STRUCTURE OF THE ST INTERVIEW
ST interviews normally last 30 to 40 minutes and are made up of three or four stations, each with a different theme. The exact duration, the number of stations and the themes will depend on each specialty, but are usually 10-12-minute long. Note that, as always, there are exceptions as some candidates have had interviews that included one single 30-minute station (more or less alongside the format of the “old” SHO or SpR interviews).
The type of stations vary from specialty to specialty, and in fact also from deanery to deanery. For example, some anaesthetics candidates in London have had almost exclusively clinical scenarios, whereas in Manchester the interviews were more balanced.
Globally speaking you are likely to have three or four stations taken from the following types:
This normally includes a range of clinical scenarios (e.g. emergencies) that you would normally be expected to handle. Some of the scenarios are straight forward, but others may be stretching you a little (i.e. you may not have met such situations in the past, but the interviewers would expect you to have a good educated guess).
In some specialties, candidates may be asked to demonstrate practical procedures (e.g. intubating a dummy in anaesthesia, or suturing a tomato in ophthalmology). There is absolutely nothing that you can do to prepare for this station. Either you know or you don’t. Practical stations tend to be reserved for surgery-related specialties.
General, Motivation & Teaching station
A number of deaneries and specialties have stations that are designated for generic questions. These tend to relate to your interest in the specialty and the deanery, together Thomas Alvec with your career plans and the manner in which you have developed your interest in the specialty. Usually the general station also deals with teaching skills.
Academic & Clinical Governance station
Most interviews will have an academic station. In some interviews, there can actually be two academic stations (e.g. one specifically on Research and Audit, and another one on other topics such as Teaching and Risk Management.
Academic stations take the form of a traditional question and answer session. For example you may be asked to talk about your most interesting audit. The interviewers will then dig into the detail of your experience e.g. how you selected the standard, what you role was, what changed as a result, etc.
Other questions will include your experience of Research, what you understand about research principles, questions on the importance of Research etc. Such questions can be daunting at first, but if you are well prepared, you can really shine.
Critical Appraisal station
In several specialties (e.g. ophthalmology, general surgery), candidates have been asked to critically appraise a paper, at all ST levels, including ST1.
Preparation time varied between 20 and 40 minutes, followed by a 5 to 10 minute presentation. As part of a critical appraisal station, you are expected to demonstrate an understanding of how critical appraisals should be approached and you should also be able to answer any questions that the interviewers have on the paper that you have just read. This could include questions of a clinical nature, based on the topic being discussed; it also often includes questions on research principles such as “What is a p-value?” or “What are the ethical issues involved in this paper?”.
Experience of research is a definite advantage to succeed in this station. Having said that, attendance at journal clubs is also a good way of preparing yourself for it, particularly at the lower ST grades.
In some specialties, role play has been introduced. Role play was already an integral part of SpR interviews for some specialties such as Obs & Gynae but it has been extended to other specialties in some of the deaneries, including psychiatry (e.g. dealing with a father who wants some news on his over-18 admitted daughter), ophthalmology (e.g. breaking bad news and counselling a patient on glaucoma) and several others.