Before we talk about MRCP and PLAB in detail, it is important to understand the training structure in the UK, as explained here. Please keep in mind that Core Medical Training (CMT) has now been replaced by Internal Medicine Training (IMT). CMT was a two-year programme, while IMT is a three-year programme. You can read about it 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.



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.


PLAB vs MRC.png

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.

  1. 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.
  2. MRCP is a very difficult exam and without sufficient clinical exposure in the UK, it will be very difficult to pass.
  3. 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)
Junior Doctor
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.

367 thoughts on “PLAB vs MRCP

  1. Thank you so much for this really informative blog! For fresh graduates such as myself, finding and understanding career counselling and guidance can be overwhelming. Sir, I have just started my housejob and intend on giving PLAB1 within the year. I’d like to ask whether giving PLAB and then going to UK and doing FY2 and all the subsequent steps is a better option or staying in Pakistan and doing IMM + MRCPsych 1 and 2 here and then doing PACES from UK. My ultimate goal is to have an fcps (psych) and MRCPsych and do job here in Pakistan, as I cannot settle abroad. What is the best course of action in such a scenario? The reason I wished to do PLAB was because above all, I wanted to get good training. Pakistan has some great training institutes no doubt, but from what I have gathered so far, Psychiatry training of UK is unparalleled. Lookig forward to your kind guidance 🙂 Thank you

    1. From what I gather, you’re unsure or maybe I misunderstood. Because I get the feeling that you want to train for psychiatry from two different countries, which is not going to be easy. I think you should choose between the two countries for your training. Only then we can make a plan for you.

      Good luck! 🙂

      1. Hello DR Naseer

        I am working as a paediatric medical officer in India.I would like to give mrpsych exams.Is it possible to attempt it like mrcp from my home country or do i need to pass plab?how are job prospects after mrpsych?

      2. I’m afraid I have no idea but if you check person specs online, you would surely find something. You can also check on IMGs in the UK Facebook group.

    2. Hello DR Naseer,are jobs after MRCP readily available for imgs specially from indian subcontinent?

  2. I am a graduate of the year 2005 with the housejob in 2006 .From that period till now my experience is t work in a gp clinic as an assistant doctor for two years and working in the hospital for just six months.After that now a comlete gap of more than six years…..I really want t come back towards my medical career…my question is that will I be able to get the job if I finish with my Gmc registration aftr clearing plab two.Or due to this much gap I should now forget about my passion to work as a dr. It’s not possible aftr this much gap.

    1. I saw a doctor with a ten year clinical gap finding a job this year after waiting for a few months. So there’s always hope.

      Good luck! 🙂

  3. I m a 2nd year FCPS cardiology resident in Pakistan. I have done MRCP1 and 2 and wanna enter UK via MRCP route. Will my FCPS cardio help me in finding an ST or other training post in UK?

    1. Getting Cardiology training without Core Medical Training is difficult since ST3 Cardiology usually does not open in Round 2.

      If you’re in CMT, you can apply for ST3 in Round 1.

      The other problem with this plan is that passing PACES without UK clinical experience is harder than people realize it to be.

      FCPS will not help in finding a training job in the UK.

      1. Thanks a lot for your guidance. I am a graduate of 2012 and will apply for CMT in 2019, after completion of my training and all the requirements of UK. Does it make me overqualified for CMT? i mean will i be able to find a CMT post?

    1. If you complete your FCPS training, then you’ll be almost at a consultant level. It might just be better to take FCPS-II and apply for CESR.

      Or take PLAB and start from ST3.

      But you will still be allowed to apply for CMT.

  4. Hi there Naseer. Thank you for being very informative. I have a question regarding IELTS, can we only do IELTS for PLAB 2 or are we required to have it for both PLAB 1 & 2?

  5. hello Dr Naseer. I’m so happy i found your blog. its so so helpful. thank you very much and God bless you. do you know of any exam similar to PlAB for entry in to Canada? I’ll also like to know a bit about the US route. thanks Dr.

    1. I’m sorry but I don’t know much about Canada or the USA. I have compared USMLE with PLAB and working in the USA vs the UK, though, in my blog.

      1. Hello Dr, thank you for your previous reply. I am currently doing my house job. I’ll be rounding up by June next year isA. Can I take PLAB 1 in March, while I’m still doing my house job? Or does it have to be after I’m done? Thank you.

  6. Your blog is very informative. You explained everything in very simple words and thanks for that.
    I have 2 questions
    1. Can u please tell me about tha expenses we will need to start a career in uk through plab.
    2. What are are chances of getting an mrcog training job in uk.

  7. Hi, I have 6 years of gap in clinical practice. If i pass MRCP UK, all the three stages from my home country, can I get a position again in core training for internal medicine? Or do i only eligible for higher specialty training? Please guide.

    1. 1. Passing MRCP without UK clinical experience is not easy.
      2. You will be eligible to apply for CMT. But you would be overqualified (not in-eligible) and can apply for ST3 then.

  8. Sir, i have a small doubt. If i need to have a postgraduate degree in general internal medicine, do i have to go for ST3 or is ST3 onwards only for specialisation in a certain field?

    1. You will have to go for ST3. But it is not possible to do Internal Medicine only. You will have to take another sub-specialty along with it. So you will be a consultant in two specialties.

  9. Hello Dr
    Firstly thanks for this great blog
    I did internship overseas in China where I also did MBBS but I am Indian in nationality.Does that count as an internship according to GMC standards

  10. Hello sir..!
    Your blog has very good information regarding mrcp and plab.
    I want to know if the procedure for mrcs is any different?
    Also, what are the chances of getting an mrcs after clearing plab?
    Which exam taken first is better, mrcs or plab?
    Thank you.

    1. 1. The procedure of applying might be different. But the general rules are the same.

      2. What do you mean by getting an MRCS?

      3. Definitely PLAB.

  11. Your blog is really helpful Dr.Naseer. Much appreciated for your hard work. I have a query regarding an alternative option to Plab. I did pass my Plab 1 and was well
    Prepared for Plab 2 but couldn’t appear due to some circumstances and it got expired. Now I have no option left except for doing post graduate exams like MRCP. But this exam is of no use without UK clinical setting experience. Is there any option for getting a Uk medical experience without GMC registration? Thanks!

  12. Hi doctor!!
    If someone finished internal medicine specialization in his home country and wants to do a fellow in Uk, does he still need to do MRCP!!

  13. SIR,
    I will be completing my MBBS IN March 2018 and internship by March 2019.
    I have read many experiences and many suggest that IMG are stuck at non-training jobs for years and then return to there country , is it true?….I want to do speciality in SURGERY/ORTHOPAEDICS and work in UK, should I Do Postgraduation in My home country(india) and then apply for MRCS? or start the journey from PLAB without Postgraduation and upto MRCS, but many colleagues suggest getting surgery in UK is difficult?

    1. Surgery is indeed difficult to find but not impossible in the UK. Gather as much information as you can. And then make a well informed decision. Good luck! 🙂

  14. Hello doctor
    If I want to study master or phd of dermatology in uk .. how much this degree will help me to get work in uk
    How can I get useful of it

  15. Hi Dr Naseer,
    I have completed my nephrology training (DM) from India and cleared MRCP exams. I would like to move to UK. How should i proceed??
    1.Should i get myself registered with GMC and try for ST3 postings or take up non training jobs?
    2.Do i need a CMT now?

  16. hi dr naseer
    your post was helpful but i have a few questions
    i recently completed my housejob from pakistan and am now working as medical officer
    i plan on specializing in anesthesia from the uk
    i have passed my ielts and am going for the march attempt of plab 1. future plan is to move to uk in about a year based on a spouse visa.
    i wanted to ask which is the best degree program for anesthesia in the uk? i have heard of FRCA but dont know much about it yet
    do i need to pass MRCP in order to get FRcp training?
    also what specialities does MRCP cover? i tried some internet research but ended up without many answers!
    also how long are each of these programs?

    if u have any better suggestions regarding this speciality it would be very helpful

    1. Kindly check all of my posts relating to training in the UK from my website.

      Also, keep in mind that getting into anesthesia is not easy in the UK.

  17. Sir, you are amazing and doing a great job. I wanted to ask a different question. How much does PLAB depend on your personality i.e for example….a person with beard or clean shave and a person or how about a person with a beard and excellent english proficiency.does this give you an extra point or it doesnt depend on such thins??????just the knowledge,, Sorry If my question seems odd. Waiting for your kind answer

    1. Personality matters a lot. This includes your kindness and confidence.

      Physical appearance, including facial hair and beard do not matter at all.

  18. Can you also guide the procedure to follow in order to do psychiatry. I have completed MBBS and internship.

    1. Kindly join the Facebook group “IMGs in the UK” and check the files section of the group.

      1. I see it is through invite only. Could you pls accept the request on facebook. Profile: Greeshma Girish.


      2. Anyone can join the group. The admins will approve your request once you send a request to join.

  19. Hi,

    How much money is initially needed for getting into speciality training?

    I suspect that students are paid during non training , is it true? is there any risk of not getting job after passing plab?

    In a nutshell I want to know total expenses before one gets such a salary so he can sustain after completing internship (1yr) in one’s country?( mine is India)


  20. Hi dr naseer hope you are doing good
    Can you guide me if i have done my fcps in general medicine and want to do my supra speciality in endo from uk is that possible?and what will be the procedure?

  21. Very informative and great job Dr. Naseer.
    I am an Indian national with 2 yrs diploma in clinical pathology. I cleared this in 2004 and in practising clinical pathology since then. Can I opt for UK training in anatomical pathology or hematopathology and what would be the optimal route.
    2. Or I have to start all over again from FY2/ CT-1 LEVEL post PLAB.

    would highly appreciate your response and guidance.

    1. I’m sorry but I have no idea. It might be best to post this question on Facebook groups.

  22. Salam sir
    Can u plz tell me wat wd be the total duration consumed during mrcp and thn training in uk as in pakistan fcps takes only four years?

    1. Pakistani FCPS takes four years on paper. In reality it takes longer. The UK system takes double the time. But it doesn’t matter since you get enough money and respect in the UK during training. So no one is in a rush to become consultant in the UK.

  23. Hi sir,

    I have completed MRCP( UK) a month back and just applied for GMC registration. Can I apply directly for ST3 training or do I need to first do non training jobs?
    I dont have any Core medical training in UK, other than 5 yrs medical- Surgical experience in India.
    And how difficult is it to get into ST3 posts?

    1. You can directly apply for training. But it might be better to work as a non-trainee first.

      Depends entirely on the sub specialty you are applying for.

      1. Please check their competition ratios and check with others on Facebook. 🙂

  24. Thank you so much sir . It means a lot me. Well done. Just one last question.. Is it required to submit the evidence of core medical training for ST3 posts even after completing the MRCP (UK)?

  25. Salaam Dr Naseer. I see that you have replied to literally every comment. What a commendable job!

    1) What’s your take on getting a surgical training post after FY2 for an FMG?

    2) My FY1 here in India involved more of clerical work rather than proper doctor work. So it makes me really anxious wondering whether my almost non existent clinical skills are sufficient enough to straight away start as an SHO and plus it will most likely be a non-training job. So how do you think a fresh graduate would cope with the work load and the kind of things that we are expected of us in the starting months. And is there and kind of teaching involved in FY2 to improve our clinical skills or is does it automatically improve with practice?

    3) How long do we have to work as an SHO before we can get our FY2 competencies signed off and apply for a CT post? Is it mandatory to work for a whole year?

    4) Could elaborate what it means to ‘get on the national register’?

    1. 1. Very unlikely.

      2. You’ll adjust. The nature of training and non-training job is exactly the same.

      3. Three months. But it’s best to work for a year or two to get a hang of the system.

      4. I’m not sure.

  26. Thanks Dr Naseer!
    After getting the FY2 competencies signed after 3 months of working , is it compulsory to continue as an SHO for a year or we can directly apply for CT jobs after 3 months?

    1. You can directly apply for CT. But the thing is you should ideally work as a non-trainee for a year or two, to learn the system.

  27. What is your advice for a recent medical graduate who has completed the MBBS plus the 1 year rotating internship?

    The doctor is working and studying for MRCP at the same time. As I understand from your blog, that is advisable to also sit for the PLAB. Am I right?

    Can a doctor prepare for both MRCP Part 1 and PLAB 1 and 2?

    What is the best method of PLAB preparation? Attend classes or answer question bank.

    Would the present preparation in MRCP aid in the preparation of PLAB?

    THank you for the comparison between MRCP and PLAB as it is very informative.

    1. 1. To make a plan and act on it.

      2. It would be advisable to take PLAB 1 just before or after MRCP 1.

      3. At the same time? No. But soon before or after? Yes.

      4. Check the relevant posts on my website.

      5. Yes.

  28. Dear Dr,

    Which is the best option?

    1.Work as a doctor after graduation and at the same time study for PLAB

    2. Do not work after graduation but concentrate on just studying PLAB at home

  29. hello Dr. Naseer ,
    i ‘d like to ask a few questions on a situation after getting signed F2 competency form. As u mentioned that candidates with F2 competency are now eligible to apply for core training programme.
    is it easy to get into the core tranning programme then after?
    do candidates need to go through any selection process for core tranning programme?
    if so ,then what could be the possibilities for IMGs to get through it?

  30. Dear Dr
    I’ve done MCPS from CPSP Pakistan in clinical pathology that is a 2 year training programme.
    Now I’m planning to do plab
    I’ve a few questions regarding this if u could kindly help me and answer those I get any benefit or exemption in plab bcoz of my post graduation?
    2. If I pass my plab can I skip the f1 and f2 bcoz of the training already done.

    1. 1. No.
      2. Yes. Please check all of my posts related to training in the UK. They’ll clear your concept. 🙂

  31. What is selection criteria for F1 year in UK?? Having mbbs from Pakistan without house job

  32. Hi,
    My wife (uk resident now) graduated in 2012 but did not complete her internship/housejob in Pakistan,
    Now she wants to do Plab1 Plab 2 & Housejob in Pakistan (,beacuse of not enough ielts score & now has cleared OET )
    would GMC accept 5 yearz gap in internship & Graduation ?& is there a sequence to Plab 1 Plab 2 & internship ?

    1. They might or might not accept it. It would be ideal to check Facebook groups for others in the same situation. All the best! 🙂

  33. hi im frim trinidad and tobago . i have mbbs degrees fro university of west indies. that i completed in 2016. Internship for 1year split into peads, internal med, general surgery and obs/gyn. currently working as medical officer in accident and emergency. I would like to further my career and one day live in uk. I’m interested in becoming an interventional radiologist or family medicine

    1.) should i take plab or mrcp? and why
    2.) what specialties am i allowed to specialize in after doing mrcp (all 3 steps)
    3.)what materials do i need for mrcp?
    4.) Is mrcp even necessary for interventional radiology
    5.) If i opt for family medicine – should i do mrcp or is there a whole other exam to qualify

    1. 1. You should do what you feel is best for you.
      2. You can check this on the official website.
      3. Please check MRCP Facebook groups.
      4. I’m not sure.
      5. The latter.

  34. Sir, I am an undergraduate from India. I would be able to clear only mrcp part 1 and 2 from here.. Right. For PACES, I must go to UK.. Thus must clear PLAB after mrcp part 2 right??.

  35. Sir thanks for the useful information.My question is that I completed my MRCP (all 3 parts )in 2013 and now decided to take GMC.i have valid English proficiency test also .since i pass more than 3 years now can I still apply?

    1. I’m not sure to be honest. But if you check the GMC’s website or email them, you’ll find out. All the best! 🙂

  36. I completed my MBBS in 2017. I am from INDIA. I am very confused which exam to give PLAB or MRCP. At present i am preparing for PLAB 1 which is in november. I need help. I am confused as there is less time and i have to complete the syllabus and i want to be a post graduate asap.

  37. can i take all the three parts in a short duration of time say one year if my preparation is good?

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