Before we talk about MRCP and PLAB in detail, it is important to understand the training structure in the UK, as explained here.
PLAB is the licensing exam for international medical graduates. Candidates, who have passed PLAB 1 and PLAB 2, are eligible to apply for GMC registration. Once they’re registered with the GMC, they are allowed to work in the UK as a doctor.
IELTS is a prerequisite for PLAB.
Entry Into the System After Passing PLAB:
Candidates who pass PLAB 2 and acquire GMC registration, can be divided into two categories:
1. Candidates who have NOT completed an acceptable pattern of internship from their home country:
These candidates are at the level of freshly graduated doctors, with no experience.
Therefore, the next step for them would be Foundation Program; they can only apply for F1 posts.
It is very difficult to find F1 posts for IMGs. So it is always advisable to start working in the UK only after completion of an internship back home.
2. Candidates who have completed an acceptable pattern of internship from their home country:
These candidates are at the level of doctors who have completed their F1.
Therefore, the next step for them would be F2. However, getting a training F2 post is very difficult, since most people who enter F1, complete their F2 training in the UK; there are almost no vacancies for F2 training for IMGs.
So the best option would be to apply for different non-training posts, which can be found very easily. After working for 3 months at a non-training post, they can get their F2 competencies signed. Getting their F2 Competencies signed would make them eligible to apply for Core Training.
The following flowchart might make the journey easier to understand.
MRCP is a specialty exam, which a candidate needs to pass, before they can enter specialty training in the UK. Once they have passed MRCP 1, MRCP 2 and PACES they’re eligible to apply for GMC registration. Once they’re registered with the GMC, they are allowed to work in the UK as a doctor.
Entry Into the System After Passing MRCP:
After passing PACES and getting GMC registration, these candidates are at the level of doctors who have completed their Core Training.
Therefore, the next step for them would be Specialty Training. However, it might not be possible to start their ST right away.
The best route for these doctors is to take a non-training job at first. After working for a certain amount of time, they can get their Core Training competency signed and after meeting other eligibility requirements of Specialty Training, these candidates can apply for Specialty Training.
The following flowchart might make the journey easier to understand.
PLAB vs MRCP
If you want to become a consultant, you have to go through Specialty Training, for which you would need MRCP. So even after passing PLAB, you will have to take MRCP at a later point. However, if you pass MRCP first, you do not have to take the PLAB exam.
OVERVIEW OF BOTH EXAMS
If all of the above is a bit confusing, I’ll try to make it a bit simple.
MRCP will allow you to jumpstart your UK career, as you won’t have to go for PLAB or for Core Training. However, jumping is never easy. Therefore, if you take MRCP without going for PLAB, it won’t be an easy journey.
You might pass MRCP 1 and 2 by studying theory. But passing the PACES, which is an OSCE exam, will be difficult, without sufficient clinical experience in the UK.
Therefore, it might be better to take PLAB 1 first, as it an easier exam. Plus, the earlier that you enter the system, the easier it will be.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. If I pass MRCP 1 and MRCP 2, do I still need to pass PLAB?
Yes, you still need to pass PLAB 1 and PLAB 2. PLAB is only exempted if you pass all three parts of MRCP.
2. If I pass all three parts of MRCP, do I still need to pass PLAB?
3. If I pass PLAB, do I still need to pass MRCP?
If you want to go into Specialty Training for Medicine, then, yes, you have to pass all three parts of MRCP before you start your Specialty Training.
4. If I pass MRCP, I don’t have to pass PLAB. And even after passing PLAB, I have to pass MRCP. So why shouldn’t I take MRCP instead of PLAB?
It is still better to take PLAB first. Because it is easier to climb the stairs instead of jumping them. I will tell you what I mean by that.
- If you take PLAB first, you would be taking one step at a time. And the difficulty level would increase gradually. The best example for this would be: when you start playing FIFA for the first time, you start with Amateur mode and after sufficient practice, you move on to Semi-Pro. You don’t start playing the game in Legendary mode from day one.
- MRCP is a very difficult exam and without sufficient clinical exposure in the UK, it will be very difficult to pass.
- If you take your Core Training in the UK, the clinical exposure would help you in preparing for MRCP and also in becoming a better doctor.
5. Do I have to pass MRCP 1, MRCP 2 and PACES – all three parts of MRCP, before I start Specialty Training in Medicine in the UK?
6. What are non-training jobs?
These are the jobs that IMGs with an acceptable pattern of internship can and should apply for. There can be many different titles to these jobs, but the jobs are nearly the same. These can include:
Foundation Year 2 (FY2)
Senior House Officer (SHO)
Core Training 1 (CT1)
Core Training 2 (CT2)
Specialty Training 1 (ST1)
Specialty Training (ST2)
Clinical Fellow (CF)
Junior Clinical Fellow (JCF)
Senior Clinical Fellow (SCF)
Trust Grade Doctor
It might confuse you seeing FY, CT and ST posts among non-training jobs. These jobs arise when a hospital needs FY, CT or ST Doctors, but it is not possible for them to recruit training doctors. So they hire non-training doctors for the same posts.
Working at these jobs will not count towards your training experience. However, the job description and the salary is the same as training jobs.
7. What is the difference between a training and a non-training job?
A training job is one in which there is career progression. In a non-training job, there is no career progression. Our internship (also known as House Job in Pakistan) and specialty training jobs (also knows as Residency in Pakistan) are training jobs.
8. What is F2 Competency?
Since IMGs do not go through UK’s Foundation training, they are required to get an F2 Competency form signed by their consultant. This form can be signed by any consultant, in the UK or in their home country, under whom they have worked for at least 3 months, during the last 3 years.
This form would not make them equivalent to candidates who have completed their Foundation training from the UK, but it would make them eligible to apply for Core Training program in the second round (First round is for British and EU citizens).
9. What is an Acceptable Pattern of Internship?
At least 12 months of internship with at least 3 months in medicine and at least 3 months in surgery is considered to be an acceptable pattern of internship. Medical and surgical sub-specialties count in medicine and surgery, respectively. For example, pediatrics and OBGYN are counted as medicine and surgery, respectively.
You must also check the official link from the GMC’s website to find out the acceptable patterns of internship. You can click here to check the official GMC link.