PLAB or MRCP – Which One is Better?

A complete "tear down", elaborating differences between PLAB and MRCP for helping those who aspire to train in the U.K.

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PLAB or MRCP


For anyone who aspires to train in the U.K, must have confronted this confusing question: PLAB or MRCP, which one is the best route of graduate entry into the UK medicine? It’s hard weighing between these two options. This question reminds me of the day when I sat with an alumnus, taking notes as he went on speaking regarding “PLAB vs MRCP” and that which option is the best. 😀 Today, we’re going to shed some light on this topic. We’ll compare both these credentials and see which option is more fruitful. We expect the audience to be a part of this discussion by contributing their ideas and thoughts. 🙂

CHECK ALSO:
 Complete Study Material for PLAB 1
and
List of Important Topics For PLAB 1 Exam

But before we go in detail, let us first understand what PLAB and MRCP actually are:

(This is a long knowledge-base article, so grab up some tea/coffee and read on to enlighten yourself! 🙂 )

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Birmingham, U.K






PLAB

Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) is a licensing exam and the main route of entry for the international medical graduates (IMGs) to practice medicine in the UK. IMGs passing PLAB 1 and PLAB 2 become eligible to apply for registration and licensure at the General Medical Council, U.K. Once their registration is accepted at GMC, they’re officially entitled to work in the UK as a senior/junior house officer (status depends on if they have completed their internship/house job back home or not).

The IMGs can apply for two types of registration at GMC after PLAB:

  • Provisional Registration with a license to practice: Granted to those who have not completed an acceptable internship/house job. They will be entered in Foundation Year One (F1).
  • Full Registration with a license to practice: Only those with an accepted internship (completed either overseas or in the UK) can apply for this type of registration and licensure. They will enter F2 as SHO in the UK. However, it is very hard for an IMG to enter F2 directly because of the limited amount of posts. But you can apply for a non-training (PAID) job, work for three months, get your competencies signed and then apply for core training.

IMPORTANT:

  • Due to the scarcity of F1 posts for IMGs, it is strongly advised to complete your 12 months internship/house job (at a recognized teaching hospital) before appearing in PLAB 2.
  • Maximum, four number of attempts are allowed in written and practical part of the exam. BUT PLEASE KEEP IN MIND that if an applicant presents with multiple failures in his record to GMC, this will be taken into consideration prior to registration and could lead to refusal!

Eligibility Criteria for PLAB Part 1 Exam

  • You have to be a medical graduate with possession of a recognized medical qualification i.e MBBS or equivalent.
  • Passed IELTS Test: A 7.0 in each testing area (reading, writing, speaking and listening) and an overall 7.5 (out of 9.0) is a compulsory prerequisite for taking PLAB Part 1.

Eligibility Criteria for PLAB Part 2 Exam

  • PLAB Part 1 Passed, is the ONLY requirement for taking PLAB Part 2 exam. But keep in mind, that after passing PLAB 1, PLAB 2 exam should be taken within two years. Otherwise, your “pass” status in PLAB 1 will be rendered expired and you will have to take PLAB 1 again!

PLAB Fees:

  • PLAB Part 1: £230
  • PLAB Part 2: £840

PLAB Test Centers

PLAB 1 can be taken outside the UK in the following countries Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Srilanka, and Egypt. While PLAB 2 can only be taken in the UK.

 

Overall PLAB Journey

Here’s a flowchart to help you better understand the PLAB pathway/route of training in the UK:

 

MRCP

Membership of the Royal Colleges of Physicians (MRCP) is a postgraduate membership examination in the medicine specialty of the UK. It consists of three parts, namely:

  • MRCP Part 1
  • MRCP Part 2
  • PACES

The part 1 & 2 are written exams while PACES is an OSCE (clinical) exam. One has to pass all three steps of MRCP for being eligible for GMC registration and licensure to work as a doctor in the UK.

Eligibility Criteria for MRCP Part 1 Exam

  • MRCP Part 1 exam can be taken one year after the date of graduation.
  • NO prior hospital job experience is required.

Eligibility Criteria for MRCP Part 2 Exam

  • Physicians in training who have passed the MRCP Part 1 exam.

Eligibility Criteria for PACES Exam

  • Candidate must have cleared MRCP Part 2 (pass rates increase significantly with a gap of 12-24 months, GMC’s research suggests.)

MRCP Fees:

Below are the fees for international candidates:

  • MRCP Part 1: £594
  • MRCP Part 2: £594
  • PACES: £1202

Entry into UK Medicine After Passing MRCP

Once you have passed all three steps of MRCP, you can directly apply for GMC registration and licensure after giving IELTS test (7.5 overall and 7.0 in each section). A complete MRCP is equivalent of those who have completed their Core Training and will enter ST.

But it is not possible to start Specialty Training right away. First, you will be required to take a non-training job for a certain period of time. One of our alumnus was asked to work 18 months in a non-training position before getting into Specialty Training of his choice, which was gastroenterology.

Overall MRCP Journey

Here’s what your overall MRCP journey leading to specialty training in the UK would look like: 🙂




MRCP is a “long jump” to specialty training in the U.K.

PLAB or MRCP

We have discussed the basic differences between PLAB and MRCP. We’ll now perform a complete teardown of both and compare them for the ease of understanding: 🙂

PLAB MRCP
PLAB is a “licensing exam” to enter UK medicine after GMC registration.

MRCP is a “membership examination” (a postgraduate qualification) in medicine specialty in the UK.

* After MRCP, you’re exempted from PLAB and so you can directly apply for registration and licensure at GMC.

It allows you to enter Core Training (after working at non-training posts and getting your competencies signed).

It allows you to enter Specialist Training (after working at non-training posts and getting your competencies signed).

**You DO NOT have to go for Core Training!

PLAB EXPENSES:

* PLAB 1 & 2 Fees: £1070

**OTHER EXPENSES

* PLAB 2 exam can only be taken in the U.K (UK visa and air ticket charges + accommodation, meals, transportation and other charges)

* And when you go there, you have to take PLAB 2 courses i.e Dr. Swamy PLAB Courses or Samson PLAB — both of them have the same fee: £550

* If you add up everything, PLAB roughly costs £5000 to £6000!

 

 MRCP EXPENSES:

* MRCP Part 1, 2 and PACES Fees: £2390

**OTHER EXPENSES

* You can take MRCP Part 1 and MRCP Part 2 Exams in your country.

* But for PACES, you have two options:
1) UK Exam Centre
2) International Exam Centre (you can choose from 14 different countries listed here.)

* Let’s say you choose UAE as your international exam center, this would hardly add an extra £1000 to the total cost!

 

 Time duration: Takes less time (hardly 6-8 months)  Time duration: Takes more time of course but with more outcomes.
 The exams are less difficult. MRCP exams are more difficult (Duh! of course, because it’s a postgrad. qualification 😀 )
 Requires IELTS  Requires IELTS
Salary after PLAB in the U.K: £33,000 annually. Salary after MRCP in the U.K: £55,000 annually.
BEST OPTION for those who do not have any financial constraints! BEST OPTION for those who have financial constraints. But once they complete MRCP (all three steps), they will be earning sufficient to move to the UK for specialty training.

 

Job Market Demand for PLAB & MRCP

Back in March 16th, 2017, I posted this question in a Facebook group: “PLAB vs MRCP — Which one is the best entry route into the UK Medicine”. And to my surprise, I was contacted by Claudio Obinu — a recruiter supplying doctors to the NHS.

Here’s what he told me: 🙂

 

Conclusion

PLAB is easier and the quickest route of entry into the UK medicine offering you an opportunity to start from scratch… taking baby steps and learning things as you go. Thus, making this whole transition a lot easier for you. However, you must keep in mind the cost factor as well. PLAB is the best option for those who do not have any financial constraints.

MRCP is sure difficult, takes a lot more time and effort than PLAB but at the end, it is more rewarding than PLAB for sure! 🙂 Considering the cost factor, MRCP best suits those who have financial constraints and cannot move to the U.K for training directly.

To put things into perspective, you can compare PLAB and MRCP to that of stair walking and mountain climbing (in terms of difficulty):

 

 

But sure, the view you will get from the top of the mountain is more rewarding and beautiful! 🙂




 

That’s all! 🙂

We hope this article will make it easy for you choosing between PLAB and MRCP when the next time you will think of training in the UK.

GOOD LUCK! 🙂

 

Did we miss something OR you have something to say? Please use the comment box below and let us know what you think! 🙂

60 COMMENTS

  1. Good article but a small correction…you don’t have to pass Part 2 A before sitting for PACES ( can do PACES after Part 1 then sit for 2A written). Also limited number of attempts now…6 in total for each part.

    • Really helpful as I tried both but realised that MRCP just after Pakistan house job was not easy to pass. Also financial and social factors played a great role as well. As was a married lady with one child in UK, so slowly started my PLAB route, and just after passing my PLAB, and getting GMC registration,I started getting Adhoc Locums for another 6-7 months and filled 4 years gap with that ( I have to say I said yes to even travel to Cambridge and Reading on daily bases from London)Now have got trust grade or non training job and mother of 2 children;again life is not easy no social support only earning member for time being and new Medical condition to face VITILIGO. But still hoping one of my consultant will sign FY2 competence, this month,And will join GP training InshaAllah.
      But for those who are still medical students trying to come to UK PLAB is the easy way so while you are doing your Final Medical year do solve PLAB 1 McQ . Also when you are doing your House Job please get your FY2 competencies signed from Pakistan and with your each rotation keep solving the MRCP Part 1 MCQs. Like if you are in cardiology ward try to solve the MRCP part 1 question.
      So even if you’re on PLAB route can get the job and can clear MRCP while you are in UK.
      Hope this helps I have to say even writing this I got interrupted 5 times ……?

      • May Allah grant you the success you seek. Aamen.
        How easy/difficult is it for an fcps trainee to compelte his MRCP and FCPS and then apply to UK for fellow ship?

      • Hi. That was so encouraging.. I am worried for my 3 years gap to apply for play or mrcp??
        Your post gave me.some hope but can.u tell me which one will be better in terms of this 3 years gap in consideration??
        Also can I please be in touch with you??
        Also.will be dealing all this with one child InshaaAllah.
        Plz rep 🙂

  2. Great article Mr. Aurangzaib, I just have one question.
    After taking MRCP Part-1, is there any time restraint for part-2 or even PACES?
    or i can take those whenever i can and still have valid previous exam results?
    Thank you for your response in advance.

  3. Great article and very conclusive but I understand that total cost of plan is more than that of MRCP right? So how plan suit those who have no well financial resources I can’t get this point could you explain it please . Thanks

  4. Wonder ful dr baloch..great work..also please tell us regarding whts the value of MRCS ..how yeilding it is? Wht opportunities are available after completion of MRCS..thankuuu..

  5. Hi!!! I wanna ask a question..if one is lucky and consistent enough to pass MRCPS 1,MRCPS 2,PACES in a line exactly how much time period would that require?…
    2. After passing all of this could one have an entry into his desired speciality?
    3. What are the chances of getting into neurosurgery after MRCPS…THANKYOU for the article….it really really helped me clearing my mind.?

  6. Thanks a lot for such a detailed article . I wish I had seen it before.. just one question the way you’ve described mrcp is it same for mrcs? Please do explain the future of surgery in uk
    Thanks

    • MRCP is for medicine and MRCS for surgery also I don’t much about surgery but orthopaedic is much in demand. Always job available, for orthopaedic

  7. Comment:but in uk when u getting job after plab then your working experience is counted.so then u can do mrcp and get priority than those who just completed mrcp and go to uk for job

  8. A very informative post Dr Baloch… But i have one question plz clarify this. That what is the value of doing MRCS . Is it of the same value as MRCP or have any differnce? And the eligibility criteria for MRCS is same as MRCP or have any difference? Thanks in advance…

    • Graduates from UK, European Economic Area (EEA) or Switzerland are exempted from UK’s licensure exams.

      You will need to pass the PLAB test before you can apply for registration with a license to practice OR have MRCP.

      • HELLO,
        MR BALOCH I AM A PEDIATRICIAN TRAINED IN INDIA…SO DO I HAVE TO TAKE MRCP OR MRCPCH BEFORE MOVING TO UK?
        I WANT TO DO SPECIALITY TRAINING

    • Well, the time you have spent away from clinical practice will be taken into account when you will apply for GMC registration. But nevertheless, things would definitely work out for you! 🙂

  9. Thanks alot for the informative comparison Mr.Baloch. I would like to ask the following: what is the length of the specialty training in UK for those who passed MRCP? And are they paid during their training despite being paid in the nontraining paid period?

  10. Great article! Helped me on so many levels. I was so confused after clearing MRCP part 1, whether to start preparing for part 2 or go for PLAB and IELTS. You just solved my problem. Thank you!

    And yes, i’m officially fan of your blog. Finally, there is someone with all the updated knowledge regarding our field. Keep it up!

  11. Very informative and helpful
    Thanks Dr Baloch but i want to ask about the eligibility of MRCPCH to access GMC after the GMC announced the UKMLA to be live for IMGs on 2019/2020 ??

  12. dr baloch i need some advice regarding australian exams…i have done ms gynae obs….what options i should consider??

  13. Very informative article Dr Baloch. Thanks for taking the time to write it.
    I have one question. Do you need experience as an independent physician after completing MBBS(including 1 year internship) to sit for MRCP Part 1?

  14. great efforts..dr aurangzaib we really need such articles ..thanks for the information and its going to help me alot to choose a right path after mbbs

  15. Thank u sir…very useful information…u just cleared al my doubts …very helpful

    I just wana know…I’m doing MD in dermatology in INDIA…so wat r d chances of getting in dermatology ST3 after clearing MRCP…does my MD degree any helpful ??

  16. Are international medical graduates after completing mrcp and gmc registration eligible for CCT(certificate of completion of clinical training) in UK ?

  17. Just to add in. It is easy to get into less competitive specialty training (st3+) after doing MRCP abroad and getting non training job and then getting into training. For more competitive specialty it is better to do core training first (whenever you take mrcp) before applying for st3+ application.

  18. Thanks a lot for the detailed information.
    I have one doubt.
    In kochi there is aster medicity which is conducting cmt programme for 3 years.and training for mrcp.fee is 9 lakh per year i guess.its new partnership in India between the London, Edinburgh and Glasgow Colleges of Physicians in the UK and Aster Medcity in Kerala. Physician training of young graduate doctors will be delivered to the same standard as in the UK , undertaking the same curriculum and assessments. Aster Medcity with JRCPTB (Joined Royal College Of Physician Training Board, UK) will deliver CMT for the first time in India. Aster Medcity will be the second in the world after Iceland to deliver CMT outside UK.(copy pasted frm their site)

    My doubt is dat what is the advantage of joining cmt in aster to clear mrcp?should i spend my money and time for this or i should look for self preparation for mrcp or plab?

  19. Very informative sir! Thank u!
    I wanted to know abt d job opportunities after plab… like d way we can get specialty training only in 2nd round…so are we(IMGs) 2nd choice for training/non-training jobs after plab also? N is it difficult to get a job after plab?

  20. Hello Doctor,
    I am a doctor from INDIA – I have completed MRCPCH all the three part but Still GMC needs IELTS for registration but your blog is bit misleading me – you haven’t specified about IELTS anywhere for MRCPCH completed student?

  21. I REALLY LIKE THE WAY YOU HAVE PRESENTED THIS ARTICLE. I WISH I WOULD HAVE GONE LIKE THIS KIND OF ARTICLE THROUGH IT 5 YEARS BEFORE. I WOULD HAVE BEEN A DIFFERENT DOCTOR.

  22. I have a postgraduate diploma in dermatology and eventually want to pursue the masters degree but for now i want to work.which is the best route for me

  23. hey Dr . thanks alot for this very informative article . i just wanna ask can i do Plab test in order to go to the UK faster and when i am there apply for the MRCP exam ? this way i would be having the best out of both no ?

    thanks a lot for your reply in advance .

  24. I want to compare the toughness level of plab and mrcp. How can i do this? I mean fromm will I get the sample questions and all that? Please help.

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