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Many international medical graduates (IMGs) look to Australia as a destination of choice for working as a doctor. For most the pathway to being registered as a doctor in Australia involves the Australian Medical Council exams, but for doctors who have worked in more than one country already there are some other options, such as the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB). But you need to be careful that you meet all the required criteria for your PLAB to be recognised in Australia.
Doctors often ask me whether the Professional Linguistics Assessment Board (PLAB) is accepted or recognized in Australia. The simple answer to this question is yes. The PLAB will be recognized by the Medical Board of Australia and this will mean that you are not required to sit the AMC exams. You will then be able to apply for registration via the “competent authority pathway”. As a bonus, you will also be exempt having to prove your English language proficiency. However, it is important to check the full requirements. In particular, doctors who complete the PLAB must also complete 12 months of supervised training in the United Kingdom. If you have not completed this training your PLAB will not be accepted. In short you must complete all steps of the PLAD.
Let’s dive a little deeper into the requirements of the PLAB. Including, why it is that the PLAB is accepted in Australia. As well as the other possible options for not having to undertake the AMC examinations.
What is the Purpose of the AMC Examination?
The AMC Examinations are the main route by which doctors from most other countries can apply to become registered as a doctor in Australia. Without medical registration in Australia it is illegal to work as a doctor.
Similar to the PLAB and the USMLEs, the AMC exams consist of more than one examination, a written (multiple choice) examination and clinical examination. The standards is set at the equivalent standard that would be expected of an Australian medical school graduate commencing their first working year in Australia, which is called an internship.
Australia sets high standards for medical practice and therefore, with a few exceptions, we do not directly recognize the output of medical schools from many countries. So the AMC Examinations have been established as a process for testing the capability of IMGs independent of this.
So Who Needs to Sit AMC Examinations?
If you have graduated from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Canada or the United States you are not able to sit the AMC exams.
Because you are not required to do so. Australia recognises the medical school systems of these particular countries as equivalent enough or “competent” enough to offer a far more streamlined process to gaining general registration in Australia. Called the competent authority pathway.
Actually, this is not absolutely true as doctors who graduate from New Zealand are seen as exactly equivalent (we share the same accreditation systems) and can simply apply for general registration in Australia.
If you are from any country other than the five above, then you are permitted to sit the AMC examinations. However, if you have specialist qualifications you probably don’t want to do this. You want to try something else, called the specialist pathway instead.
A Work Around For Certain IMG Doctors.
But, if you are not from the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, Canada or the United States. But have worked in the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Canada or the United States. You may also be able to avoid the AMC Exam process and still apply via Competent Authority.
But Not For the Republic of Ireland
Notice though we did not say “Republic of Ireland”. If you are an IMG who has worked in the Republic of Ireland before, this does not help you avoid the AMC exams.
What Is The Competent Authority Pathway?
The Medical Board of Australia recognizes the medical school training systems of the United Kingdom, New Zealand, Republic of Ireland, United States of America and Canada as equivalent to the Australian medical system and therefore does not require medical graduates from these countries to sit additional examinations to prove that they are capable of working as a doctor in Australia.
New Zealand medical school graduates are treated as identical to Australian graduates. In fact New Zealand Medical Schools are accredited by the Australian Medical Council as well. New Zealand doctors can apply directly for general registration, so long as they have completed an intern year in either Australia or New Zealand.
Graduates of the UK, Rep Ireland, US and Canada can apply for registration in Australia so long as they have also completed the basic requirements for being registered as a doctor in their country. You will also need a job offer prior to applying for registration.
So long as the Medical Board is satisfied that you will be provided with sufficient level of supervision for 12 months you can work under “provisional registration”. Once this period is complete and you have returned satisfactory supervisor reports you will be able to apply for general registration.
If You Are Not From the UK, US, Ireland, New Zelaand or Canada You Can Still Come Under the Competent Authority Pathway.
Some doctors work in a range of countries. Countries like the UK and Canada have similar systems to Australia for allowing IMGs to work in Australia.
So if you have completed any of the following:
- PLAB in the UK;
- NZREX in New Zealand;
- USMLE in US; or
- LMCC in Canada
You are also able to apply for registration via the competent authority pathway and can skip the AMC exams.
However, as mentioned earlier. You do need to do all the steps. One thing that can sometimes catch IMG doctors out is that they have completed all the examination steps of one of these processes BUT NOT completed the supervision steps.
So, for example, if you have not completed a Foundation Year in the UK. Or have not completed 2 years of ACGME accredited training in the United States. You won’t be eligible.
The Specialist Pathway
The Specialist Pathway is for doctors from any country. Competent Authority or Standard Pathway.
It enables a doctor to apply to be recognised as a specialist in Australia.
So it’s another pathway which avoids the need for AMC exams. Which in the case of many specialists may be quite daunting as it will have been some time since you have studied such a broad range of medicine.
Rather than going through the AMC examination process. The specialist pathway places you directly in contact with the specialist colleges. Who do a review of your training, qualifications, and experience to determine whether you are comparable or not.
If you are found to be comparable. You will be offered a period of registration to demonstrate your performance and you may also have to sit further specialty examinations.
Once again, you need a job offer to complete this process.
If you are not found to be comparable you will have to either sit the AMC examinations or apply for competent authority if that option is available to you.
I Really Don’t Want To Do The AMC Exams. Are There Any Other Options?
There is one final option but its not particularly popular as it is time limited, has certain restrictions and is not meant as a mechanism for making a permanent move to Australia.
This option is called the Short Term Training in a Medical Specialty Pathway. It is an option for gaining either provisional or limited registration for a period of up to 24-months to undertake additional specialty training in Australia. This registration category is generally made available to Advanced Trainees or Junior Consultants from other countries who are looking to augment their training experience.
And. Once again. You do need a job offer to apply for the registration.
Barring enrolling in medical school in Australia. There are no other options for not doing the AMC exams.
Do I Need to do the UK Foundation Programme to complete the PLAB requirements for Australia?
It is generally a good idea if you can successfully complete the 1st Year of the Foundation Program in the UK. Note you only need to complete one year. However, if you are unable to do this the Medical Board of Australia will accept alternative evidence that you have worked successfully in similar posts:
This is the direct quote from the Medical Board documents:
There are two ways in which you can demonstrate that you meet the ‘12 months supervised training (internship equivalent) in the UK’ component of the eligibility criteria for category A (as per guidance initially provided in August 2015):
- Provide evidence of ‘12 months supervised practice/training in an Approved Practice Setting in the UK’. Acceptable evidence would include:
- confirmation in writing from the hospital(s) and/or employer(s) that you have satisfactorily completed 12 months supervised practice/training in the UK, and
- confirmation in writing from the hospital(s) and/or employer(s) that the practice setting is an ‘Approved Practice Setting’.
- Provide evidence of ‘a minimum of 12 months practice in the UK’2
. Acceptable evidence would include:
- confirmation in writing and/or certificate of service from the hospital(s) and/or employer(s)that you have had a minimum of 12 months practice in the UK.
You will also need to provide evidence that you have ‘successfully completed the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) test since 1975’.
Will I beed to do an English Test?
This is a complex question. It’s probably best to assume that you do. Even if you are coming from an English speaking country. Until you have established that you do not.
Generally speaking, if you can prove that you have been high-schooled in English and studied Medicine in English you will be fine.
However, there are many circumstances where this has proven to not be the case. Even choosing to work for a small period in another country where English is not the first language can result in you having to sit an English test.
For doctors who have completed the PLAB and NZREX. The Medical Board will generally exempt you from the need for an English Test. This is because the PLAB and NZREX include an examination of English.
Can I count part of my PLAB or USMLEs towards the AMC Multiple Choice Examination?
No. The AMC will not recognize partial completion of any of these examinations as a proxy for the exam here.