IELTS for PLAB: Essentials

Hello all, it’s Mary Rose again! In today’s post, I had the pleasure of speaking to Mubashir, one of our previous candidates at Docty on the essential things you must know about the IELTS for the PLAB.

Time to hand it over to him…

Hello! My name is Mubashir and I’m a proud ex-Plabber. I now work as a Cardiology registrar in Blackburn and I will be giving you an A to Z journey through the IELTS for PLAB. Here is what you will be learning today:

  • Basics: What is the IELTS?
  • Version: Why you should sit the UKVI IELTS (Academic)
  • Costs: Hey Mubashir! What about the costs involved?
  • Scores: What scores do I need?
  • Timing: Certificate Validity
  • Sections: What are the sections?
  • Preparation: How to prepare for the IELTS
  • Exam Day: All you need to know

Ready? Let’s go!

What is the IELTS?
The IELTS is an English language proficiency test. This means that it assesses your ability to communicate in English in four ways; reading, writing, speaking and listening.

Which version of the IELTS should I sit?
Ah! This is such a common question from newbies. If you are sitting the IELTS rather than the OET, my recommendation to you is to sit the IELTS for UKVI (Academic).

Why? You require IELTS at three steps of your journey to the UK, they are:

  • Step 1: To sit the PLAB 1
  • Step 2: For GMC registration
  • Step 3: Tier 2 Visa application

The IELTS for UKVI (Academic) will cover you at all three steps of this journey. You will not be required to sit any other language tests after this one.

If you decide to take the plain IELTS (Academic), this will work for Steps 1 and 2; but not for Step 3, which is your Tier 2 visa. You will then be required to sit the UKVI IELTS separately for your Tier 2 Visa; which means you had to pay for and sit two tests (super annoying)!

The UKVI IELTS (Academic) and the IELTS (Academic) are exactly the same examinations. The only difference is that the UKVI is £40 more expensive (but worth the extra cost).

Hey Mubashir! What about the costs involved?
Here are the costs for you according to the latest information:

  • UKVI IELTS (Academic): £200
  • IELTS (Academic): £160

What scores do I need?
You must keep two numbers in your mind. Here they are:

  • 7.0: You need to obtain a minimum score of 7.0 in each section
  • 7.5: You need to obtain an average score of 7.5 overall

So, if you obtain 7.0 in all sections; this will NOT be sufficient for your GMC registration, as the average of this is 7.0 (you need an average of 7.5).

How long is my certificate valid for?
If you pass the IELTS, you must complete your PLAB and GMC registration within two years. The validity of the certificate expires after two years.

What are the sections of the IELTS?
The sections are the following:


I will be doing a separate post on each of these sections in the coming days. As you can imagine, putting it here would make this information piece way too long!


Step 1: Before preparing, sit down, ask yourself the following question very honestly..

“How fluent am I in English?”

Step 2: Now place yourself in ONE of the following categories

Level 1: Fluent
Level 2: Medium Fluency
Level 3: Not Fluent

Step 3: According to your level, decide how long you will prepare for the IELTS. In my study group, the people at Level 3 needed longer to prepare (3 months and more) and those at Level 1 needed less time.


When it comes to resources, there are so many out there for the IELTS. I am going to introduce you to some that I used to prepare. To help organise them I am going to split them by the following:

  • Videos
  • Websites
  • Books
  • Online Forums
  • Mock Tests
  • People
  • Newspapers
  • Television
  • IELTS Courses

Videos: Video is a great way to facilitate learning English. During my preparation, I happened to stumble across a great YouTube channel called IELTS Liz. The instructor is great at covering all the sections of the IELTS; including speaking, reading, writing and listening. Plus, the videos are free!

Websites: A fantastic website I came across was IELTS Material. It had a great archive of useful information and preparation material. Be sure to check it out! Another good website I came across was IELTS Blog; it has an archive of plenty of material. I also took some time to read through Simon’s blog, which you can access here.

Books: The books I would recommend to you are the Cambridge Practice Tests for IELTS Series. This series comes in 13 books and covers the essentials through both text and audio. I am sure you can find a way to get your hands on these books somewhere, IELTS Material is a good place to start 😉

Another book which is very popular and I made use of is Barron’s Writing for the IELTS. And a friend of mine recommended a book called Target Band 7.

Forums: Take some time to read through forums. You will usually find some great hints and tips posted by the online community. In fact, IELTS Liz has a great little forum that you can access with information on previous examination questions here.

Mock Tests: I came across this website which provided some free mock tests, you can get your hands on them by clicking here. It is good to get a feel of previous examination questions.

Road to IELTS: Once you have paid for your IELTS test, the British Council will give you access to their study material called Road to IELTS. The material is very good and you can use it up to 3 months before the date of your exam.

People: Yes! Please use people to prepare for your course. Find a study buddy. You can search on the PLAB Facebook Groups or you may know somebody already. Speaking regularly to somebody fluent in English will help your preparation for the speaking portion of the examination. Don’t be shy!

Another great place you could use somebody with fluent English is to mark your essays and give feedback. What do they think? Does the flow make sense to them? This will be useful feedback for the Writing section of the IELTS.

Newspapers: Come on guys! Don’t be lazy. Make reading a good quality English newspaper a part of your morning routine while preparing for the examination. You can easily access them online! Good newspapers include The Guardian or The Independent. Getting into the habit of reading a comprehensive newspaper is going to help you on the Reading section of the IELTS.

Television: Yes, really! Pick a few TV shows you would like to watch. Even better if they are popular UK shows, such as Eastenders, Coronation Street and whatever else you like! I found that trying to listen and understand the words spoken helped me for my Listening section of the IELTS.

IELTS Courses: I put these at the end for a reason. After you have exhausted the above resources, you can schedule in a IELTS course if you think you really need it. There are so many options out there, so I will let you do the deciding as to which one is the best for you.

Some extra preparation tips

Timed Conditions: When you practice, try to do so under timed conditions. This is especially important for the Writing section, where many colleagues can quickly run out of time.

Recordings: When practicing for the speaking section, record your voice and play it back regularly. Spot places where you can improve and try again!

Practice: Practice makes perfect. This is especially important for the writing section, where you must get used to writing a good essay within the time limit.

Facebook Groups: Stop spending so much time in Facebook groups! Once you know how to go about it, just lock your time out and prepare in solid fashion. Constantly searching through Facebook groups will not do you any good and will waste a lot of time.

Exam Day

Your local IELTS centre will send you instructions on the date, time and location of your test after you book. Be sure to keep this information handy!

Also be very clear whether your centre requires you to bring any stationary or other equipment. Things that you definitely should have with you include your ID and booking confirmation.

The day has arrived! You’ve prepared carefully and are confident in getting the required scores. My first piece of advice to anyone sitting an exam is to dress comfortably. Comfort is way more important than style. Also, get a good night’s rest the day before; you want your mind to be in peak condition before the exam.

On the day, depending on your centre, your identification will be verified. The staff at my centre were very friendly and helped put us all at ease.

You will be directed to the appropriate rooms where the examination will take place.

And then it’s game time!

Final Words

Some of my friends did not clear the IELTS in their first go. If this happens to you, don’t worry. This does not mean your PLAB journey ends there. It’s time to look over your strategy, see where you were lacking and try again.

Let me know in the comments section below with what you think is the best approach to IELTS and if you have any questions!

Thanks for reading 🙂

By | 2018-08-01T09:35:05+00:00 August 1st, 2018|IELTS|Comments Off on IELTS for PLAB: Essentials

About the Author:

Mary Rose
Hi! My name is Mary Rose and I am gearing up to begin life as a F1 doctor in August 2018. I just completed my electives in Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand and will be starting on Gastroenterology as my first rotation. I love blogging, cats, cake and collecting stationary. I'm super excited to be blogging at Docty! I'll be posting articles, blogs, tips and interviews to help further your medical career and help with exams :)