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UKMLA vs PLAB: Which is Better to Practice Medicine in UK?

Updated on 12 September, 2023

Shivangi Mishra

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. Content Editor

If you’re a medical student, you might make sense of this random abbreviation of letters. After all, it was a gateway to practice medicine in the United Kingdom.

That’s right, with the introduction of UKMLA, PLAB will no longer be relevant. The General Medicine Council (GMC) plans to replace PLAB with this new examination in 2024 for both domestic and international aspirants.

But don’t be disheartened! UKMLA, or the United Kingdom Medicine Licensing Assessment, is nothing but a significant improvement. GMC has advertised it as a standardized examination that dictates your medical future in the UK.

But what exactly is UKMLA? Is it better than PLAB? We’ll let you be the judge as we discuss UKMLA vs PLAB, including the scope and objective of both these examinations, their structure, eligibility requirements, and application process.


The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Boards (PLAB) is an official assessment to check if budding doctors from outside the country have the relevant medical skills to practice in the UK.

PLAB only applied to international candidates. So, if you completed your medical education outside the UK, Switzerland, or European Economic Area, there was no escape from PLAB.

However, the UKMLA is more inclusive. It doesn’t consider your educational location and only focuses on whether you have the skills to practice medicine in the UK. As such, it applies to all medical students.

Come to think of it, wouldn’t that mean domestic students have the home advantage? Won’t the curriculum be more suited to their needs?

As natural as it is to consider this, let us tell you why that’s not the case. Here is a step-by-step comparison of UKMLA vs PLAB to eliminate misconceptions and paint a clearer picture of the change.

UKMLA vs PLAB: Eligibility Criteria

The eligibility criteria for both examinations largely remain the same. They are only open to medical students who have completed their initial study period.

Only UKMLA has expanded the list of eligible candidates. So, if you are a medical graduate looking to practice in the UK, the UKMLA is a must. It is open to all medical students who have completed their respective programs and want to put their names in the medical register.

UKMLA vs PLAB: Structure and Components

As the names suggest, the structure of both examinations or assessments closely resemble each other.


Kicking things off with PLAB – it contains two papers, PLAB 1 and PLAB 2.

  • PLAB 1 focuses on the retention of knowledge. It is a written MCQ exam to check your memory and analyze how well you understand the medical system of the UK. Questions include the best practices in the UK and common equipment available across all domestic hospitals.
  • PLAB 2 tests your ability to apply the knowledge in practical simulations. Think of it as a clinical exam that provides you with 16 scenarios a doctor might encounter on their first day.


Very similar to the PLAB, UKMLA is also made up of two stages:

  • Applied Knowledge Test (AKT): Largely resembling PLAB 1, this stage checks your medical knowledge through a written assessment.
  • Clinical and Professional Skills Assessment: (CPSA): A test that checks for your overall demeanor in a clinical atmosphere. Your professional and clinical skills are tested here, and your knowledge and behavior are observed closely.

Right off the bat, you will notice almost no change in the structure. Your skills and knowledge will be tested at the same level as PLAB.

UKMLA vs PLAB: Assessment for Language Proficiency

Your eligibility to register for both PLAB and UKMLA depends on the results of your English proficiency examination. GMC requires you to take one of two relevant tests:

  • IELTS (International English Language Testing System)
  • OET (Occupational English Test)

Only post favorable results will the GMC allow you to register for the respective examination. The purpose is to ensure doctors looking to practice in the UK have a general command over the English language to interact with patients.

UKMLA vs PLAB: Analyzing Clinical Skills

This is perhaps the most interesting part of both examinations. Stressful situations and instant decisions make up a core part of a doctor’s life, and the GMC wants to ensure you’re ready for it.


During this assessment, you receive grades according to three domains:

  • Data gathering, testing, and assessment skills: Essentially, it measures your fluency in making a diagnosis. It starts by checking and analyzing your ability to take patient history, perform standard procedures and investigate the symptoms to make an appropriate diagnosis.
  • Clinical management skills: Doctors have to communicate candidly with patients. This stage observes your adept at conveying the diagnosis to the patient and preparing a management plan to handle their problem.
  • Interpersonal skills: Your interpersonal skills will greatly reveal your ability to handle situations and assure the patients. Plus, your ability to establish rapport with them within the confines of professional boundaries is an essential metric of your overall approach to patient care.


The GMC has released a content map highlighting the areas of focus in UKMLA:

  • Areas of Clinical Practice
  • Areas of professional knowledge
  • Clinical and professional capabilities
  • Practical skills and procedures
  • Patient Presentations
  • Conditions

The GMC has announced it will release sample question papers for UKMLA that highlight the type of questions for both AKT and CPSA.

UKMLA vs PLAB: Recognition and Acceptance

Did you know that countries other than the UK also accept PLAB?

Once you clear PLAB, you can work as a recognized medical practitioner in several middle eastern nations like Qatar and UAE. A bonus is that if you have practiced in the UK for 2 years or more, Australia and New Zealand open their doors too.

In the case of UKMLA, no such recognition can be confirmed yet. For now, it will act as a way to filter medical professionals in the UK and select European countries.

UKMLA vs PLAB: Application and Registration Process

You can apply for PLAB after you clear one of the relevant English proficiency tests. After acquiring your IELTS or OET score, the next step is registering online on the GMC website. Enter the details, including test scores and medical qualifications, to confirm your eligibility.

Once your details are verified, you can proceed to the booking stage for PLAB 1. Also, this examination takes place twice a year in India. It is easier to track if you register online with GMC and check the ‘My Tests’ section.

No application process or registration date is out for GMC yet. But since it will roll out in 2024, you can expect the details to be announced soon. Until then, the PLAB has been the go-to for medical practice in the UK.

Which Exam to Choose?

Until 2024, PLAB will remain the standard examination if you’re looking to practice in the UK. You can apply for the PLAB 1 exam and clear it to get qualified for the second assessment.

From 2024, UKMLA will replace PLAB and act as a standardized test for all candidates, including domestic graduates. In terms of structure, they are very similar and provide an equal opportunity to all candidates.

The debate of UKMLA vs PLAB has no clear winner. Both examinations have standard patterns and syllabi, making them equally challenging for all aspirants worldwide.

But if we had to choose, taking PLAB is a great way to increase your opportunities. If you change your mind and plan to shift to middle eastern countries or Australia, PLAB offers the flexibility to do so.

Frequently Asked Questions

Will PLAB be replaced by UKMLA?

Yes, PLAB will be wholly replaced by UKMLA, starting in 2024. The latter will be a standardized test dictating the medical license of all doctors planning to practice in the UK.

Is PLAB valid in India?

Yes, India accepts PLAB-certified doctors to practice without subjecting them to a separate examination.

What is the alternative to the PLAB exam?

Starting in 2024, the UKMLA will completely replace the PLAB exam. It will be a standardized test to check for a doctor’s eligibility to practice medicine in the UK.

Is PLAB accepted in Australia?

Yes, PLAB is accepted by the Medical Board of Australia and allows a doctor to practice in the region. You do not need to appear for separate AMC examinations to qualify.

Shivangi Mishra

Sr. Content Editor

She is an experienced writer and journalist who has extensively covered the education sector in India and Abroad. Now helping Indian aspirants realise their foreign education dream by providing them with relevant content and information through upGrad Abroad. Amateur traveller, loves to read Architectural Digest!

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