- General training
- Life skills
Like I said before, as we’re aiming for professional registration in the UK, so we should be appearing in the academic version.
How much do I have to score in IELTS?
To appear in 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.
“IELTS” vs IELTS for UKVI”?
As Tier 2 visa also accepts the valid IELTS that was used for GMC registration, there is no difference between taking IELTS and IELTS for UKVI in terms of usability. But if your IELTS which you used for GMC registration expires before you can apply for Tier 2 visa, you would need to take IELTS for UKVI and for tier 2 visa purpose the required score is minimum of 4.0 score with a minimum of 4.0 in all four modules.
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.
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.
What is UKNARIC? How is it related to all this?
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.
This assessment will prove your English language proficiency for your TIER 2 visa. Unfortunately, for GMC registration only a UKNARIC is not enough.
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.
IELTS vs OET vs UKNARIC
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
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.
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.
Exemption is given for the following:
1) You are a national of a majority English speaking country; or
2) You hold a degree that was taught or researched in English which must be equivalent to a UK Bachelors degree or above.
A valid passport is required to prove this.
• Antigua and Barbuda;
• The Bahamas;
• New Zealand;
• St Kitts and Nevis;
• St Lucia;
• St Vincent and the Grenadines;
• Trinidad and Tobago;
• The United States of America.
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.