Will UKMLA Replace PLAB?

9 Minutes

To get on the GMC register, international medical graduates must prove they have the necessary skills, knowledge, and experience to practice medicine safely in the UK. They have done this over the years by taking the PLAB examinations. However, this is set to change – the GMC has announced that in 2025, they will replace PLAB with UKMLA. 

What is PLAB?

PLAB is a two-part exam that demonstrates your knowledge and skill. Both parts cover all the clinical expertise you need to become a UK doctor. International medical graduates often use it to show their medical knowledge if they don’t have a relevant, GMC-approved post-graduate degree. 

If you’re looking for the UKMLA headlines then this short video explains everything you need to know. Otherwise read on for the full story.

What is UKMLA?

The MLA is a replacement for the PLAB test. The GMC has officially announced that it will be rolled out in 2024. The PLAB will continue to exist in 2024 during which time it will become compliant with MLA requirements. So, what will the UKMLA exams look like? Much like PLAB, it will come in two parts, one of which will be a written exam and the other a practical exam. In fact the GMC have confirmed that candidates shouldn't notice any tangible difference in the tests since the MLA content map which replaces the PLAB blueprint covers the same areas. They've told us explicitly that the transition will not affect candidates' preparations for, or experience of, taking the test. 

Part 1: Applied Knowledge Test (AKT)

Part one of MLA will focus on applying knowledge. It will be a multiple-choice exam that will run four times a year in several places worldwide. The GMC stated that they would provide sample questions in the future – this will help those taking the exam prepare for it. 

Part 2: Clinical and Professional Skills Assessment (CPSA)

The second part of MLA will be an objective structured clinical exam. It will involve examiners giving real-life clinical situations to which the candidates must respond appropriately. For this part of the exam, candidates must demonstrate that they know how to apply clinical knowledge to realistic medical scenarios. The GMC has said this exam will take place in Manchester. 

If you are familiar with the structure of the PLAB exams, you will notice that they are very similar! 

Preparing for UKMLA

To prepare for the PLAB, IMGs used the GMC blueprint. This time, the GMC has released the MLA content map to replace that and said that more information on preparing for the exams would come soon. 

Here are the sections of study areas that the GMC have released. To prepare for the MLA, your studies should focus on these topics: 

  • Areas of Clinical Practice
  • Areas of Professional Knowledge
  • Clinical and Professional Capabilities
  • Practical Skills and Procedures
  • Patient Representations 
  • Conditions

It is expected that preparing for the MLA exams won’t be very different to preparing for the PLAB examinations. It will involve reading clinical books, practising sample questions, and practising the practical exam with your friends/tutor/mentor. Remember – you don’t need to worry about preparing for the UKMLA exam yet, as the change has yet to take place! Once it does, the GMC will let candidates know how they should prepare. 

Cost of the UKMLA

The GMC has not yet set a cost for the MLA exams. However, you can expect it to be similar to the cost of the PLAB exams. As of April 2023, PLAB part one costs £355 and part two costs £934. 

Retaking the UKMLA 

Just like you were able to retake the PLAB, GMC has stated that you will be able to retake the MLA if you do not pass the first time. However, they have also said there will be a set number of times you can do so. For the PLAB, you can retake the exams up to four times. It is not yet known whether that number will apply to the MLA; it might be more or less. 

The Key Differences Between PLAB and UKMLA

As you can see, PLAB and UKMLA have a lot of similarities. However, there is one key difference: while the PLAB is an exam solely for international medical graduates wanting to get on the GMC register, both IMGs and UK graduates will have to take the MLA to be able to practice medicine in the UK.

The GMC has chosen to create an exam for both IMGs and UK medical graduates because it creates more uniformity across medicine in the UK. When everyone passes the same exam, there is an overall set standard, ensuring all doctors meet minimal expectations. It’s about creating a better quality of medical care for patients. 

How Will This Affect You?

You might wonder if this change will affect you. If you are already taken the PLAB examinations, this won’t affect you – you can still use them to gain GMC registration. Also, if you’re applying right now or any time before the change takes place in 2024, you will still take the PLAB exams, and they will still grant you access to the GMC register. 

However, if you’re a trainee doctor who has not received your GMC registration yet, and you’re not likely to complete the application until 2024, the change may affect you. That’s only if you would have taken PLAB to demonstrate your knowledge and skills – if you have a GMC-approved post-graduate degree, you won’t have had to take PLAB, which means you won’t take MLA, either. 

The people it will affect are IMGs using the MLA to prove their knowledge and skills to the GMC. It will also affect future UK medical graduates (who have not started their training yet), as they must take the MLA exam to practise medicine. 

The GMC has not yet said how the change from the PLAB to the MLA will affect EEA graduates. 

Will Other Parts of the GMC Registration Change?

The only change we know about is that PLAB will change to MLA in 2024-25. If you want to stay in the know, you can keep up to date with the GMC website or our blogs here at BDI Resourcing. We endeavour to provide IMGs with the latest updates for GMC registration and general UK relocation processes and news. 

In Summary 

The change from PLAB to UKMLA will occur in 2024, as stated by the GMC. This will only affect those seeking GMC registration from 2024 if they would have otherwise taken the PLAB. The most significant difference is that the examinations will be taken by international and UK medical graduates, which will ensure every UK doctor is held to the same standard when getting their licence to practise.

Whether you are sitting PLAB, already have it or you are thinking about UKMLA in the future let us know so that we can help you along the way