PLAB Success Stories: Russian IMG to UK Doctor

Alexandra “Sasha” Goncharova, a Russian citizen working as a doctor in the UK, is one of many PLAB success stories. Outlining the exact steps she took to become a doctor in the NHS, Sasha’s journey is an interesting one. Having successfully found work as a clinical fellow (F2 level doctor) in the Epsom and St Helier NHS Trust, her story might serve as inspiration for other international medical graduates looking to do the same.

Over to Sasha.

PLAB Success Story: My Origins

I spent my adolescent years as a Russian passport holder growing up in Dubai, UAE, dreaming of going to medical school in the US. Studying pre-med at the American University there, I eventually realised I wouldn’t be able to afford going to a US medical school. So I looked into other options and decided to get a European-accredited medical degree from Medical University Varna, Bulgaria. Which worked out much cheaper!

After graduating six years later, I slowly began to realise the challenges finding work as a doctor with a Russian passport. I couldn’t go back to the UAE, where my family lived, as they had their own legislation and rules that made it difficult for me (an exam or a two-year paid clinical internship) to work there.

Hoping to get into dermatology in Bulgaria, I then realised this wasn’t immediately available to me either. So I took some time out to consider my options and ended up working in aesthetics in Sofia, as a beauty therapist.

UK Plans

I started thinking about working as a doctor in the UK after my boyfriend, a British citizen, recommended I look into it. At the time I was sceptical. Why would the UK accept me if the country I graduated from (Bulgaria) wouldn’t even consider me? Especially considering the UK’s world status!

After researching a little more I decided to take a chance. Figuring I had nothing to lose, I told my mother of my plans. She was happy to sponsor me for the PLAB exam costs and the time required to prepare.

My journey started off by a simple Google search. I read about what someone of my background would have to do on the UK government website and discovered I’d have to take the same pathway as someone who’d studied outside of the European Economic Area (EEA).

Before this I knew next to nothing about UK medical practice. I didn’t even know it was government sponsored! Coming from the UAE, which resembles the US private healthcare system, I loved the idea of working in a system that provided healthcare access to all. Especially given my grandparents expensive health issues back home.

Beginning Journey

Due to the overwhelm I felt trying to figure everything out, I decided to take the process one step at a time. The first thing I needed to do was prove my English proficiency. So I made my plans to do the IELTS before I could put in an application to do PLAB Part I.

I prepared to do the IELTS about four-weeks in advance, with my test date set for August 2018. I booked this in advance with the British Council and received their materials to prepare. If you have a good speaking level of English and are able to understand TV shows easily, you should have a sufficient enough level to pass it. Luckily I was able to do this in Sofia, so didn’t need to leave Bulgaria to do it.

As far as my IELTS result went I scored a total of eight. With a 7.5 in my writing – the bare minimum to pass! If I had to do this again I’d probably read more books in English — that would be my main recommendation to improve your grammar.

Applying for PLAB Part 1

After IELTS I began to get things in order for passing PLAB. I used the online application system from the General Medical Council (GMC). You pay in advance for the PLAB Part I. You don’t have to do this in the UK if you book well in advance. I didn’t get lucky in this regard so had to go to the UK to do it — they’re held only a few times a year in most other countries and places are very limited.

My first PLAB I experience wasn’t the greatest. I made the mistake of not booking any courses online (using only the free resources) and not giving myself enough time. This wasn’t enough to get me through the stress of the exam. I took it originally in November of 2018 and I failed by 10 points — these were the questions I missed due to running out of time!

PLAB I is scored on a curve. Meaning the passing grade is dependent on the scores of the other test-takers on that same day. And there’s around 600 people in each testing centre. On my day the score was 122 and I scored 112.

I don’t feel my medical school studies prepared me adequately for taking the exam. I had to look at a lot of USMLE resources to prepare. As the PLAB is structured in a way where any of the multiple choice questions could be correct, you have to know the clinical timelines to choose correctly.

I don’t think it matters what medical school you go to (to prepare), you just need the correct resources to pass. You need to choose things that emulate the time and rhythm of the exam.

Bouncing Back From Failure


Being familiar with the exam, the format and the testing centres etc helped me much more the second time around. I also used the online question banks at Plabable, and did all the things available under the subscription to help me prepare.

A lot of Facebook groups can help you prepare but they can be quite stressful to be part of. That’s why I wouldn’t recommend using them all the time — but they can be useful if you’re searching for specific information.

In terms of studying techniques I’d absolutely advise timing yourself once you have a handle on the questions. There’s no point doing this however before you have a understanding of the material. You need to know the basics of clinical knowledge — not the advanced things. Tumor markers, the ABC rule etc. Also be familiar with the Oxford Handbook of Clinical Medicine.


Studying for the second part of PLAB was much less socially isolating. This time I decided to take advantage of all the resources out there from the get-go. And obviously for this stage you really need to go the UK.

I thought that staying in Manchester for the course (given PLAB Part II takes place there) made the most sense. I took a course at an academy and followed all their instructions, coming to the UK two months in advance of the exam and doing the mock exams, group practice etc. This stage of the process is much more interactive. You get to see all the other applicants and learn about their backgrounds and experience. And everyone’s very different. Some are specialists, others junior doctors — and it’s a very good bonding opportunity but with an obvious intense premise of getting a job as a doctor in the UK!

In my experience at least it was a very humbling and reaffirming experience. Everyone is trying to do their best with the format put in front of them. So it’s all about how nice you are to patients, how well you know the legislation and your limitations of treatment etc. Obviously very different from what we’re expected to do in our own countries!

On the exam day I went to the GMC building all dressed up (same way you would dress for the wards – white shirt, tidy hair etc). Waited for the examiners and actors; and went through the stations (there’s eighteen of them). You’re very stressed because it’s a subjective test and depends a lot on what other people think of you; how you project yourself, how humble you are, how assertive you are and how much you know about the human condition. Examiners already know you have the clinical knowledge (based on PLAB I), they just want to see how well you behave around other people; your colleagues and your seniors. As well as how you follow the general legislation set out for you by the UK government.

Over preparation can be tricky here. You don’t want to look over-rehearsed. My tip is to not be automatic. Always have an understanding of your patients’ worries. And be as human as possible.

UK Job Hunting

After both parts of the PLAB lies the most frustrating part. You wait for a month for the results and then have to spring in to action; collecting all your documents about your internship year, translating everything etc. And all in a short space of time! Every single week that passes by counts as a break in practice — something that can effect negatively on your application.

I’ve heard of cases where people got GMC registration 15 years outside of the profession but these are outliers. I wouldn’t risk it. You have to explain your timeline in the last three years; what you have been up to etc. It’s a very gruelling process. And you have to be willing to be in communication with the GMC for quite some time.

I passed the PLAB II in August 2019. From then on out I was already collecting documents and translating them. After receiving the results the following month, I began applying for GMC registration then waited for their feedback. You have to register your degree with an American affiliate system — this is all explained on the GMC website. Put this in place before you attend PLAB II so you can prove your degree is legible.

I got registered in November (about two months out from the exam). And then the most difficult part began. Applying for UK jobs without UK experience. Some people were more long-sighted in this regard. They began applying for UK clinical attachments before they came for PLAB II and had these lined up; having emailed all the trusts they could and registering their interest.

Clinical Attachments


The most successful IMG’s who get jobs as doctors in the UK the fastest are the most persistent. These people find the emails of the trusts and reach out to them repeatedly, asking to be considered for an attachment. You don’t get paid for this. And sometimes you have to pay for the accommodation.

Attachments involve you coming and observing other people working in a clinical scenario and shadowing them for a duration of time – 4 weeks, 6 weeks, sometimes 3 months.

What I generally found were the places that charge don’t usually take you on with a job after. They will give you references – which are useful as you need three of them to apply for jobs in the UK – but it’s not ideal. If you find a placement with free accommodation those are the ones to go for. This often means they’re interested in people for full-time positions. Usually because they’re short of doctors.

Securing a Job

My path into the a job was helped by the time I spent at an academy during PLAB II. Friends I made there knew more about the process of finding a job and recommended me a trust to email who had clinical attachments with the prospect of a job at the end of it. This was Epsom and St Helier.

Originally they were on the fence about taking me. Basically I got in by being able to connect myself with a Bulgarian consultant who took me under their wing and supervised me during the attachment. Then I spent the attachment talking to patients, other people in the hospital and being present for both night and day shifts. Involving myself in the clinical process.

Once I finished the attachment I was able to move into a full-time role in the trust. The interview came at the end of the attachment but I still had to apply for the job through NHS jobs. I was a bit lucky (depending on how you see it) by the fact this coincided with the start of the Covid crisis. Because of this my start-date was brought forward and I was able to get an in-country certificate from the trust. Then I was able to start after I got the certificate of sponsorship a month later. A bit different from the norm!

I started work in the beginning of May. My clinical attachment ended at the end of March. It’s been a roller-coaster to say the least!

414 replies on “PLAB Success Stories: Russian IMG to UK Doctor”

I look after a vape store directory site and we have had a listing from a vape shop in the USA that additionally markets CBD goods. A Calendar month later on, PayPal has written to use to claim that our account has been restricted and have asked us to take away PayPal as a payment method from our vape store web directory. We do not retail CBD product lines like CBD oil. We solely provide advertising and marketing services to CBD firms. I have checked out Holland & Barrett– the UK’s Top Health and wellness Retailer and if you take a close look, you will witness that they supply a fairly considerable series of CBD items, specifically CBD oil and they also happen to accept PayPal as a settlement method. It emerges that PayPal is employing contradictory standards to many different firms. Due to this restriction, I can no longer take PayPal on my CBD-related web site. This has constricted my payment options and right now, I am heavily contingent on Cryptocurrency payments and straightforward bank transfers. I have spoken with a barrister from a Magic Circle law practice in The city of london and they stated that what PayPal is doing is definitely against the law and inequitable as it should be applying a systematic criterion to all companies. I am still to speak to an additional attorney from a US law firm in The city of london to see what PayPal’s legal position is in the United States. Meanwhile, I would be extremely appreciative if anybody here at targetdomain could provide me with substitute payment processors/merchants that deal with CBD firms.

Wow, wonderful weblog structure! How long have you ever been blogging for? you make blogging glance easy. The overall glance of your site is wonderful, as neatly as the content material!

Heya! I just wanted to ask if you ever have any trouble with hackers? My last blog (wordpress) was hacked and I ended up losing several weeks of hard work due to no back up. Do you have any methods to protect against hackers?

Oh my goodness! an incredible article dude. Thank you Nevertheless I am experiencing situation with ur rss . Don抰 know why Unable to subscribe to it. Is there anyone getting an identical rss downside? Anybody who is aware of kindly respond. Thnkx

It is my belief that mesothelioma is most lethal cancer. It’s got unusual characteristics. The more I look at it a lot more I am convinced it does not behave like a real solid tissue cancer. In case mesothelioma is often a rogue virus-like infection, then there is the chance of developing a vaccine as well as offering vaccination to asbestos open people who are vulnerable to high risk with developing upcoming asbestos associated malignancies. Thanks for expressing your ideas for this important ailment.

Another issue is really that video gaming became one of the all-time biggest forms of recreation for people of any age. Kids play video games, and adults do, too. Your XBox 360 is one of the favorite video games systems for many who love to have hundreds of video games available to them, and who like to learn live with some others all over the world. Thank you for sharing your thinking.

Yet another thing is that when you are evaluating a good online electronics store, look for online stores that are continuously updated, trying to keep up-to-date with the hottest products, the most effective deals, and helpful information on products and services. This will ensure you are handling a shop that really stays ahead of the competition and gives you what you need to make intelligent, well-informed electronics acquisitions. Thanks for the important tips I have really learned through the blog.

By way of introduction, I am Mark Schaefer, and I represent Nutritional Products International. We serve both international and domestic manufacturers who are seeking to gain more distribution within the United States. Your brand recently caught my attention, so I am contacting you today to discuss the possibility of expanding your national distribution reach.We provide expertise in all areas of distribution, and our offerings include the following: Turnkey/One-stop solution, Active accounts with major U.S. distributors and retailers, Our executive team held executive positions with Walmart and Amazon, Our proven sales force has public relations, branding, and marketing all under one roof, We focus on both new and existing product lines, Warehousing and logistics. Our company has a proven history of initiating accounts and placing orders with major distribution outlets. Our history allows us to have intimate and unique relationships with key buyers across the United States, thus giving your brand a fast track to market in a professional manner. Please contact me directly so that we can discuss your brand further. Kind Regards, Mark Schaefer,, VP of Business Development, Nutritional Products International, 101 Plaza Real S, Ste #224, Boca Raton, FL 33432, Office: 561-544-0719

I have observed that smart real estate agents everywhere are getting set to FSBO Promoting. They are knowing that it’s not just placing a sign post in the front place. It’s really in relation to building human relationships with these dealers who one of these days will become buyers. So, once you give your time and effort to aiding these suppliers go it alone — the “Law of Reciprocity” kicks in. Interesting blog post.

I manage a vape store directory and we have had a posting from a vape shop in the United States that likewise offers for sale CBD goods. A Calendar month later, PayPal has written to use to say that our account has been restricted and have asked us to take out PayPal as a payment solution from our vape shop submission site. We do not offer for sale CBD goods such as CBD oil. We merely offer internet marketing professional services to CBD companies. I have checked out Holland & Barrett– the UK’s Reputable Health and wellness Retail store and if you take a good peek, you will see that they offer for sale a pretty comprehensive range of CBD products, particularly CBD oil and they also happen to accept PayPal as a settlement method. It appears that PayPal is administering contradictory standards to different companies. Due to this constraint, I can no longer take PayPal on my CBD-related site. This has constricted my payment choices and now, I am intensely reliant on Cryptocurrency payments and straightforward bank transfers. I have gotten in touch with a solicitor from a Magic Circle law practice in London and they stated that what PayPal is doing is absolutely against the law and discriminatory as it should be applying a systematic benchmark to all companies. I am still to consult a different attorney from a US law office in The city of london to see what PayPal’s legal position is in the USA. In the meantime, I would be highly appreciative if anybody here at targetdomain could provide me with alternative payment processors/merchants that deal with CBD companies.

I believe this is among the most vital info for me. And i am happy studying your article. But want to observation on some general things, The site style is great, the articles is in point of fact great : D. Excellent job, cheers

I was wondering if you ever considered changing the layout of your website? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say. But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better. Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or two images. Maybe you could space it out better?

Thanks for giving your ideas on this blog. As well, a misconception regarding the lenders intentions whenever talking about foreclosure is that the bank will not have my repayments. There is a degree of time that this bank will require payments every now and then. If you are far too deep inside the hole, they will commonly call that you pay that payment in whole. However, i am not saying that they will not take any sort of installments at all. Should you and the loan company can seem to work a little something out, your foreclosure course of action may stop. However, when you continue to neglect payments wih the new program, the property foreclosures process can pick up exactly where it was left off.

I was wondering if anyone knows what happened to Dimepiece Los Angeles celebrity streetwear brand? I am having trouble to check out on Dimepiecela site. I have read in Vanity Fair that they were acquired by a UK-based hedge fund in excess of $50 m. I have just bought the Dimepiece Dream Big Unisex Heavy Blend™ Hooded Sweatshirt from Amazon and totally love it xox

I was wondering if anyone knows what happened to Dimepiece LA celebrity streetwear brand? I seem to be unable to proceed to the checkout on Dimepiecela site. I’ve read in Vogue that the brand was acquired by a UK-based hedge fund for $50 million. I have just bought the Dimepiece Ball is Life Pom Pom Knit Cap from Amazon and totally love it xox

I intended to send you a bit of observation to help give many thanks over again for these remarkable methods you have provided on this site. It has been so strangely open-handed with people like you to present unhampered exactly what most of us could possibly have marketed for an ebook to end up making some bucks for their own end, specifically seeing that you could possibly have done it if you ever desired. Those solutions as well served like a great way to fully grasp someone else have the identical fervor the same as my personal own to learn good deal more when considering this problem. I believe there are many more pleasant moments in the future for individuals that view your site.

I have noticed that online education is getting preferred because obtaining your college degree online has developed into a popular solution for many people. A lot of people have certainly not had a possible opportunity to attend an established college or university nevertheless seek the raised earning potential and career advancement that a Bachelors Degree offers. Still others might have a degree in one field but wish to pursue some thing they now develop an interest in.

I cherished up to you’ll receive carried out proper here. The cartoon is tasteful, your authored material stylish. nonetheless, you command get bought an nervousness over that you wish be handing over the following. unwell unquestionably come further formerly again since precisely the similar just about very frequently inside case you defend this hike.

Aw, this was a very nice post. In thought I want to put in writing like this moreover ?taking time and actual effort to make a very good article?but what can I say?I procrastinate alot and on no account seem to get something done.

Does anyone know what happened to Dimepiece Los Angeles celebrity streetwear brand? I am unable to proceed to the checkout on Dimepiecela site. I have read in Elle that the brand was bought out by a UK hedge fund in excess of $50 m. I’ve just bought the Dimepiece Fire & Desire Unisex Heavy Blend™ Crewneck Sweatshirt from Amazon and absolutely love it xox

Thanks for your article. One other thing is that individual states in the United states of america have their particular laws that will affect homeowners, which makes it quite difficult for the the legislature to come up with a brand new set of recommendations concerning property foreclosures on people. The problem is that each state features own legal guidelines which may have impact in an adverse manner on the subject of foreclosure insurance policies.

After I originally commented I clicked the -Notify me when new feedback are added- checkbox and now each time a remark is added I get 4 emails with the identical comment. Is there any way you can take away me from that service? Thanks!

Hi there this is kind of of off topic but I was wondering if blogs use WYSIWYG editors or if you have to manually code with HTML. I’m starting a blog soon but have no coding know-how so I wanted to get advice from someone with experience. Any help would be greatly appreciated!

Comments are closed.