PLAB VS MRCP – Which one to choose for UK pathway

What You Need to Know About PLAB and MRCP Exams

 International medical graduates often ask about the entry pathways to the UK. To practice in the UK, doctors need to have medical license from General Medical Council UK. There are three main pathways by which doctors can secure a GMC license; here we will discuss in detail about PLAB VS MRCP

1.       PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board) Exam

2.       MRCP / MRCS (Membership of Royal College of Physicians/Surgeons

3.       Exemption basis (based on your qualifications e.g. USMLE, recognized post-graduation qualifications etc) (Read about MTI program here)

The exemption basis license sounds tempting, but you need to have recognized qualifications or land a position in a designated institute alongwith an assessment process that also comes with its own assessment fee. Henceforth, we will discuss the common two pathways i.e. PLAB and MRCP and will cover the license on exemption basis in a future post.


Is PLAB a Pathway to MRCP?

PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board) is a test that is used to assess the knowledge, skills, and abilities of international medical graduates who wish to practice medicine in the United Kingdom. It is one of the pathways that international medical graduates can use to obtain registration with the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK.

MRCP (Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians) is a professional qualification in the field of medicine that is awarded by the Royal Colleges of Physicians in the UK. MRCP, is a professional qualification in the field of medicine that is awarded by the Royal Colleges of Physicians in the UK. It is not a pathway to obtaining registration with the GMC. Instead, it is a postgraduate qualification that demonstrates a high level of knowledge and expertise in a particular speciality of medicine. Though one can get GMC registration on the basis of higher qualification i.e.MRCP.

Which is better, PLAB VS MRCP?

The most frequent question, plab vs mrcp, that comes to the mind is which one to choose, well the answer is it varies, several variables can go in favour of one or the other.

If we talk about the PLAB exam it is an entry level exam based on the medical school knowledge, hence comparatively easier to pass vs the MRCP which is a post-graduate diploma that requires in-depth knowledge and specialist level approach as well as hospital based experience.

PLAB is the easier and faster route to take for fresh graduates, the exam consists of two parts,

The written Exam, part 1, which the GMC states “tests Your capacity to use your knowledge to provide patient care, will be evaluated in the exam. It doesn't assess your capacity to recall and repeat information. Questions concern current UK best practises and equipment that is frequently readily hand in UK hospitals. You must respond to the questions based on published facts, not on the customs in your area.”

The PLAB 1 is a best of five MCQS based exam, consisting of 180 questions to be done in 3 hours.

The current fee of PLAB PART 1 is £240 

The Part 2, is an OSCE based practical exam that consists of 16 scenarios based on common ward and patient encounters, each of 8 minutes.

The current fee for the PLAB part 2 exam is £879.


So to talk about the venues, the part 1 exam is conducted worldwide by the British council, hence can be given in the home country while the PLAB part 2 exam occurs only in the UK. This means additional visa/travelling/accommodation costs for the candidates, even after passing the exam, candidates have to return to their respective country and apply for visa again for job purpose.

Other requirements for PLAB, the other most significant requirement for appearing in the PLAB is the English language competency assessed via OET or ILETS with the required grade/band before proceeding with the plab 1 exam. This step was a hurdle for IMGS from non-english speaking countries but after the introduction of OET, which is based around medicine and hospital related language, this is now less challenging, though with a validity of two years only, the timing of the test has to be planned accordingly.

For the MRCP there is no requirement for English language testing itself, but for registering with the GMC, the test is required.

Now coming over the MRCP/MRCS, these are postgraduate diplomas, this can add up to your professional competency and is a pathway for specialization and is well recognized in several countries around the world, compared to the PLAB exam which is just a licensing exam, henceforth has no weightage in career progression or recognition outside the UK.

The MRCP/MRCS consists of three parts;

Part 1, mcqs based exam, that can be appeared after 12 months after graduation, the part 1exam tests the basic concepts and application of knowledge related to medicine/surgery respectively. The exam consists of two parts containing 100 mcqs each, 3 hours for each section.


Part 2 written, is similar to the format of part 1 i.e. 100 mcqs based two parts with 3 hours duration for each, but the part 2 is an advanced level exam, expecting appropriate diagnosis and management plans expected of a specialist, this exam also contains images, c.t scan, mri and ecgs in it questions.


Part 2 PACES, part two paces is the practical component of the MRCP/MRCS exam, consisting of stations with clinical encounters, PACES is recommended to be given with recommendation of an educational supervisor and after completing atleast 2 years hospital based work.


The fee for MRCP UK is as follows:

MRCP part 1: £608

MRCP part 2 written  £608

MRCP part 2 PACES  £1202

The MRCP written exam is also conducted by the british council in several countries worldwide, also several international centers for the MRCP paces exam have also been established hence candidates can complete the whole diploma in their respective countries without coming to the UK, but it is important to mention here that there is a huge backlog of candidates for the MRCP Paces exam, hence getting a seat for the exam can be a challenge.


What are the job opportunities after PLAB/MRCP?

Candidates getting registration after PLAB apply for Junior House Officer SHO 1 & Senior House  Officer SHO 2 (incase they have done their housejob in their own country, s. PAY is around  £37,724/year

Those with MRCP diploma land on registrar level jobs, henceforth have higher pays and easier chance of getting a job due to previous work experience. Registrar pay is around  £44481


PLAB VS MRCP based on career level?

Considering ease of passing the exam, easier to get exam slots and lower fee, IMGS at the start of their career are best to proceed with the plab route, as they will enter the system earlier and be accustomed to the system.


IMGS already in training pathways or having completed their specialist training can proceed with the MRCP pathway, as they have already prepared for their respective post-graduate exams and have clinical experience hence better suited to pass the MRCP/MRCS exam, going back and preparing for plab exam can be counter-productive since their basic medical school knowledge is not that fresh. Doing MRCP and gaining GMC registration opens up a path for locum jobs as well as further specialization in the UK.




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