FRCR (Oncology) vs PLAB - GMC registration for overseas clinical or radiation oncologists 

  • May 02, 2022

GMC Registration can be a long and complex process. With a few options available for clinical oncologists to provide evidence of their skills and knowledge, it can be difficult for IMGs to decide the best route to take to register with the GMC.  

For international doctors considering their route to the UK, there are essentially two main pathways to consider: PLAB and the postgraduate route - FRCR (Oncology).

Whilst these are the most common routes to GMC registration, this is not an exahaustive list. There are other options such as Royal College sponsorship and GMC-approved qualifications or licensing exams, and you can read more about these here.

Here we provide a summary of both pathways and briefly consider their benefits. 

Professional & Linguistics Assessment Board (PLAB) 

The first and most common route which is often a popular choice among junior doctors is PLAB

PLAB is a two-part exam with one written and one practical element, that assesses whether candidates are at least as capable as doctors starting the second year of their Foundation Programme Training, and can therefore work safely as an SHO in the NHS. 

The GMC has a useful video summary of the PLAB exams which you can watch here or for a more detailed overview, see our IMG Resources library. 

FRCR (Oncology) - UK Postgraduate Qualification for Clinical or Radiation Oncologists 

The UK’s postgraduate qualifications are a more popular route for senior overseas doctors, and those looking to gain posts in the NHS which are reflective of their experience. Within clinical or radiation oncology, this can be done by attaining Fellowship of the Royal College of Radiologists. The Royal College of Radiologists is the professional body that regulates the specialism of clinical oncology in the UK. 

Fellowship of the Royal College of Radiologists (FRCR Oncology) is the full qualification attained through these postgraduate exams for clinical or radiation oncology. The exams assess a candidate’s knowledge and clinical understanding against the Specialty Training Curriculum for Clinical Oncology. FRCR (Oncology) has three components, with two written and one clinical and oral element. 

For complete guides on FRCR (Oncology), take a look at our IMG Resources library. 

It is important to note that the FRCR (Oncology) exams are for clinical or radiation oncologists only. Overseas clinical oncologists are not required to also sit the MRCP (UK) exams. 

PLAB vs FRCR (Oncology) 

FRCR (Oncology) is a legitimate route that demonstrates skills and knowledge and will allow oncologists to register with the GMC and work in the UK. To decide which route is best for you, you’ll need to consider the benefits of each exam, as well as how they align with your needs and priorities in moving to the UK. 

Seniority of Positions in the NHS 

It may be difficult for an overseas clinical oncologist to obtain a more senior post within the NHS without FRCR (Oncology), GMC-approved training, or extensive experience from a similar, English speaking healthcare system. PLAB alone will not give overseas doctors access to senior posts in the NHS. 


PLAB has two stages and can take anywhere between 3-9 months to prepare from start to finish. 

FRCR (Oncology) has three stages, the last of which must be taken after at least 36 months of postgraduate experience in clinical or radiation oncology. 

These exams can take anywhere from between 24-36 months to prepare from start to finish. 


The FRCR (Oncology) exams cost just over £1,600, but all of the exams are sat in person and there are only a few overseas exam centres. 

PLAB costs £1,119, and both exams are sat in person. PLAB 1 can be taken in the UK or several overseas centres, which you can find here. PLAB 2 must be taken within the UK. 

SO, for PLAB 2, candidates will have to travel to the UK, meaning that the additional cost of visas, accommodation and flights must be factored in.    

It’s important to note that the total cost of each exam can rise if re-sits are necessary. 


PLAB, as an exam which examines a doctor’s ability to work safely as a Senior House Officer (SHO), does not assess ability in oncology specifically. For this reason, PLAB tends to be a route for junior doctors who have not already chosen their field of specialisation in medicine, I.e., oncology. PLAB allows doctors to enter the UK system much faster than other routes and for this reason alone, it is favoured by international doctors when considering their path to the UK. 

FRCR (Oncology) involves three more difficult examinations and takes more time to prepare for. However, for overseas oncologists, attaining FRCR (Oncology) will allow you to jumpstart your career in the UK, as you will not need PLAB or Core Training. 

The Royal College of Radiologists’ exams will facilitate the application for more senior roles in UK oncology than PLAB. 

#IMG Tips 

  1. Determine your priorities – your goals and timeline for relocating to the UK are important in deciding which route is best for, and this is different for everyone. 
  2. Plan well ahead – depending on the route you choose, you may be embarking on a long journey through these exams, so plan how you will fit them into your life and how best to prepare to maintain a good work-life balance at the same time. 
  3. Find a support network – once you know which exams you will sit, find a support network of others who are also preparing for the exam.  

For advice, guidance and news and updates about all things oncology for IMGs, join the conversation through the links below


Getting started 

Once you’ve decided which exams are best for you, it’s time for a deep dive into the exams and what they entail. For more useful blogs and articles on PLAB, FRCR (Oncology), GMC registration and finding your dream job in the NHS - take a look at our IMG Resources library.  

If you have any further questions on PLAB or postgraduate qualifications, please get in touch with our oncology specialists here. We’d be more than happy to help you. 


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