The Savvy IMG

IELTS vs OET for PLAB, GMC and UK work visa

As an IMG coming to work in the UK, there are different scenarios in which you'll need to prove how well you can communicate in English. The acceptable tests are IELTS Academic and OET Medicine.

Table of Contents

elts vs OET: For UK Visa, PLAB, and GMC

Either test is acceptable for all purposes an IMG would need to use it for, so if you’re deciding between the two, the main factors you need to consider are:

  1. Cost
  2. Availability in your country or nearby countries
  3. Availability on the dates you need
  4. Personal preference

If cost and availability are the same, I recommend looking into both tests and trying sample questions for each to see which one you find easier.

What is the passing score for IELTS?

The IELTS can be the UKVI or non-UKVI version. It must be the Academic IELTS.

You need to reach a score of 7.5 overall, and a minimum of 7.0 in all sections in one sitting to use it for:

  • PLAB
  • GMC registration
  • Work visa
  • Non-training jobs
  • Training jobs after FY2 level (CT1/ST1 and beyond)
  • Widening Access to Specialty Training (WAST)

A score of 7.5 in ALL sections is required for:

  • FY1 through the UK Foundation Programme
  • Direct entry to standalone FY2

What is the passing score for OET?

You need to reach a minimum score of 350 or grade B in all sections in one sitting to use it for:

  • PLAB
  • GMC registration
  • Work visa
  • Non-training jobs
  • Training jobs after FY2 level (CT1/ST1 and beyond)
  • Widening Access to Specialty Training (WAST)

You must reach a minimum score of 400 in all sections in order to use it for:

  • Direct entry to Standalone FY2
  • FY1 through the UK Foundation Programme

Take note that the infographic below describes when each test is accepted depending on the scenario, but these tests are not required for all circumstances. Some scenarios will accept other evidence of English proficiency aside from the IELTS or OET. Keep reading until the end to find out if you can use an alternative method.

Ielts vs oet

Follow up questions

Do I have to take one of these tests?

Although the majority of IMGs will need to take one or both of these tests to come to the UK, there are some cases in which you can use other methods to demonstrate English proficiency. Find out here if you can use an alternative method for PLAB or GMC registration.

What about Consultant testimony?

For some training jobs you can also use “Consultant testimony” to prove your English proficiency. This means that if you’ve worked as a doctor in the NHS in a non-training job, you can ask a Consultant you’ve worked with for at least 3 months to sign a letter confirming your ability to communicate in English. 

This is accepted for standalone FY2, IMT CT1, and ST3 in the medical specialties. For other specialties, it is not specified so you’ll need to contact the recruitment office of the individual specialty.

Do I need to take a separate test when applying for jobs?

Generally, no. It’s explained more below.

For non-training jobs (any level)

The requirement is usually that your English ability has been assessed and accepted by the GMC (by whatever method) and you are currently GMC registered. You do not need to take another test just for the job.

For the Foundation Programme and Standalone FY1 or FY2

Most IMGs will need a valid Academic IELTS with at least 7.5 in all sections or OET Medicine with at least 400 in all sections when applying for these jobs. For FY2, Consultant testimony may be accepted as explained above. Consultant testimony is not accepted for the Foundation Programme.

Related: Read about applying for Standalone FY2 in our article here

Training jobs at any level after FY2

The following specialties state that the IELTS or OET must be taken within 24 months of your application:

  • Internal medicine training (IMT)
  • ST3 in the medical specialties (eg. Cardiology, Respiratory Medicine, Dermatology etc.)

However Consultant testimony also seems to be valid.

Training jobs at any level after FY2 in specialties not listed above

The person specifications only state that your English ability should be “assessed by the GMC”. See this snippet of the person specifications for training jobs:

Language skills requirements on the person specifications of specialty training posts

I assume it is similar to the requirements for non-training jobs in that you must meet the GMC requirements (by whatever method) and you must be currently registered with the GMC. You can contact the recruitment office of the individual specialty if you need further clarification.

Widening Access to Specialty Training (WAST)

Your OET/IELTS need to be valid for when you apply for full GMC registration. GMC registration needs to be approved by the deadline set by WAST. The deadlines are listed in the WAST applicant guidance on their website.

Related: 10 reasons why you should apply to WAST.

What about MTI?

Generally, the requirements are the same as the GMC.

Related: A guide to short-term training in the UK including fellowships, scholarships, and GMC-sponsorships

What about for your work visa?

You can either apply for Health and Care Worker Visa or Skilled Worker Visa.

As long as your IELTS or OET was accepted for GMC registration, you do not need to take any further tests or obtain UK NARIC. 

Also, the Home Office will not check whether the test is expired or not, provided it was accepted for GMC registration and your GMC registration is valid. This is stated in the Tier 2 application form.

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

What about for a Tier 5 visa?

The Tier 5 visa (Government Authorised Exchange) for doctors does not have any English requirements. But in order to obtain a Tier 5 visa, you need a Certificate of Sponsorship (COS) from your sponsor, eg. Royal College of Physicians. 

To get the (COS) you need to satisfy the English requirements of your sponsor which may or may not include an English test. Again, please check the requirements of the individual sponsor. Links to all sponsors are here in this guide.

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.

Eligibility Applicant Guidance 2019. (2018). [ebook] UK Foundation Programme, pp.7, 15. Available at: [Accessed 4 Jan. 2019].

F2 Stand-alone Applicant Guidance 2019. (2018). [ebook] UK Foundation Programme, pp.9, 30. Available at: [Accessed 4 Jan. 2019].

UK Foundation Programme. (2019). FAQs | UK Foundation Programme. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Jan. 2019].

UK Foundation Programme. (2019). Stand-alone FAQs | UK Foundation Programme. [online] Available at: [Accessed 4 Jan. 2019].

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10 Responses

  1. Hi
    I need an OET exam for GMC registration
    I got a score of 340 on the listing test,could I repeat only the Listing test? or shall I repeat the 4 sets of the exam?

    1. You need to repeat all 4. You should reach the passing scores for all 4 tests within one sitting.

  2. Would you need the IELTS to be valid till the start of the Non-Training Job or does it only need to be valid till GMC Registration?
    I did my IELTS in June 2019, and I am hoping to get GMC Registered before June 2021, but I don’t know when I will be able to acquire a Non training Job.
    Thank you!

    1. Hi there, it only needs to be valid for GMC registration. As long as your GMC registration is valid, you can apply for jobs and obtain a work visa.

    1. If they already have a spouse visa then they don’t need a separate visa to do PLAB. They can just sit PLAB while in the UK on a spouse visa.

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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.
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