Working with doctors Working for patients

PLAB test blueprint

How employers and candidates use the PLAB blueprint

The Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test blueprint (excel) is a guide to what the test covers and what is expected of those who pass it and apply for registration and a licence to start work in the UK.

The PLAB test is designed to assess the knowledge and skills of international medical graduates. It comprises a written Part 1 examination and a Part 2 practical or objective structured clinical examination (OSCE).

We set the pass mark for the PLAB test to reflect what we expect of a doctor entering their second year of their Foundation Programme training. It tests what we would expect a doctor at this point in their career to know and be able to do. This includes the professional values and behaviours required of doctors, which are fundamental to delivering excellent care for example, practising in accordance with our core guidance and within their competence.

What the blueprint covers

The blueprint sets out the knowledge, skills and behaviours candidates are expected to demonstrate in the test and beyond. It’s developed by us and we regularly update it to make sure it reflects current and real life day to day medical practice.

We map the blueprint against:  

  • our core guidance Good medical practice – the advice we give to all doctors on the standards we expect of them
  • the Outcomes for provisionally registered doctors July 2015 (originally published in The Trainee Doctor) – the outcomes doctors must meet at the end of their first year of Foundation programme training before they can apply for full registration with a licence to practise
  • the UK Foundation Programme curriculum 2016 – the framework which supports the first two years of educational training of doctors in the UK

User guide

We present the blueprint as an Excel spreadsheet. Download the PLAB user guide (pdf) which explains how to read it and how you can use it.

In the blueprint, the knowledge section lists the range of presentations and conditions that we test. These match those typically faced by doctors starting the second year of the Foundation Programme training.

And the domains section corresponds to our core guidance, Good medical practice. Candidates passing the PLAB test must be able to demonstrate the skills, professional values and behaviours we expect of all licensed doctors working in the UK.

Employers: What the blueprint tells you

Employers using the blueprint can learn about what we assess international medical graduates on during the PLAB test and what we don’t.

Employers will be able understand how the test assesses candidates on the common, important or acute conditions (those typically common in emergency departments) and the management of long term conditions seen in primary care. However, it excludes the advanced duties of general practice. The test assesses candidates on those conditions that are typically faced by junior doctors just starting their second year of the Foundation Programme training (F2).

By constructing the blueprint using both Hospital Episode Statistics (HES) for all UK countries and the NHS Read codes, we’ve made sure that the topic areas are reflective of the typical workload of a junior doctor entering F2.

By familiarising themselves with the test blueprint, employers can understand what we expect of doctors passing the PLAB test and the level at which they are assessed. This will help employers when they come to carry out their pre-employment checks to satisfy themselves that doctors have the necessary knowledge, skills and experience for the role they’re required to do.

We don’t test candidates on their knowledge of the NHS and its local arrangements. We support doctors preparing to work in the UK, beyond the PLAB test. Our Welcome to UK Practice programme explains how the health system operates in the UK. Employers are responsible for the local induction and support given to newly registered and licensed PLAB doctors they appoint to their organisation.

Candidates: How the blueprint can help you to prepare for the test

Candidates can use the blueprint to help prepare for taking the test. Before you read the blueprint you’ll find it helpful to familiarise yourself with the four domains in our core guidance, Good medical practice. You’ll find all four domains are covered by the blueprint because we expect PLAB candidates to know and be able to apply all the principles in Good medical practice.

The blueprint will tell you what you can expect to be covered by the questions in Part 1 or the scenarios or ‘stations’ in Part 2. It won’t however, tell you what questions or scenarios you will face on the day you take the examinations.

Download the PLAB blueprint

The blueprint is available in two formats (both contain the same information):

If you have problems accessing the PLAB blueprint then please contact the Clinical Assessment Centre  for advice.