GMC set to toughen up PLAB test for overseas doctors

The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test will become 'more rigorous' from next month following an overhaul by the GMC to both the written and practical parts of the test.

The PLAB test will be bolstered with new questions and practical scenarios from September 2016 to make it tougher to pass and ‘more reflective of real-life practice’, the GMC said.

Both parts of the test – which overseas doctors must pass before they are allowed to register and work in the UK – will be subject to changes.

The GMC acknowledged when the overhaul was first announced that it would potentially be harder to pass as a result, but maintained that the changes had been made to improve reliability of the test.

For the first time, the written test, also known as Part 1, will include questions on candidates’ professionalism and understanding of ethics, in addition to assessing their clinical knowledge and skills.

An example question provided by the GMC asks candidates what action they would take if a sexually-active 14-year-old girl requested oral contraceptives. Candidates must select one correct answer from a choice of five.

Overseas doctors

Part 2, the practical test where doctors act out consultations with role players, will be ‘fully revised’ to include longer scenarios – and more of them.

Candidates will be confronted with 18 scenarios, up from 14, which will last for eight minutes each – totting up to a total of three hours, 20 minutes overall.

The GMC will also impose a four-attempt limit on each stage of the exam, and candidates must pass Part 2 within two years of passing Part 1.

Candidates will be given more in-depth feedback on their performance alongside their mark, the regulator added.

GMC chief executive Niall Dickson said: ‘Doctors working in the UK must have the knowledge and practical skills to practise safely and effectively and they must demonstrate the professionalism patients expect.

‘To make sure they are of the highest standard we are introducing changes to modernise the entry test for overseas doctors, making it even more robust.

‘The contribution made by doctors who come here from outside Europe is invaluable to healthcare throughout the UK  and these changes will provide additional assurance to patients that they have passed a stringent assessment and have demonstrated high standards of care and knowledge.’

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