This chapter provides further information about the impact of the Omicron COVID wave on our PLAB 2 tests in January and February 2022. It answers questions about how we’re managing bookings and supporting affected candidates so they can secure a place as soon as possible.

Please read through this page in full. If your question isn’t answered here and you want to speak to us, please email us.

For other information about PLAB 2 and what to expect on test day, visit our PLAB 2 information pages. We recommend you check this regularly for any updates ahead of your test.

You can see the latest availability for PLAB 2 tests in GMC Online.  

Answering your questions

Why did you cancel PLAB 2 bookings in January and February 2022?

To run our PLAB tests we need up to 54 doctors a day to act as examiners, as well as a large number of role players and staff. Examiners are drawn from across the UK and spend time away from their clinical commitments to assess candidates.

In December 2021, as COVID cases continued to rise and the UK’s health services began to experience staff shortages, many examiners told us they weren’t able to commit to examining as their clinical work must take priority. We therefore took the difficult decision to cancel bookings for January and February 2022 in direct response to the Omicron COVID wave.

Who are you offering priority places to in February 2022?

On 22 December 2021 we wrote to candidates with a booking for January or February to let them know that their test would be cancelled. In this communication we also asked them to provide information about their circumstances, to help us rebook their test as soon as possible.

We’re able to offer places to just over 800 candidates in February. These are candidates who provided:

  • confirmation of a UK job offer or place in training
  • evidence that they’d already travelled to the UK before we made our decision to cancel tests scheduled in January and February. Unfortunately, we’re not able to offer places in February to anyone who chose to travel after our announcement.

We’re also doing what we can to offer the limited number of places we have available in March, April, May and June to those who may soon be in a position to join the UK medical workforce. This includes candidates who are already UK residents.

We’ve written to these groups of doctors to let them know and to explain how they can book their place. We’re also in discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care about what exceptional assurance can be provided to allow candidates, whose visas are due to expire imminently, to complete their exam in February.

I’ve been offered a priority place in February as my visa is due to expire but I need further time to prepare. Can I defer my place until later in the year?

If you’ve been offered a place in February because your visa is due to expire, we recommend you accept and book your test where possible.

Although we’re in discussions with the Department of Health and Social Care about what exceptional assurance can be provided to candidates, there’s no guarantee that candidates will be granted an extension.

What options are there for affected candidates not eligible for a priority place?

Many candidates have already rebooked their place for tests during the summer. For anyone who hasn’t yet rebooked their test, as of 14 January 2022, there are dates available from September. There may be earlier dates that become available because of cancellations. We’d encourage anyone who hasn’t yet rebooked their place to do so as soon as possible.

Doctors can check GMC Online for the latest availability and to book their place. 

I’m an affected candidate and my PLAB 1 validity is due to expire soon. Will I still be able to book a PLAB 2 place?

Candidates who were due to take their PLAB test in January or February 2022, can currently book a new date even if their PLAB 1 validity has expired. You should book your place before the end of January 2022.

I’m an affected candidate and my English language evidence will expire before my new test date. Can I still take PLAB 2?

You aren’t required to demonstrate up to date English language evidence to take PLAB 2. You will need to provide acceptable English language evidence when you apply for registration with a licence to practise.

Until March 2023, we’ll also accept a recent PLAB 2 pass at registration as evidence that you’ve maintained your English language skills. You can read more about this on our English language evidence for PLAB candidates webpage.

What support is available to candidates who’ve been affected by these cancellations?

We were deeply disappointed to cancel tests scheduled in January and February. We contacted doctors affected on 22 December 2021, to give them as much notice as possible, to reduce the financial and emotional impact and to prevent unnecessary travel to the UK.

We’ve also offered letters of support for those that may need visa extensions or wish to apply to local trusts for unpaid clinical placements while they’re waiting for their PLAB test.

For further advice, candidates can call the British Medical Association’s helpline on 0300 123 1233. Advisers can provide direct support and signpost to other teams who can help, including immigration and wellbeing services. They have also created a COVID-19 hub with practical guidance for international doctors.

Doctors from around the world make a vital contribution to the UK’s health services. Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve done all we can to support them into UK practice. This has included investing in new facilities and additional staffing to double the number of PLAB tests we can offer. We still expect to offer 15,000 PLAB 2 places this year which is a new record.

Do you expect you’ll need to make any further cancellations?

Candidates with bookings after February do not need to take any action at this time. We hope we’ll be able to resume all tests in March but we’ll need to keep our plans under review as we see how the coming weeks unfold.

We’ll share any updates or further information on this page, across our social media channels or through direct emails to candidates.