The Savvy IMG

The cost of PLAB & GMC fees + tips on saving money

Get to grips with the fundamentals of coming to the UK as an international medical graduate with our comprehensive easy-to-understand crash course. In this post we review the associated costs of the 5 stages of GMC registration and the different ways you can save.

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Photo of British money

Updated: February 16, 2023

When considering migrating to another country to pursue a medical career, the cost is definitely a big factor. 

The UK IMG journey is a fraction of the cost of the US IMG journey, which is one reason we were personally drawn to it, but of course, it’s still a substantial amount. 

The number can be intimidating but there are a few things to consider here.

  • First, you should view the expense as an investment in yourself and your future.
  • Second, job availability for doctors in the UK is pretty good right now. With a current shortage of 8,000 doctors, you have a solid chance of making the money back within the first 4 months.
  • Third, there are ways to reduce your costs and I’ll be going through them all in this post.

Some key notes before you read the rest of this article:

  • This cost estimation is for doctors gaining registration through the PLAB route.
  • These costs assume you pass every exam the first time.
  • The stated minimum spend is for a shared room and bathroom, and preparing your own meals every day.
  • The maximum spend considers the maximum reasonable spend for each category. This includes a private room with shared bathroom and £20 per day for food. Of course, if you have the money for a private townhouse and restaurant meals each night then the sky’s the limit!
  • Flights costs are highly variable because IMGs can come from all over the world, but I wanted to give you a ballpark figure so I’ve used the Philippines as the example. If you live closer to the UK, then you can adjust the prices accordingly.

So let’s get straight down to it. Here are the different stages of registering with the GMC and finding a job with a range of the cost for each stage. We will then go into a more detailed breakdown and review ways to save money!

Stage 1: English exam

Before you can book PLAB, you need to pass a valid English test. There are 2 options: Academic IELTS, and OET Medicine

Take note: it’s no longer necessary to take the UKVI version of IELTS as the non-UKVI version is now accepted for the Tier 2 work visa.

Each exam is made up of 4 components: listening, reading, writing, and speaking. The cut off scores and costs are different for each exam.

Exam options for GMC registrationPass markCostNotes
Academic IELTS7.5 overall (7.0 minimum in each component)£175The written component is notoriously difficult to pass.
OET (medicine version)Grade B in each component£310Reportedly easier to pass because it is designed especially for doctors.

Please take note that if your medical degree was taught in English, you may not need to IELTS or OET. You can read about this more here.

How can I save money in Stage 1?

The answer is to make sure you are prepared enough to pass the first time.

And to do that, you need to be honest with yourself and assess your individual circumstance. How good is your English? How often do you use it? Is your grammar correct? Remember you will need good enough English to work as a safe doctor in the UK.

We recommend trying out some of the free sample questions from both tests and going for the one that you find easiest for you.

If you’re worried about failing and spending lots of money on multiple attempts, you would probably benefit from a preparation course as this would be cheaper than taking the exam twice.

Swoosh English is a UK-based organisation with native English-speaking teachers. Their courses are officially endorsed by OET and they have already helped thousands of doctors pass. If you want to save money by passing the exam on your first attempt, Swoosh English could be a good fit.

They have a great FREE video series with tips to help you pass IELTS or OET on your first attempt.

Related: IELTS vs OET for PLAB, GMC & UK work visa.


This is where costs can start to vary a lot depending on whether you travel outside of your home country, and the level of comfort you wish to have on your trip.

Minimum spend£869Notes
PLAB 1 exam fee£239 
Return ticket to exam centre£450

Exclude this expense if PLAB 1 is offered in your home country.

This ticket price is a quote for Philippines to Dubai.

3 nights / 4 days accommodation, food and transportation

This assumes you arrive 2 days before the exam to combat jet lag, and leave the day after the exam.

Again, exclude this expense if PLAB 1 is offered in your home country.

Maximum spend£3,078Notes
PLAB 1 exam fee£239 
Attend a PLAB 1 course in the UK (4 weeks) – optional
PLAB 1 course£500Average cost of a short in-person course with mock exams
Return ticket to the UK£800This price is for a ticket from the Philippines. You may spend less.
Visitor visa valid for 6 months£95 

Private room and shared bathroom (£175/week)

You can get rooms at this price on Airbnb.

Food£460Buying food each day (£20/day). It is much cheaper to cook your own meals!
Transportation£100Daily bus ride to and from the course and to the exam centre. Exclude this if you’re within walking distance.
Laundry£30Coin-operated laundry service once a week, exclude this if you’re washing by hand or have free access to a washing machine.
SIM card£10Only get pay-as-you-go.
Emergency cash£200 

How can I save money in Stage 2?

  • PLAB 1 is held in several countries. Check the GMC website to find out which one is nearest to you so you can save money. If you’re fortunate enough to have PLAB 1 offered in your home country, then this stage can cost as little as £239 since you won’t need to travel.
  • Self-study. There are many doctors who have managed to pass PLAB 1 using either free or paid online study materials without doing a course.
  • Do an online course instead. Nowadays online courses are just as good as academies and saves you alot on accommodation. We recommend Dr. Aman Arora for this. He has even offered us a 10% discount off all his products which can be used on top of a sale! Just use the code ARORASAVVY10 on checkout.
  • Book flights early. Make the most of the early bird discounts.
  • Book a course as a group. Many academies now offer group discounts of up to 20% for group bookings.


This is the stage where costs can vary the most depending on your learning style.

Minimum spend£2,050Notes
PLAB 2 exam fee£875 
Online PLAB 2 resources£100-600This can vary widely depending on the format of the online course (live vs pre-recorded)
Return ticket to the UK£800This price is for a ticket from the Philippines. You may spend less.
UK Visitor visa£95 
3 nights / 4 days accommodation, food and transportation
£180This assumes you arrive 2 days before the exam to combat jet lag, and leave the day after the exam.
Mid-level spend£3,408Notes
PLAB 2 exam fee£875 
Attend a PLAB 2 course in the UK + take the exam (min. 6 weeks)
PLAB 2 course£600 
Return ticket to the UK£800This price is for a ticket from the Philippines. You may spend less.
UK visitor visa£93 
Accommodation£660Shared room and shared bathroom (£110/wk)
Food£300Home cooked meals every day (£50/week)
Laundry£5Assumes in-house laundry facilities at your accommodation. This cost is just for laundry detergent.
SIM card£20 
Return bus ticket to exam centre in Manchester£30Exclude this cost if you book PLAB in the same city as your PLAB 2 course. 
Accommodation for one night in Manchester£30
Emergency cash£200 
Maximum spend£4,553Notes
All other costs are the same.
Accommodation£1,050Private room and shared bathroom (£175/week)
Food£840Buying food every day (£20/day)
Transportation£130Daily bus ride to get to academy
Laundry£45Coin-operated laundry service once a week
Return train ticket to exam
centre in Manchester
£85Exclude this cost if you book PLAB in the same city as your PLAB 2 course.

Direct train from London Euston to Manchester.

For PLAB 2 I highly recommend attending a course – whether in-person or online. In-person courses are preferable so you can get feedback on your skills, but I know this is not affordable for many IMGs which is where online courses can be helpful.

How can I save money in Stage 3?

  • Book a course as a group. Many academies now offer group discounts of up to 20%.
  • PLAB 2 courses are starting to emerge outside the UK. Do some research to figure out whether this would be a good fit for you.
  • Don’t rule out online courses. This will be much cheaper than attending the whole course in person in the UK. Again, we recommend Dr. Aman Arora for this. As a previous PLAB 2 examiner, he knows exactly what IMGs need to work on and has helped many other IMGs pass PLAB 2 already.
  • He has even offered us a 10% discount off all his products which can be used on top of a sale! Just use the code ARORASAVVY10 on checkout.
  • Do mock exams. Nothing beats a good feedback on how you performed on a mock after intense studying.
  • Book in advance. And don’t forget to check out our method of finding cheap accommodation here!

Related: Getting ready for your first visit to the UK as an IMG


Minimum spend£321
ECFMG/EPIC verification of your primary medical qualification (PMQ)£165
GMC registration (for those who graduated less than 5 years ago)£156
Maximum spend£571
ECFMG/EPIC verification of your primary medical qualification (PMQ)£165
GMC registration (for those who graduated more than 5 years ago)£406

As these costs are fixed, the only real way to save is to get a good exchange rate!

You may also be able to save on the EPIC verification of your PMQ if you’ve been registered with the ECFMG in the past. In that case the cost to forward your previous verification to the GMC is just £25.

Related: Requirements for registration with the GMC


Minimum spend£1,072 
Tier 2 Health & Care visa£232 
Tuberculosis test£50You will need this if you are from one of these countries. The cost varies per country.
Enhanced DBS (Police clearance check)£44Some hospitals shoulder this cost.
One-way ticket to the UK£600This price is for a ticket from the Philippines. You may spend less.

Provided the rest of your documents for GMC registration have been submitted, you can start applying for jobs through the NHS jobs site once you have your PLAB 2 result. You do not have to wait for your registration to be officially approved before you can start applying for jobs.

Related: 10 ways to prepare for your first job in the NHS as an IMG

Attending the interview

Many hospitals now conduct interviews via Skype bypassing the need for another UK trip. There is no disadvantage to doing this. If you are the best candidate for the job, you will still be chosen amongst those who attend in person.

NHS interviews are unique so be sure you are ready with the staple book Medical Interviews. Every UK doctors reads this book to prepare for interviews and we wouldn’t have gotten our NHS jobs without it. Get yours here on Amazon.

If you have the means, you can consider coming to the UK in person. Whilst here you can arrange an informal visit to the departments you have applied for. During your visit, you’ll get to meet the Consultant and team in person prior to the interview. See this as an opportunity to find out whether the hospital will be supportive of your goals and your situation as a new IMG.

This also gives them a chance to know you and for you to make a good first impression. I even know a doctor who went to meet a Consultant in a London hospital, and was interviewed and offered a job on the spot. And this job was not even posted on the NHS website, it was opened up there and then just for him! Anything is possible.

At the end of the day it is up to you whether you visit the UK for job interviews, however it’s not compulsory.

Relocation costs

When you relocate to the UK you will need some additional cash to pay for your living costs for the 4-6 weeks before your first pay check. I will go into this in more detail in a separate post.

Related: 12 essential items for IMGs working in the NHS


Applying for GMC registration through the PLAB route is an investment in yourself and your future. The range is from approximately £4,500 to £10,000 and depends largely on your studying style and level of comfort.

Being conscious of where to spend your money and passing exams in one try by investing in the right amount of courses after evaluating your circumstance are the 2 main keys to keeping your costs down.

GMC registration does not need to cost the moon and stars! We have reviewed the many ways you can save money in this post per stage.

Stage 1:

  • Pass the exam the first time with the right preparation materials.

Stage 2:

  • Take PLAB 1 in a country close to home.
  • If it’s suitable to your learning style, consider self-study or online courses to avoid coming to the UK for PLAB 1 prep. If you attend a course in-person, consider a short course rather a long one.
  • If you attend an in-person course in the UK, save on accommodation and living costs by booking in advance, sharing a room, living within walking distance of the academy, getting accommodation with a kitchen and laundry facilities, and preparing all your meals at home.

Stage 3:

  • Consider an online PLAB 2 course or one in a country close to home.
  • Same advice as stage 2 for reducing living costs.

Stage 4:

  • These costs are pretty fixed. Getting a good foreign exchange rate is the only way to save here.

Stage 5:

  • Attending interviews in person is optional, you can always interview through Skype.


It is hard to beat the prices on Airbnb for the quality it offers! Use any of the links provided in this article for a £25 credit towards your first booking!

Suggested: How to find cheap short-term accommodation in the UK


Skyscanner is my go to website for booking flights. They compare multiple vendors of the same flight and often come in the cheapest for exactly the same flight and seat. Be sure to double check what their prices are before booking! You don’t want to be paying £100++ more for exactly the same ticket on the same airline!

What next?

Find this article useful? Check out more guides on this topic here: Costs and finance

Disclosure: There are some affiliate links in the article above. This means that at no additional cost to you, we may earn a commission if you make a booking or purchase by clicking on the link. We only recommend products and services that we use ourselves or have proven success amongst IMGs.

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21 Responses

  1. This blog is amazing. A one stop solution for PLABBers. Can’t than enough for the clarity and lucidity of the extremely complex US pathways

  2. Hi Author,

    I had be told in the past that there are some bodies or agency that facilitate by financing the cost involved in journying to the UK to complete PLAB 2 up to securing jobs with an arrangement to repay after securing jobs. Please do you know any of such, would you be able to share a name or link so I can explore that option too?

    Thanking you in advance.

    1. Hi there, we have heard of some recruitment agencies that can do this but don’t have any specific recommendations. Definitely ask in the FB groups for more advice. Good luck!

  3. Hi dr, I heard much about Doctor salaries as Medical graduates less than 5 years .. Could you tell me the right or Link to proper article about salaries and is this really low Compared to living cost in UK as I heard ?!

  4. hi, I finished my primary medical qualification in Russia for 4 years back now planned to choose PLAB pathway since I haven’t done any acceptable internship during this years is there any possibilities that I can able enter into FY1 ? do it need to sit any more exams except plan 1&2. if yes how much it will cost me further does NHS accepts these kind of candidates to work for them

  5. Hi, I have already taken the Cambridge Proficiency exam, do I still need to take the IELTS or the OET?

    1. Hi, yes. As far as we know the GMC only accepts IELTS or OET. Please check their website or contact them directly if you require further verification.

  6. Hello! do you have an article or a guide on daily living expenses in the UK? is it hard to save money as an IMG or any doctor for that matter working in the NHS? I want to see if its feasible to work in the UK, save money and go back to my home country for retirement.

    1. Hi there! Cost of living is highly dependent on the location. You can find lots of articles about this online if you search on Google and type the area you’re interested in. As for your other questions, doctors earn above the national average so it’s not hard to save money as a doctor provided you live within your means and you are smart with your money. If you expect to support a lavish lifestyle though then you may want to look elsewhere! UK doctors earn above average but are certainly not rich!

  7. Hello, doctors Nick and Kimberly! I would just like to ask what kind of visa is okay to have in PLAB 2. Thank you in advance!

  8. hi Nick,
    I have totally impressed to read this blog! You two are very hard-working. There is finer details information here.
    But I notice a typing mistake here, IN STAGE 4, the gmc reg. cost in rwo rows is different but it is mention”graduate less than 5 years” in the 2 sub-headings.

  9. Hello Dr. Nick,
    I wanted to ask whether it’d be better to do the PLAB exam or the MRCP one instead,
    Thank you!

  10. Hi Nick,
    I’m also from Philippines. In taking PLAB 1 exam. Did you apply in any course? Which one did you use and how did you choose? Thanks

    1. Hi Mab, I went with Samson PLAB however that was almost 7 years ago and there is a lot more choice these days. I’d recommend asking more recent PLAB takers in one of the FB groups as I don’t have experience with the newer resources. Best of luck!

  11. Thank you very much Dr Nick,
    I like to know if African Doctors specifically Nigerian doctors will be given equal opportunity as the other IMGs and are they African in the hospital where you work?

    1. Hi, there’s no difference between different countries in terms of opportunities. IMGs from all countries are in the same situation. Lots of doctors from all countries here!

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Meet the Team

Hi, we’re Drs Nick & Kimberly Tan, the two IMGs behind The Savvy IMG. We write comprehensive guides, create courses, and provide one-to-one guidance to help other overseas qualified doctors on their journey to the UK.
We have scoured the official guidance to put these posts together, but we can make mistakes! If you spot anything that is incorrect, please get in touch and we’ll put it right.
Photo of Dr Nicholas Tan