United Kingdom Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA)
Introduction to UKMLA - The New Licensing Exam for Doctors in the UK
The United Kingdom Medical Licensing Assessment (UKMLA) is a new exam system introduced in the UK starting in 2024 for doctors wishing to practice in the UK. It will replace the existing PLAB (Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board) exam taken by international medical graduates.
The UKMLA will also be a mandatory exam for UK medical graduates before they are granted full registration with the General Medical Council. This blog provides a comprehensive overview of UKMLA and how it will impact overseas and British candidates aspiring to work as doctors in the UK.
Purpose of UKMLA
The key objectives behind introducing the new UKMLA framework are:
· To have a common assessment framework for UK and international medical graduates seeking medical registration in the UK.
· To assess clinical competencies required for safe practice in the UK healthcare system.
· To evaluate communication skills and professional capabilities.
· To ensure standards are aligned with UK curriculum and regulatory guidelines.
So, in a nutshell, UKMLA aims to uniformly assess all doctors before granting registration to practice medicine in the UK.
Comparison with USMLE and PLAB
While the USMLE examination in the USA and existing PLAB in the UK also assess overseas doctors, the UKMLA has some fundamental differences:
· UKMLA applies to both British graduates and international doctors, unlike USMLE, which is just for international candidates.
· UKMLA focuses more on communication abilities and applied clinical knowledge, unlike PLA, which emphasises clinical skills lessons.
· The standards of UKMLA are defined by UK medical schools and GMC, unlike USMLE, which is independent of medical schools.
· UKMLA judges readiness for the UK workplace, not just theoretical knowledge.
So, UKMLA aims for a more holistic assessment tailored to medical practice requirements in the UK.
Format of UKMLA
The UKMLA consists of two independent parts:
1. Applied Knowledge Test (AKT)
· Assesses basic medical concepts, knowledge and principles.
· Multiple choice questions testing problem-solving and clinical decision-making skills.
· Exam duration: 5 hours
· Conducted at accredited test centres on fixed dates.
2. Clinical Professional Skills Assessment (CPSA)
· Evaluates clinical, communication and diagnostic skills through role-playing scenarios.
· Involves interacting with trained patient actors.
· Assesses the capability to practice safely and ethically in the UK.
· Held in dedicated clinical simulation facilities in Manchester, London and Cardiff.
Both components independently test different facets of medical competence and readiness to practice in the UK.
Requirements for UK Medical Students
The GMC mandates passing UKMLA for UK medical students graduating in 2024-25 and onwards before granting full registration and licence to practice medicine in the UK.
Key Criteria for UK Graduates:
· Must have completed UK-approved undergraduate medical qualification.
· Need to pass both AKT and CPSA components of UKMLA.
· No limit on attempts. Can retake failed components.
· Expected to pass UKMLA final assessments before full registration.
· UKMLA to be embedded in medical school curricula and final exams.
So, UKMLA will be integral to medical education and professional registration for British citizen doctors.
Requirements for International Medical Graduates
International medical graduates registering in the UK need to follow the below process:
· Primary medical qualification from a recognized institute abroad.
· Meet English language proficiency requirements (IELTS, OET, PTE).
· From late 2024, we need to pass both parts of UKMLA.
· Will first take AKT and, on passing, can apply for CPSA.
· Attempts limited to 4 for AKT and 3 for CPSA.
· Valid for five years after passing before applying for registration.
So, overseas doctors need valid qualifications and language skills and must pass UKMLA for GMC registration.
Phased Introduction of UKMLA
UKMLA will gradually replace the PLAB exam in a phased manner between 2024-2028:
· In 2024, UKMLA will be mandated for UK students graduating that year.
· From 2024, international doctors can take UKMLA or PLAB Part 1 and 2.
· From 2025, PLAB Part 1 will be discontinued. Only PLAB 2 and UKMLA will run in parallel.
· Final PLAB 2 to be held in late 2028. Only the UKMLA will continue after that.
· Doctors who have passed PLAB 1 or 2 can apply for GMC registration until late 2030.
The transition from PLAB to UKMLA will be gradual and allow doctors who have cleared parts of PLAB to still be eligible for registration in the transition period.
In summary, the introduction of UKMLA in 2024 aims to modernize the licensing framework in the UK by having a common assessment tailored to British and international medical graduates seeking to practice in the UK. The new exam will evaluate the clinical knowledge, skills and professional attributes required for delivering safe patient care as per NHS standards. Passing UKMLA will be essential for full registration with a license to practice medicine in the UK.