PLAB 1 - a closer look

  • November 05, 2021

Earlier in our Postgraduate Qualifications blog series, we took a general look at PLAB examinations and all its various parts as a whole. Now we’ll take a closer look at the first stage of your PLAB journey – PLAB 1.

Here we consider everything that you need to know about the exam including syllabus, dates, fees and preparation by covering at the following topics:

What is PLAB 1?

PLAB 1 tests your ability to apply your knowledge for the care of patients at the house level, or Foundation year 2 in the UK (12 months of medical practice). Questions relate to current best practice in the UK, and equipment routinely used in UK hospitals. You’ll need to answer the questions in relation to published evidence and not according to your local arrangements. Remember, this is an exam for entry into the UK Healthcare system. 

Still unsure on PLAB as a whole? Take a look at a more general overview of the PLAB examinations

What does PLAB test you on? 

The exam covers the common, important and acute conditions (those common in emergency departments) seen by trainees entering the second year of the Foundation Programme (FY2), and the management of long-term conditions seen in primary care. 

What's the format of PLAB 1?

PLAB 1 is a written exam made up of 180 multiple choice questions, with the test lasting three hours in total. Each starts with a short scenario followed by a question. You need to choose the correct answer out of the five possible answers given.

The GMC have created a helpful guide setting out what the PLAB test covers, you can download it here

Where can I sit PLAB 1? 

You can sit the exam in both the UK and several overseas locations. PLAB 1 is run four times a year in the UK, and twice a year at a number of overseas venues hosted by the British Council.

Overseas venues are listed here with contact details.

At IMG Connect we advise that you check the closing date for applications for the closest venue. Also, be sure to submit your application in advance as applications submitted after the closing date will not be considered. 

How do I book? 

Before you book a PLAB exam you must have:

  • an acceptable overseas primary medical qualification. 
  • a GMC Online account to book or cancel the exam.
  • the necessary knowledge of English – before you can book a test you will need to provide your English language test scores. If you've taken the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) test or the Occupational English Test (OET), you can complete this in the 'My Tests' section at GMC Online. 

Can I book online? 

You can book your PLAB 1 examination using your GMC Online account. Simply go to GMC Online where you can view available dates and book under the My Tests section.

How much does it cost?

The PLAB 1 test costs £235. Please note, this fee increased from the 1st April 2019.

How do I prepare and what resources are available?

We have discussed this question at length with IMGs and the GMC, and whilst there are many resources to choose from online, we recommend the following GMC guides to help you start your preparations: 

The PLAB Blueprint:

This is a helpful guide to what will be included in the exam. Our IMGs advise this is the best place to start with your preparations. The Blueprint sets out clearly all of the topics and skills needed to pass the exam. 

Download the PLAB Blueprint here.

The Foundation Programme curriculum: The topics and skills covered in the PLAB Blueprint are identical to those undertaken by doctors starting their second year of Foundation Programme Training (FY2).

You can find the Foundation Programme curriculum here

Guidance and interactive tools:

The GMC ‘Good Medical Practice’ document explains the core advice to doctors on the standards expected of them. During PLAB 1 you will be expected to demonstrate the professional values and behaviours set out in ‘Good Medical Practice’ when you take the exam and when you practise as a doctor in the UK. 

 You can test your knowledge of Good Medical Practice using the following online tools:


You do not need to attend a study or coaching course to pass, but many candidates choose to do so. PLAB 1 can be passed under your own preparation, however PLAB 2 usually requires further study and courses. 

There are many courses and materials out there. If you are unsure of how to approach your study preparations, don’t hesitate to ask an IMG Consultant for some recommendations or guidance on which course or resource to use.

Remember, we speak to IMGs who've passed these exams on a daily basis and are more than happy to pass on their wisdom!

What can I expect on the day of the exam? 

First of all, once booked, the GMC will advise you on what time to arrive. You will likely be there for approximately four hours in total. 

Do I need to bring anything to the test? 

You will need to bring Identification, your booking confirmation and stationery: 

For identification, the venue will accept any one of the following:

  • Passport
  • UK Immigration and Nationality Department identification document
  • Home Office travel document

If by accident you don't have one of the above you can take the exam but you'll need to provide your identification document later in the process.

Booking confirmation:

  • Bring the booking confirmation that includes your GMC booking reference number


  • You should bring HB pencils, an eraser and a pencil sharpener.

How many times can I sit the test? 

For PLAB 1, you can take the test 4 times. If you have not passed after 4 attempts, to be eligible to take the test again you must have completed a further 12 months experience of clinical practice or post graduate qualification. 

When will I receive my results? 

PLAB 1 results are available around 6 weeks after you have taken the exam. 

Passed? What next? 

Once you have passed PLAB 1, you can take the PLAB 2 examination in the UK. Read our blog for more information on how to sit PLAB 2, which includes everything that you need to know about how to sit the exam, syllabus, dates, results, fees and preparation. 

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