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0330 122 5194

GMC Registration & PLAB

Information for doctors relocating to the UK to work

In the UK, all doctors must be registered with the General Medical Council (GMC) to legally practice, and it takes on average 2 - 3 months to complete the registration procedure. Find below the process and timeline for this process: More details can be found at https://www.gmc-uk.org/

All applicants

Before applying for GMC registration, all applicants applying are required to take an IELTS UKVI *Academic or OET exam to demonstrate their English language skills. You can book your IELTS exam online at www.ielts.org and or OET exam at https://www.occupationalenglishtest.org/

English Language Testing – For Doctors Guidance on what English Language Tests you need to complete in order to become a Doctor in the UK

To be a doctor in the UK, you essentially need two key things: relevant qualifications and experience, and good English language skills.
Before you contact us, you’ll need to already speak decent English – and we’ll assess this on our first call. But before you can become a doctor in the UK, you’ll need to pass the IELTS with an overall score of at least 7.5, and a minimum of 7 for each section. That’s why your English skills are so important, and why you should be working on them right away.

1. What is the IELTS?

The International English Language Testing System, or IELTS, is an international test of English language proficiency for non-native English language speakers. IELTS is the only English Language Test approved by UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) for visa customers applying from both outside and inside the UK.
Importantly, you must complete the ‘academic version’ of the IELTS, according to the GMC’s requirements.

Why is the IELTS so important?

It’s very simple: to be a doctor in the UK, you must complete the IELTS first. Your career in the UK depends on it.
But more than that, it represents a level of English skill that will make your life in the UK much more fulfilling. You’ll be better at your job, you’ll settle more comfortably into British life, and you’ll find it much easier to get things done. Furthermore, it’s also a requirement for immigration to Australia and New Zealand, and to get into the UK’s world-renowned universities.
Best of all, your CV will look so much stronger with an IELTS score of 7.5 or more. Improving your English will improve your career prospects immediately.

What IELTS score is needed to become a doctor in the UK?

You must complete the academic version of the IELTS test and achieve:
• At least 7.0 in the listening and reading sections
• At least 7.0 in the writing and speaking sections
• At least 7.5 (out of a possible 9) overall
The GMC will not accept applicants who score lower than this standard and the IELTS scores are valid for two years
. In case you don’t possess a Certificate of English (IELTS) and would like to continue with our process, please contact your local British council in your home country. Fees apply!
Click on the link for more information and location for exams.
https://www.ielts.org/ (We only accept UKVI IELTS **Academic**).

Is there any other way to gain GMC Registration without the IELTS?

Yes – You can choose to complete a 30-day attachment with an NHS Hospital, who will make a comprehensive judgement on your English language skills. In order to be eligible, you will need to attend a Skype interview with the NHS hospital. If successful, you will then be offered an attachment.
As part of the attachment, you will work in-depth with the department, shadowing both Consultants and other colleagues supporting with some of their duties including:
• Teaching junior doctors / nurses
• Taking patient history and making correct notes
• Interaction with colleagues and meetings
• Support with referral letters
• Take part in clinical handovers
• Read patient notes, blood results, feedback accurately
The hospitals Responsible Officer will then support your application to the GMC by authorising the “Structured English Language Reference” form (SELR). They have a duty to ensure safe medical practice and competence of your English language skills.
Things you need to know:
• The attachment is unpaid
• Accommodation is usually provided
• You will need to be on attachment for at least 30 days as part of the GMC requirement
• If have a valid IELTS score (within 2 years) that is below the GMC standard, the attachment might not be an option (dependent on score)
• Not all hospitals are offering this
• Not all grades/ job roles will be considered – normally only positions with a large shortage of doctors will be applicable due to the timescale and engagement required to ensure this process is successful

Typical job roles accepted:
• Emergency Medicine – Consultant and Specialist
• Internal Medicine – Consultant Level (such as Acute Medicine, Gastroenterology, Stroke, Care of the Elderly)
• Radiology – Consultant
There may be opportunities for other job roles in the future, so get in touch to find out if this route to entry is applicable to you.

2. Why OET is the Best Exam for International Doctors Moving to the UK

For thousands of overseas doctors looking to move to the UK to work for the NHS, deciding which language test to complete can often be confusing. Especially with little prior knowledge.
For any doctor from a non-British speaking country wanting to work in the UK, it is required by the General Medical Council (GMC) that you pass an English language exam. Prior to February 2018, there was only one option: the International English Language Testing System (IELTS) — a non-medical English language test.
Since February 2018, however, there is a better alternative for internationally trained Doctors: the Occupational English Test (OET). Unlike the IELTS, it is a test that is specific to the medical sector. And as the bulk of the test is made up of medical language and terminology, it is considered much easier for doctors who are experts in their field to pass.
But it’s not just about being easier to pass. The questions are related to your profession which offers the respect you deserve for your expertise, as well as giving you the confidence required to answer questions related to genuine, real-world medical scenarios. Ordering a caramel soy latte at a coffee shop is, after all, less important for a medical professional than administering the right medicine.
The OET test has proven to be advantageous in more than one healthcare sector. From doctors who work in medicine, to occupational therapists, to radiologists, the OET has been widely accepted as the best choice for knowledgeable medical professionals. This is the case across almost all English speaking countries — but especially in the UK.

What is the OET exam like?

The OET is different for different medical professions. The test is broken up into four core categories: listening, reading, writing and speaking. Here we break them down into their four components to give you an idea of what to expect.
The OET is an English language test specifically for medical professionals. Like IELTS, the test consists of four modules:
1. Reading: 60 minute test split into two parts. The first is to fill in the missing words from a passage of medical text and the second is multiple choice questions.
2. Listening: Split into two parts and last approx. 50 minutes. You will take notes whilst listening to a conversation between a patient and healthcare professional, plus a lecture from a professional speaker. 3. Speaking: A role-play based test which lasts around 20 minutes. You will take your professional role (e.g. as a doctor) and have a conversation with a patient / client / carer etc.
4. Writing: Lasts 45 minutes and is profession-specific. If you are a doctor, you will usually be asked to write a referral letter.
You must pass with a grade B (equivalent to 7.0-7.5 in the IELTS)

Will I still need to take the IELTS as well as the OET?

Whilst doctors looking to move to the UK will be required to take the IELTS for visa purposes, the pass rate required is much lower at an overall score of 4.0 than if the doctor was relying on IELTS alone for GMC qualification, which carries a requirement for an overall score of 7.5. For almost every doctor, we would recommend that you take the OET test towards qualifying for GMC registration. It may be a slightly more expensive option, but it is a much quicker way to get you one step closer to your new dream job as a doctor in the UK.

Note : There are only 2 OET centers on the whole of the African continent i.e in Egypt and South Africa.

The main difference between the two tests in the content you will need to learn.
The IELTS focuses on a wide range of topics, and could test your English on any number of subjects.
The OET tests your English ability in relation to the medical profession, therefore as a nurse or doctor you will be tested on topics that relate to your job and subjects that you will likely come across day-to-day working in the NHS.

Preparation for the test
Both are English language tests, so a good level of overall English is required. However, as the content is so different, the preparation you will need to do for each test is different.
Each year, 3 million people take the IELTS test, compared to 25,000 who take the OET.
This means there are far more preparations option for the IELTS, ranging from free online options to private tutors. The range for OET is rather limited in comparison.

Taking the test
OET has test dates once a month, at 80 test centres in 40 countries. .
IELTS is available much more frequently, at 1100 test centres in 140 countries. IELTS also comes in cheaper than OET, at £160 for the IELTS compared to £325 for the OET. .
For full information on OET and to locate your closest test centre, please go to: https://www.occupationalenglishtest.org/

Applicants from outside the EU
MRCEM Membership of Royal College of Emergency Medicine, UK Find out more »
MRCP Membership of Royal College of Physicians, find out more »
MRCS Membership of Royal College of Surgeons, find out more »
PLAB Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board, find out more »

How do I register with the GMC?
To register with the GMC (General Medical Council), you must sit the PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board) test to show you have the skills and knowledge necessary to practise in the UK.
Some specialist doctors are automatically entered on to a specialist register, and therefore do not need to sit the PLAB. Emergency Medicine doctors can also sit the MCEM exam (to become a Member of the Emergency College of Medicine) or MRCP (Member of the Royal College of Physicians). Although not essential, membership of these colleges will help your chances of landing a job.
The GMC sets the standards that international medical graduates need to meet in order to register as a doctor in the UK. You can find out about the GMC’s acceptable medical qualifications by clicking the button below:
You’ll need to register with the GMC if you want to:
• work as a doctor in the National Health Service (NHS) or in private practice
• prescribe drugs, the sale of which is restricted by law
• sign certificates required for statutory purposes (death certificates, etc).
Doctors who hold a licence to practise are required to renew their licence regularly. This applies to all doctors working in the NHS and private sector and is to assure the GMC that doctors have up-to-date knowledge and experience.

Different types of GMC registration
The GMC offer different types of registration for doctors:
• Provisional registration with a licence to practise is granted to newly qualified doctors before undertaking their Foundation Year 1 (F1) post. This is a clinical training programme for doctors to demonstrate they have met the outcomes required for full registration before they start their Foundation Year 2 (F2) post.
• Full registration with a licence to practise is needed for doctors undertaking unsupervised medical practise. Doctors who have completed their F1 year, international medical graduates new to full registration and doctors returning to the register after a prolonged absence are initially required to work within a GMC approved practice setting, where they can receive appropriate training, support and supervision.
Doctors must be on the specialist register to hold a consultant post in the UK and the General Practice register to work as a GP (this excludes GP trainees).

You’ll also need to hold the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board qualification.
The PLAB test is relevant for international medical graduates and is one of the ways in which an individual can satisfy the General Medical Council (GMC) that they have the knowledge and skills which are necessary to practise medicine in the UK.
The PLAB test is designed to test one’s ability to work safely in a first appointment as a senior house officer in a UK hospital in the National Health Service (NHS).
The test is in two parts: Part 1 of the PLAB test can be taken at a number of test centres overseas but Part 2 must be taken in the UK.
Part 1 is a computer-marked written examination consisting of extended matching questions (EMQs) and single best answer (SBA) questions. The paper contains 200 questions and may contain images. It lasts three hours. The proportion of SBA questions may vary from examination to examination but no more than 30% of the paper is composed of SBA questions. You can have an unlimited number of attempts but you must pass Part 1 within two years of the date of your IELTS certificate.
Part 2 is an Objective Structured Clinical Examination (OSCE) which must be taken in the United Kingdom. It takes the form of 14 clinical scenarios or ‘stations’, a rest station and one or more pilot stations run for statistical purposes, where the marks do not count towards your result. Each station lasts five minutes. You must pass Part 2 within three years of passing Part 1. You can have four attempts at Part 2. If you fail at the fourth attempt, you will have to retake IELTS (unless you are exempt) and both parts of the PLAB test.
You must be granted registration within three years of passing Part 2 of the test. Qualifications required for PLAB
• A primary medical qualification (PMQ) for limited registration. Please check the GMC website to see if your qualification is acceptable. See GMC acceptable primary medical qualification
• Allowed qualifications are those awarded by an institution listed on the Avicenna Directory for Medicine or is otherwise acceptable to the GMC and is currently acceptable to the GMC.’ Please note: the GMC does not accept all primary medical qualifications that are listed on the Avicenna Directory. Please check their acceptable primary medical qualification webpage for further information.
• Relevant scores in the IELTS test (academic module) as above.
• At least 12 months’ postgraduate clinical experience in a teaching hospital, or another hospital approved by the medical registration authorities in the appropriate country. (The test can be taken without this experience, but the candidate will only be granted limited registration at the grade of House Officer – the grade occupied by new medical graduates).
For more information on the test centres, dates and fees, visit: http://www.gmc-uk.org/doctors/plab/index.asp The GMC uses the PLAB test to ensure that international doctors have the basic medical competence and communication skills to practice in the UK. Doctors wishing to take the PLAB test must have already successfully completed the International English Language Testing System (IELTS).
If you don’t hold PLAB you can also hold MCEM (Membership of the College of Emergency Medicine), MRCP (Membership of the Royal College of Physicians) , MRCS (Membership of the Royal college of Surgeons) or any of the following:


Awarding Body



American Board of Pediatrics (ABP)

Diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics – General Pediatrics

American Board of Anaesthesiology

Certificate of the American Board of Anaesthesiology


Royal Australasian College of Physicians

Passed the written and clinical exams for FRACP (Paediatrics)
The specialist training programme leading to the award of this qualification is six years long. After basic training
lasting three years candidates sit written and clinical examinations.
Doctors then undertake a further three years training – Fellowship is only awarded after successful completion of this training. If the doctor has passed both the written and clinical examinations or obtained their Fellowship within the last three years, this is acceptable evidence of a postgraduate qualification.

Australia/New Zealand

Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists

Fellowship of the Australian and New Zealand College of Anaesthetists.


Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons

Fellowship in Anaesthesia or Anaesthesiology awarded since July 1999


European Academy of Anaesthesiology or European Society of Anaesthesiology

European Diploma in Anaesthesiology and Intensive Care

Hong Kong

Hong Kong College of Physicians

Membership of the Hong Kong College of Physicians


Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland

MRCS (collegiate) examination
MRCSI (intercollegiate) examination
Fellowship of the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland
Fellowship of the Faculty or the College of Anaesthetists of the Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland
MRCP Medicine (Medicine of Childhood)


Bangladesh College of Physicians and Surgeons

Fellowship in Anaesthesia or Anaesthesiology awarded since July 1999


College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan

FCPS Paediatrics Pakistan
Fellowship in Anaesthesiology awarded since 1998


National University of Singapore

Master of Medicine (Anaesthesia)
Master of Medicine (Paediatrics)
Master of Medicine (Internal Medicine)

South Africa

College of Anaesthetists of South Africa

Fellowship of the College of Anaesthetists of South Africa

Sri Lanka

University of Colombo, Sri Lanka

Doctor of Medicine (Anaesthesiology)
MD (Obstetrics and Gynaecology)
MD Paediatrics Sri Lanka

West Africa

West African College of Physicians

Fellowship of the West African College of Physicians (Paediatrics)

West Indies

University of West Indies

Doctor of Medicine (Anaesthesia) awarded since September 2003

We understand that moving to the UK to progress your medical career is a life changing experience, and can be stressful, but it also offers an enormous amount of potential for you and your family. And we’re here to make the move as stress free and simple as possible!

We’re firm believers in the importance of a good work life balance. So when we talk through your requirements with you, we’re not interested in just finding you any doctor job in the UK, we make sure we get to know you, to understand your personal and family aspirations, to make sure we find the right role in the right location for you and your family.

Through our global network of leading recruitment agencies, all fully vetted and compliant with our strict UK procedures, you can be sure the process will take the pain out of relocating, leaving you to focus on your family and preparing for your new life.

Our relocation service
We work in a consultative way to understand your career and life goals, to find roles in the right hospital and location for you and your family.
Once you have accepted a role, we manage the Medical Registration and Visa application process, and support you (and your family) with the relocation itself.
We will:
Provide assistance with your GMC registration, which enables you to work as a doctor in the UK. Find out more about this process here.
Book your occupational health appointment with your future employer
Provide assistance with opening your UK bank account
Help you to obtain a National Insurance number
Never charge our doctors a fee for using our services. Nor will we work with any recruitment agency abroad that does.
Most if not all the costs incurred during this process are reimbursed by some of our clients thence its advisable to keep all receipts to make the process smooth.

With our medical recruitment experience and unrivalled support, it couldn’t be simpler to relocate as a doctor to the UK, making Zenj HSC Recruitment the natural choice.
For more information on working as a doctor in the UK, please contact Frank Baingana, who will be happy to answer any questions you may have. +44 330 122 5194 or email overseasdoctors@zenjhsc.co.uk or +44 771 719 1336