PLAB vs USMLE: Which One to Choose?

Tue 06, 2024
Home PLAB vs USMLE: Which One to Choose?


For International Medical Graduates (IMG), finding the right path to practising medicine abroad is an arduous task, where the decision is affected by a wide variety of factors. Two prominent licensing exams stand apart as the most advocated and aspired.

They are the USMLE Exam (United States Medical Licensing Examination) and the PLAB Exam (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board) for medical practice licensure in the US and UK, respectively. There are various major differences in their syllabuses and benefits.

What is PLAB?

The PLAB Exam is a qualifying exam that checks the necessary knowledge and skills of medical students to practise medicine in the UK.

The PLAB Exam consists of two parts, where Part 1 is a theoretical exam filled with 180 questions that follow the McQ pattern. Part 2 is an objectively structured clinical practical exam called OSCE.

PLAB Syllabus

The PLAB Syllabus for Part 1 is a conglomeration of topics that are used to accurately assess theoretical skills in the context of clinical practice.

The PLAB Syllabus for Part 2 does not have a designated syllabus; rather, it tests your clinical prowess by testing the candidate in 18 scenarios.

What is USMLE?

The USMLE Exam is a three-step assessment that evaluates your clinical knowledge and skills to practise in the US. The first two steps can be attempted while in medical school, but the third step can only be attempted after graduation.

Step 1 is a McQ test involving 280 questions that assesses the foundation of the basic sciences. Step 2 tests your clinical knowledge, and Step 3 evaluates your independent practice of patient care.

Eligibility: USMLE vs. PLAB

The eligibility criteria differ between them due to the inherent difference in the core purpose for which the exams were initiated.

USMLE eligibility is guaranteed with completion or enrollment in a medically accredited medical school recognised by the Liaison Committee on Medical Education (LCME) or the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME).

PLAB eligibility is guaranteed through the candidate’s medical education and language prowess. That is both a primary medical certificate from a medical school recognised by the General Medical Council (GMC) in the UK and passing the IELTS with a minimum score of 7.5 in all four categories.

Weighing the Pros and Cons:

The USMLE Exam offers higher income potential, specialisation options in a wide array of fields, and opportunities for academic research. However, it comes with longer working hours, a tough-to-crack exam that is really extensive and expensive in its selection process, and higher living costs.

On the other hand, the PLAB Exam offers a shorter and less expensive exam process that, in turn, grants you easier entry into the UK healthcare system and a better work-life balance. But in comparison to their counterparts, average salaries are lower, with limited availability for some specialisations and a less flexible system.

The Final Decision

Choosing between PLAB and USMLE requires meticulous consideration of your personal situation, financial situation, and overall aspirations. The final question you must ask yourself is: do you prioritise higher career development with a hectic lifestyle or lower development potential with an easier work-life balance in comparison? In the end, only you can find the right choice that suits you.

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By : rasheedaav

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