PLAB or USMLE—What’s Better!

plab vs usmle

Medical graduates, after their successful turn-around, start to think of a brighter future as a doctor. Many questions pop up in your mind when you wish a move to USA or UK for better work experiences. Your achievements and hard work will surely pay off. But along this road map, you also need accurate, consistent guidance, resource information, and preparatory materials. I’ll lay down the pros and cons of the PLAB and USMLE examinations, rest you are master of your own fate!

 PLAB VS USMLE Examination:

Both these tests are taken just to ensure the in-depth knowledge and expertise of medical graduates. To successfully materialize your medical career in UK and USA, you should prepare well for these exams. As USMLE offers only one chance to achieve your goals. Safety, health, and medicines practices are evaluated in these exams in various sections. Let’s discuss the primary differences between these exams and their geographic opportunity.

  • PLAB is an abbreviation of “Professional and Linguistic Assessment Board Test”. The PLAB test evaluates your knowledge, skills, and communication as a fresh medical practitioner. This assessment is taken in a specific timeframe so that you can qualify for GMC registration. International Medical Graduates (IMGs) who want to pursue their careers in the United Kingdom (UK) must have to undertake PLAB.
      1. The PLAB EXAM:

PLAB test 1 is of multiple questions, while PLAB 2 is a clinical examination where doctors attempt scenario-based objectives, or you can say, PLAB 2 is like a mock session. Passing scores in both parts is mandatory.

  • USMLE test is a bit tough United States Medical Licensing Examination. Three test sessions of the USMLE examination can be taken in intervals that’s how it won’t burden doctors all at once. This means medical graduates can clear two steps of the USMLE during their studies, while the third step can only be completed after graduation. A score for USMLE exams matters a lot so prepare well before the examination.
      1. The USMLE first step is based on 280 MCQ’s consists of intricate knowledge related to anatomy, physiology, diseases, therapies, and medicines. After successful step one comes step two. USMLE Clinical Knowledge (CK)assesses your clinical knowledge and expertise. This one-day test of 9 hours sessions is based on health promotions, safety, legal and ethical measures, disease prevention initiatives, and your abilities to carry these. You will find it more like a brainstorming of knowledge and assess your capabilities. You will have to follow the protocols like gathering, analyzing, and observing the information along with strong communication skills. The USMLE CS third test is critical and is the toughest of all. In this doctor will be independent and unsupervised to deal with patients. Your test scores rely on your readiness for clinical examination of patients like other general practitioners for two days. After successful outcomes in all three steps, you will be a licensed medical practitioner to practice in the USA.

Things you need to know about PLAB Test:

PLAB is comparatively easy as USMLE. It is divided into PLAB 1 and PLAB 2, with a 180-200 minute exam duration. The fee cost of PLAB 1 is £230 and PLAB 2 is £ 840. The good thing about PLAB is you can retake the test four times if you are unsuccessful on the first attempt. All the candidates get jobs after PLAB clearance. You can easily score well and achieve a medical license with only three to five months of dedication and hard work. Another important point is PLAB test is shorter and lasts for 380 mins, which means it is 16 hours long.

Things you need to know about USMLE: 


USMLE is a one-time exam means there are no retakes. That’s how it demands extensive preparation before sitting in the exam. Also, the USMLE exam duration for step1 is 8 hours, step two 9 hours while step three is 8 hours. Medical graduates have to pay hefty fees for three exams basic science first step is $895, the second CK exam is $895, and the third exam charges $1550 fees. USMLE score is significant as good scores will give more opportunities to practice while scoring fewer means you

are out of the boat. Don’t take peer pressure and try to gather much of the information before applying for any of the exams. You must keep in your mind that neither of these tests is a degree or certificate. It is your eligibility to apply for GMC registration in UK and practice in the USA.

Time required for the preparation for the Exam:

Well, PLAB demands less of your time commitment. You can prepare for the exam even along with your jobs. Most candidates achieve good scores with 3 to 5 months of preparation. While; USMLE is critical and demands more of your time and commitment. You must have at least 2 to 2.5 years of preparation before sitting in the test. USMLE is quite challenging because of the lengthy process and impact on your career and jobs.

USMLE PLAB prepartion

Job prospects in PLAB and USMLE:

There seems much difference in getting a job after both exams. PLAB clearance offers competitive jobs to almost all candidates regardless of their scores. This means anyone with just a passing score you will surely secure a good position within a year or two. On the other hand, USMLE scores matter a lot, and candidates do not necessarily get a job according to their competency. Another drawback faced by high achievers of USMLE is they get jobs after three to five years of training, which is quite frustrating. The ultimate decision still depends on your mindset and life goals of being a doctor.

VISA Processing:

The Visa category is very critical. Consider all the aspects before choosing between USA and UK. UK visa process is easy and quick than the USA. Your successful career in the USA depends on USMLE scores and VISA status. Please note that you’ll need IELTS or OET for the UK but not for the USA.


There exists a matchless comparison between PLAB and USMLE exams. Medical graduates need sheer dedication, hard work, vision, and seriousness to achieve life-saving goals. However, everyone has different thinking prospects, so the decision lies on which road map suits you more. PLAB is a two-step process while USMLE is a three-step process, and scoring good points is necessary for both. PLAB exams allow you to do your house job easily while preparing for the exam, but this is not the case with USMLE, which needs more time and dedication. To accomplish your goals, you must choose wisely between USMLE and PLAB.

Recommended Articles:

PLAB 1 An Extended Guide for all aspirants

Pro Tips for Acing USMLE Step 1

Best tips for PLAB exam from an examiner


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