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. 🙂
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! 🙂 )
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.
- 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 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:
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
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.)
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: 🙂
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 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 1 & 2 Fees: £1070
* 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 Part 1, 2 and PACES Fees: £2390
* You can take MRCP Part 1 and MRCP Part 2 Exams in your country.
* But for PACES, you have two options:
* 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: 🙂
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! 🙂