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MRCP Vs. PLAB pathway

Hello! I am Dr. Shaheen Shaik, an IMG from India. I am preparing for PLAB 1 and simultaneously for MRCP 1. In this blog, I will be briefing about both pathways and how to get fully prepared for the MRCP 1.

All of you may be already aware that there are 4 common pathways to get into the UK as a doctor as an IMG :

1. PLAB pathway (the commonest pathway)

2. Royal college Membership exams – a postgraduate diploma (MRCP, MRCS, MRCOG, etc.)

3. CESR pathway (for people who have gained a lot of experience in their home countries)

4. MTI pathway (for doctors who want to go back to their home countries)

Let's discuss the pros and cons of PLAB and MRCP pathways in specific.


PLAB: (Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board) pathway is split into 2 exams: one of which is a paper-based MCQ exam, and the other is OSCE.


1. You can take the exam immediately after graduation.

2. No experience is needed to attempt the PLAB-1. So ideally can be taken during an internship/house job in home country.

3. Need to clear only PLAB 1 and 2 for GMC registration

4. Affordable in comparison to the royal college exams, which can leave a hole in the pockets.

5. PLAB-1 is an offline MCQ exam for everyone.

6. One can explore many postgraduate training pathways after foundation year 2.

7. The duration of the exam is only 3 hours approximately.


1. Limited availability of slots, especially for PLAB 1. Anxiety while booking the slots is of a whole new level.

2. It only paves the way for the GMC registration and is not globally accepted as a post-graduation exam.

3. Limited attempts: 4

4. PLAB-2 can only be taken in Manchester, and there are no international centres. It can be a mess if VISA gets rejected for any reason.


The MRCP (UK) Part 1 is the entry-level exam accessible to doctors with a minimum of 12 months' postgraduate experience in medical employment. It covers a broad range of topics to ensure the level of knowledge is appropriate for physicians at the beginning of postgraduate training. (source:

Membership exams of the Royal Colleges consist of 3 parts. I am keen on taking Internal Medicine as my career, so will be mentioning regarding the MRCP. MRCP is a postgraduate diploma which will be given in London or Edinburgh when all the 3 parts of the exam are cleared ( part 1 (written), part 2 (written), and part-2 PACES )


1. Relatively easier to get slots for the exam.

2. It gives a postgraduate diploma which is globally accepted

3. As it is a must for the uncoupled training programmes for physicians, there will be a cost cut down on a broader note.

4. All the 3 parts of the exam can be taken in home countries. There are multiple international centres mentioned on the website (

5. The postgraduation is always an addition to the CV and can get us into higher training-level posts if we have the core competencies certificate signed.

6. You can always come back to your home country with a postgraduation.

7. Paves the way to training specialities like cardiology, gastroenterology, etc.


1. The exam duration is 6 hours ( 2 exams; 3hours each, with a lunch break in between). It can be tiresome while giving a 6-hour exam in a day.

2. It is one of the most difficult exams, with a low passing rate of 40%.

3. For international exam givers, the exam is paper-based with an OMR sheet which can be time-consuming.

4. All the advantages come with a hefty price tag. All the exams, when taken internationally, can cost up to 2500 pounds.

5. Limited no of attempts: 6

6. Even after completing exams without the core competencies certificate, it can't land us into higher training posts.

7. Speciality specific.

Think about all the pros and cons of both pathways and choose wisely... At the end, it's your choice and money!

So, the MRCP 1 written exam is for 6 hours, with 200 MCQs and a break in between. Any preparation would be incomplete without question banks and mock exams. I would say the best preparation method would be system-wise. I started my prep with Respiratory System. Don't forget to revise everything regularly! Without revision, medicine is really messy haywire one doesn't wish to get into… spaced revisions are vital. After completing 2-4 specialities one can go for mocks which shall boost our confidence.

A reminder to take from all the seniors and peers who have given the exam:

"Don't Take the Exam for Granted."

Please give your time and effort for dedicated preparation. Have a strict study schedule. Devise a study plan with or without your study partners, whichever works for you. Stick to the study plan, and be consistent; hopefully, we'll ace it together! Please do take 4-6 months of preparation to make you more confident.


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