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Durham University

Department of Anthropology


Publication details for Dr Adetayo Kasim

Tiffin, P. A., Illing, J., Kasim, A. S. & McLachlan, J. C. (2014). Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP) performance of doctors who passed Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) tests compared with UK medical graduates: national data linkage study. BMJ 348: g2622.

Author(s) from Durham


Objective To determine whether use of the Professional and Linguistic Assessments Board (PLAB) examination system used to grant registration for international medical graduates results in equivalent postgraduate medical performance, as evaluated at Annual Review of Competence Progression (ARCP), between UK based doctors who qualified overseas and those who obtained their primary medical qualification from UK universities.

Design Observational study linking ARCP outcome data from the UK deaneries with PLAB test performance and demographic data held by the UK General Medical Council (GMC).

Setting Doctors in postgraduate training for a medical specialty or general practice in the UK and doctors obtaining GMC registration via the PLAB system.

Participants 53 436 UK based trainee doctors with at least one competency related ARCP outcome reported during the study period, of whom 42 017 were UK medical graduates and 11 419 were international medical graduates who were registered following a pass from the PLAB route.

Main outcome measure Probability of obtaining a poorer versus a more satisfactory category of outcome at ARCP following successful registration as a doctor in the UK.

Results International medical graduates were more likely to obtain a less satisfactory outcome at ARCP compared with UK graduates. This finding persisted even after adjustment for the potential influence of sex, age, years of UK based practice, and ethnicity and exclusion of outcomes associated with postgraduate examination failure (odds ratio 1.63, 95% confidence interval 1.30 to 2.06). However, international medical graduates who scored in the highest twelfth at part 1 of the PLAB (at least 32 points above the pass mark) had ARCP outcomes that did not differ significantly from those of UK graduates.

Conclusions These findings suggest that the PLAB test used for registration of international medical graduates is not generally equivalent to the requirements for UK graduates. The differences in postgraduate performance, as captured at ARCP, following the two routes to registration might be levelled out by raising the standards of English language competency required as well as the pass marks for the two parts of the PLAB test. An alternative might be to introduce a different testing system.