Assessing the equivalence of PLAB graduates to UK graduates

What were the key findings?

  • The evidence suggests that the knowledge and skills of international medical graduates who had passed the Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board (PLAB) test were substantially below those of UK graduates at the point when they sat the same postgraduate examination. This conclusion was based on a comparison of the performance of PLAB candidates in the written and clinical components of the MRCP(UK) and the MRCGP with that of UK graduates in the same exams.

  • A simple comparison of overall mean scores provided strong evidence that PLAB graduates performed at a substantially lower level than UK graduates, as well as progressing more slowly.

  • The researchers suggested a number of possible reasons for this difference in performance including issues with the standard setting process for the PLAB test.

  • The researchers identified a score for the PLAB test that would result in equivalent attainment at the MRCP, this being to increase the current pass marks by about 25–30 marks for Part 1 and 16 marks for Part 2.

Why did we commission this research?

This research was commissioned as part of a wider project reviewing the PLAB test, the main route by which international medical graduates demonstrate that they have the necessary knowledge and skills to practise medicine in the UK. The purpose of the wider review was to ensure that the PLAB test continues to be an objective, fair, non-discriminatory and fit for purpose method of assessing the knowledge and skills of international medical graduates applying for registration with us.

What did the research involve?

Data relating to doctors performance on the PLAB test was linked to data relating to the same doctors’ performance on the MRCP(UK) or the MRCGP exams. This was compared with the performance on the same exams by UK graduates.

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Assessing the equivalence of PLAB graduates to UK graduates