ST3 General Surgery / Vascular Surgery Interview Preparation Tips And Application Guidance

Getting National Training Number (NTN) in General Surgery and Vascular Surgery Speciality ST3 post is becoming highly competitive. ST3 Portfolio Contents + Interview performance are the only opportunities in the year to present the best of yourself. Intelligent preparation is the key.

Please note there will be separate application and interview for General and Vascular Surgery for 2024 recruitment as has been the case in last few years. Self assessment criteria and interview patterns also also different for General and Vascular Surgery. Those keen to apply for both General and Vascular Surgery are required to submit two separate applications.

Following is sanpshot of General Surgery / Vascular Surgery ST3 Interview Competition Ratios over last few years

Here at traineeportal.co.uk we have teamed up with experts in interview preparation and successful candidates to give you the best possible advice on how to prepare for your ST3 General Surgery / Vascular Surgery portfolio and interview. We have compiled questions bank in consultation with previous successful candidates, and have team of experts to help you with portfolio preparation.

Successful training interview outcome requires sound preparation. It involves techniques along with knowledge of the subject. Knowing precisely what the interviewer wants, and presenting them exactly what is needed is the secret to successful interview. Here at traineeportal.co.uk we will tell you exactly how to prepare for your ST3 Interview.

First of all! Start early. Don’t leave anything for end as you will keep improving upon your preparation as you go along. Don’t forget to give thorough read to applicant guide by JCST and HEE. A copy of 2024 applicant guides can be downloaded from following links.

Also go through ST3 General Surgery Person Specifications 2023 and ST3 Vascular Surgery Person Specifications 2023 to have good insight of what is required and what is desirable.

Application Timeline 2024

Activity Date(s)
Applications openAt 10am, Thursday 16 November 2023
Applications closeAt 4pm, Thursday 7 December 2023
Evidence Verification UploadDec 12, 2023 – Jan 09, 2024 (GS)
Jan 18, 2024 – Feb 01, 2024 (VS)
Interview datesMarch 19-21, 2024 (General Surgery)
March 18, 2024 (Vascular Surgery)
Interview venueRemote interview
Initial offers released all regions5pm, Thursday 18 April 2024
Hold deadlineAt 1pm, Tuesday 23 April 2024
Upgrading deadlineAt 1pm, Wednesday 24 April 2024
Hierarchical DeadlineAt 1pm, Wednesday 24 April 2024
Training start dateAugust/October 2024 (TBC by employing trust)

Eligibility Criteria / Long Listing

• MBBS or other equivalent medical qualification.
• Successful completion of MRCS by day after results for May 2022 examination diet
are released
• Eligible for full GMC registration at time of appointment and hold a current licence to
practise.
• Evidence of achievement of CT/ST1 competences in core surgery at time of application &
CT/ST2 competences in core surgery by time of appointment.
• Eligibility to work in the UK.
• Not previously relinquished, released or removed from a training programme in this
specialty except under exceptional circumstances.
• Fitness to practise.
• Sufficient language skills (e.g. IELTS).
• Ability to provide a complete employment history.

Not already hold, nor be eligible to hold, a CCT/CESR in the specialty they are applying for and/or must not currently be eligible for the specialist register for the specialty to which they are applying

Core Competences for IMGs

Those who do not have Core Surgical Training in UK, they need to get their competencies signed off by the consultants.

Certificate of Readiness to Enter Higher Surgical Training (Previously known as Alternative Certificate of Core Competence) can be downloaded as below for your review.

Short Listing

Due to increasing number of candidates and interviewing capacity, short listing will be performed in 2023 as has been the case in last few years. As part of the Oriel application form you will be asked to provide a self-assessment score depending on your personal achievements. Your total self-assessment score will be used for shortlisting purposes.

You will be later required to upload evidences to support your selection to the self-assessment portal. Uploaded evidence will be reviewed and scored by an assessor. Scores will be provided to applicants. Applicants unhappy with the score given can request a review by another assessor in line with the policy in place. No new evidence can be submitted for the review.

In line with interview capacity, shortlisted candidates with the highest scores will be invited to attend a remote interview.

Self – Assessment Scoring:

Self scoring criteria is different for General and Vascular Surgery for 2024 applications

Listed below are the 7 questions which appear on the 2024 General Surgery ST3 application form along with the possible responses to each question and details of suitable evidence to substantiate your responses. A guide to the scoring for each question is provided, with descriptions of the quality
indicators where appropriate.
Applicants must record their responses to all 7 questions using the following templates.

Q2

All 7 templates must be signed where required (typed signature will not be accepted).
After filling out the 7 templates with your responses, applicants must upload their templates, with supporting evidence to the Evidence Upload Portal.

For each question a description of the evidence required is given. You will only be awarded marks if the evidence provided matches the description of the evidence required for that domain.
Maintaining trust by being open and honest and acting with integrity is one of the key elements of Duties of a Doctor (GMC). If it is subsequently discovered that any statement made on your application is false or misleading, evidence will be collected, and you may be referred to a Probity
Panel.

Maximum Total Score: 60

Question 1 – General Surgery Experience: (Maximum Score: 6 – 10%)

By the end of July 2024, or by the completion of Core Training if this is later, how many months will you have spent in total in General Surgery in any post-Foundation job in any country? Please do not include any other posts.

ResponsesScore
• 0 to 3 months0
• 4 to12 months2
• 13 to 24 months4
• 25 to 36 months6
• 37 to 48 months4
• 49 to 60 months2
• 61 months or more1

Evidence: Template countersigned by Educational Supervisor (or equivalent) with printed name and GMC number (or equivalent).
In addition

  • Please provide evidence of completion of training posts
  • For non-training posts please provide a copy of the front page of your contract of employment, which must include dates and a clear description of the role
  • If the front page of your contract does not include both start and finish dates other evidence will be required to confirm the duration of post e.g. Letter from HR/Head of Service/Supervising Consultant

Question 2 – Rotations: (Maximum Score: 4 – 6.7%)

By the end of July 2024, or the completion of Core Training, will you have spent at least 4 months in T&O, Plastic Surgery, Neurosurgery, ENT Surgery, Cardiac/Thoracic surgery, A&E, ITU, Paediatric Surgery, Urology, Vascular or OMFS posts since completing your Foundation Programme?

ResponsesScore
• I will not have spent 4 months in any of these specialities0
• I will have spent at least 4 months in a post in 1 of these specialities2
• I will have spent at least 4 months each in posts in 2 or more of these specialities4

Evidence: Template countersigned by Educational Supervisor (or equivalent) with printed name and GMC number (or equivalent).
In addition

  • Please provide evidence of completion of training posts (as described
    in the longlisting section Appendix 1)
  • For non-training posts please provide a copy of the front page of your
    contract of employment, which must include dates and a clear description of the
    role.
  • If the front page of your contract does not include both start and
    finish dates other evidence will be required to confirm the duration of post e.g.
    Letter from HR/Head of Service/Supervising Consultant

Question 3 – Logbook Appendicectomies: (Maximum Score: 4 – 6.7%)

At the time of application, how many appendicectomies (laparoscopic and/or open) have you completed which have been done either STS or STU or P or T? These must be recorded in a validated logbook and each sheet signed by a consultant.

ResponsesScore
• 0 to 50
• 6 to 151
• 16 to 252
• 26 to 353
• 36 to 454
• 46 to 603
• 61 to 802
• 81 or more1

Evidence: Template countersigned by Educational Supervisor (or equivalent) with printed name and GMC number (or equivalent).

  • Logbook evidence must be full and consecutive. Consolidation sheets
    from a validated logbook are acceptable.
  • Each page of the logbook must be signed by a relevant supervisor,
    with their name and GMC number (or equivalent) clearly legible.
  • Please ensure there are no gaps in the logbook evidence. If there are
    gaps in the logbook evidence you provide, then the minimum score will be awarded for this section.

Question 4 – Publications: (Maximum Score: 10 (5+5) – 16.7%)

Please submit your 2 best publications, published in any PubMed indexed journal. In order to be eligible for this section, publications must have a PubMed ID and be published by the time of application.
Do not include articles which have not yet been published. Collaborative papers, abstracts, case reports, letters or technical tips are acceptable.

Points will be awarded for candidate contribution, level of authorship, quality of study and impact factor of publication.

Evidence: Template countersigned by Educational Supervisor (or equivalent) with printed name and GMC number (or equivalent).
In addition

  • Please provide a copy of each publication including the authorship list,
    journal reference and PubMed ID.
  • If you are submitting a collaborative paper, please also submit the list
    of collaborators with your name highlighted. Failure to do so will result in no points
    being given for this section

Question 5 – Presentations: (Maximum Score: 10 (5+5) – 16.7%)

Please submit your 2 best presentations. In order to be eligible for this section, the presentation must have occurred by the time of application.
You may include poster presentations.
Points will be awarded for candidate contribution, being the presenter of the work, quality of study and scope of meeting (regional, national, or international).

Evidence: Template countersigned by Educational Supervisor (or equivalent) with printed name and GMC number (or equivalent).
In addition

  • Please provide a copy of the relevant page of the meeting
    programme(s)
  • Please provide a copy of the presentation (6 slides per page) or
    poster

Question 6 – Audits and QIPs: (Maximum Score: 21 (8+8+5) – 35%)

Please submit your 2 best closed loop audits and your best additional audit/QIP.
Please only submit audits/QIPs which have been presented as you will need to provide evidence of presentation. For each loop of the closed loop audits and for the additional audit/QIP you must provide evidence of your involvement in the design, execution and presentation of the audit/QIP.
Points will be awarded for candidate involvement, reference standard, study design, importance of clinical question and impact of work.

Evidence: Template countersigned by Educational Supervisor (or equivalent) with printed name and GMC number (or equivalent).
In addition:

  • Please provide a copy of the presentation (6 slides per page).
  • Please provide a letter from the head of department/clinical lead for audit clearly stating your contribution. Simple certificates are not sufficient evidence.

Question 7 – Additional Qualifications: (Maximum Score: 5 – 8.3%)

At the time of application, have you completed and been awarded a stand-alone UK higher degree or equivalent (see evidence below) examined by thesis/dissertation? (NB: This does not include intercalated degrees)?
This category has now been broadened to include PG Certs, Diplomas and taught Masters degrees. Points will not be awarded unless evidence is provided that the qualification has been awarded.

ResponsesScore
  PG Certificate  1
  Diploma/Masters degree without thesis or dissertation  2
  Masters with thesis or dissertation (eg. MSc, MMedEd, MS, ChM)  3
  MD  4
  PhD  5

Evidence: Template countersigned by Educational Supervisor (or equivalent) with printed
name and GMC number (or equivalent).
In addition:

  • Please provide a copy of your degree certificate.
  • If your degree included a thesis or dissertation, please provide clear evidence of this or marks will not be awarded for this type of degree.
  • If your degree was taken outside the UK, you must also provide evidence of its equivalence (e.g. a letter from the institution confirming that it was awarded following the production of a research-based thesis and full examination together with a copy of your results transcript).
  • The Selection Leads will be the final arbitrators regarding acceptance UK NARIC Equivalence

Criteria for 2024 Application Self Assessment score is as follows, please note there are minor changes each year.

Listed below are the 10 Self-Assessment questions that appear on the application form along with the possible responses to each question and details of suitable evidence to substantiate your responses.
If the interviewers are unable to verify that your evidence matches the answers you provided on your application form, you will not be awarded any marks for those criteria.
If it is subsequently discovered that any statement is false or misleading, evidence will be collected, and you may be referred to a Probity Panel.
Please note all time periods specified in the Self-Assessment Form refer to full-time equivalent.

The Maximum achievable self-assessed score is 34 and the minimum score is 2.

Question 1. N Factor:

By the end of July 2024, or by the completion of Core Training if this is later, how many months will you have spent in total in any job in medicine post foundation programme? This includes clinical and non-clinical jobs in any speciality.

Months Post Foundation ProgrammeN
Upto 391
40 – 512
52 – 733
74 – 884
>885
  • Q5a, 5b, and 6 will be adjusted by dividing final scores by ‘N’.
  • Evidence: Training post completion certificate or employment contracts.

Question 2 – General + Vascular Surgery Experience: (Max Score: 8 – 25%)

By the end of July 2024, or by the completion of Core Training if this is later, how many months will you have spent in total in General Surgery and/or Vascular Surgery in any post-Foundation job in any country? Please do not include any other posts.

MonthsScore
Upto 92
10 – 166
17 – 207
21 -308
31- 594
>601
  • Evidence: Training post completion certificate or employment contracts.

Question 3 – Rotations: (Maximum Score: 2 – 6.25%)

By the end of July 2024, or the completion of Core Training, will you have spent at least 4 months in T&O, Plastic Surgery, Neurosurgery, ENT Surgery, Cardiac/Thoracic surgery, A&E, ITU, Urology or OMFS posts since completing your Foundation Programme?

OptionScore
Less than 4 Months in Any Specialty0
>4 months in 1 specialty1
>4 months in 2 specialties2
  • Evidence: Training post completion certificate or employment contracts.

Question 4 – Logbook Appendicectomies / Femoral Explorations: (Maximum Score: 4 – 12.5%)

At the time of application, how many appendicectomies (laparoscopic and/or open) or Femoral Artery Dissections have you completed which have been done either STS or STU or P? The higher of the two scores will count. These must be recorded in a validated logbook.

Appendectomy ResponseAppendectomy ScoreFemoral Artery Dissection ResponseFemoral Artery Dissections Score
<1010-51
<3026-202
<50321-403
<100441-504
>1001>501
  • Evidence: Validated logbook with a log of index procedures (Appendicectomies, Inguinal hernias and Cholecystectomies and / or Femoral Artery Dissection).

Question 5 – Publications: (Maximum Score: 8 – 25%)

Question 5a – First Author Publications.

At the time of application, how many 1st author publications have you had published in any PubMed indexed journals? Do not include published abstracts, case reports, letters or technical tips.

  • Score: 2 per first author paper.
  • Evidence: PubMed ID.

Question 5b – Other Authors Publications:

At the time of application, how many other publications have you had published in any PubMed indexed journals? Do not include published abstracts, case reports, letters or technical tips.

  • Score: 1 per non-first author paper.
  • Evidence: PubMed ID.

Maximum Publication Score (5a + 5b) after Division by N Factor is 8.

Question 6 – Presentations: (Maximum Score: 2 – 6.25%)

At the time of application and since graduation as a doctor, how many national and international presentations have been given of work in which you are a listed author? Do not include poster presentations.

  • Score: 1 per presentation
  • Evidence: Copy of relevant page of meeting programme
  • Maximum Presentations Score after division by factor N is 2

Question 7 – Audits / QIPs: (Maximum Score: 4 – 12.5%)

Submit evidence of the four best audit / quality improvement projects that you have developed, against a published clinical standard and have resulted in a presentation of the results at the time of application. These will be scored against the following criteria:

Scoring criteria:Score
Less than four audit projects that you have delivered, against a published clinical standard and have resulted in presentation at the time of application0
Four audit projects of which one includes more than 50 subjects/patients/cases, Three projects have two cycles, One project has evidence of a local change in clinical practice with positive patient outcomes, One project has been peer reviewed and presented (including posters) at a national or international meeting affiliated with a medical or surgical society, or published (including abstracts) in a Pubmed indexed journal2
Four projects of which two or more include more than 50 subjects/patients/cases, All four project have two cycles, Two or more projects have evidence of a local change in clinical practice with positive patient outcomes Two or more projects have been peer reviewed and presented (including posters) at a national or international meeting affiliated with a medical or surgical society, or published (including abstracts) in a Pubmed indexed journal4

Evidence:
Please provide a summary of the project and evidence of presentation/publication/change in practice.
Evidence that exceeds the descriptors for a score of 0 but does not meet the descriptors of a score of 2 can be scored 1.
Evidence that exceeds the descriptors for a score of 2 but does not meet the descriptors for a score of 4 can be scored 3.

Question 8 – Additional Qualifications: (Maximum Score: 2 – 6.25%)

At the time of application, have you completed and been awarded a stand-alone UK higher degree or equivalent (see evidence below) examined by thesis/dissertation? (NB: This does not include intercalated degrees).

  • Score: 1 for Masters, 2 for PhD/MD.
  • Evidence: Degree certificate.

Question 9 – Leadership and Management: (Maximum Score: 2 – 6.25%)

Please select one statement that best describes your involvement in leadership or management.

  • Score: 2 points for evidence of ‘formal leadership or management role’ within or outside medicine since primary medical qualification at a national or regional level.
  • Score: 1 Point for evidence of ‘formal leadership or management role’ within or outside medicine since primary medical qualification at a local or trust level
  • Evidence: Evidence of ‘formal leadership or management role’.

Question 10 – Teaching: (Maximum Score: 2 – 6.25%).

Do you have a formal teaching qualification (e.g. PGCert)?

  • Score: 2 Points for formal teaching qualification e.g. PG Cert
  • Score: 1 Point for Other Substantial Interactive and Practical Teaching Qualification e.g. Train the Trainer / Teach the Teacher Course
  • Evidence: Certificate.

ST3 General Surgery / Vascular Surgery Interview Format

There will be separate interview of General Surgery and Vascular Surgery.

Before you attend the interview it is very important that you have prepared properly. The interview for 2024 induction will be conducted online via QPERCOM. It will be a total of 35 minutes interview (Approximately 50 minutes for Vascular Surgery). Interviewers panel will comprise of 2 consultants (4 Consultants in Vascular Interview). There may be an observer who will not be assessing candidates. This may be the Lay Representative who is there in an independent role to assist in the quality assurance of the interview process, or a Consultant who is present to observe and assess the interviewers. Senior trainees are also invited to attend to observe. They play no part in the assessment. There will be a maximum of one observer present at any time.

The interview will be split into the following sections:

➢ Clinical & Management scenarios reading time (5 minutes)
You will be given two scenarios and have 5 minutes reading time prior to the interview– one scenario will be clinical about a patient, and one will be a management scenario about a problem based in the clinical environment.
➢ Clinical scenario & questions (10 minutes)
You will have 10 minutes to answer questions about the clinical scenario and other related questions.
➢ Management scenario & questions (10 minutes)
You will have 10 minutes to answer questions about the management scenario and other related questions.
➢ Portfolio questions (10 minutes)
You will have 10 minutes to answer questions about aspects of your career to date.

➢ Communication Scenario and Questions (10 minutes) – (Vascular Surgery Only)
You will have 5 minutes to answer questions about the communication scenario and other related questions.

➢ Virtual Skills Scenario and Questions (10 minutes) – (Vascular Surgery Only)
You will have 10 minutes to answer questions about a virtual operative skills scenario and other related questions.

General Tips for All Stations:

  • Remain Calm
  • Understand the questions before jumping on to answer
  • Structure your answers
  • Keep the answers to the point
  • Examiners are also pressed for time as they need to complete the questions they have within given time, don’t take it negative if they stop you and ask next question. That would probably mean that they have got the answer they were looking for
  • Look for hidden / obvious clues

Portfolio Station

At this station your portfolio will be reviewed in order to assess your level of achievement. You will be scored against a set of defined descriptors that have been carefully developed to assess your achievements against the criteria set out in the nationally agreed person specification.

A detailed guidance is also provided by HEE on how to present your WBAs for porfolio, a copy of this can be downloaded as below.

You should be prepared to answer following questions related to your portfolio at the time of interview.

Question 1 – Is there anything that you have added to your portfolio since the application that you would like to tell us about?

Question 2 – What else in your portfolio exemplifies your commitment and suitability to a career in surgery?

Question 3 – What are you most proud of in your portfolio and why?

Clinical And Management Station

At this station you will be given two scenarios and will have 5 minutes reading time – one scenario will be clinical about a patient, and one will be a management scenario about a problem based in the clinical environment. You will then have 20 minutes with the interviewers who will spend half of the time (10 minutes) on each scenario.

Clinical Scenario:

Clinical Scenario will be about every day clinical situations and focus of this scenario will mainly be the clinical knowledge and approach. There will be some component of management also but primary focus would remain clinical.

Management Scenario:

This scenario will be about commonly encountered management issues in clinical environment. There will be clinical component but primary focus of this scenario will be management and organisational skills.

A comprehensive mnemonic to attempt these scenarios is SPIES.

S: Situation / Issues: Identify all the possible issues in the scenarios. Like clinical, organizational and training issues.

P: Priority: Priorize the issues identified. Clinical / Patient safety should always take priority.

I: Intervention: How will you intervene? In many situation you will start by gathering further information. In management scenarios particularly you will frequently need to incorporate audit cycle. (Plan – Do – Study – Act)

E: Escalate: Escalate to those concerned. For example clinical supervisor, educational supervisor, programme director, clinical lead, medical director, nursing incharge…

S: Support: Support the staff, juniors, colleagues and seniors in the intervention and the change you plan.

Professional Communications Station

In this section you will be provided with clinical information to read about a number of patients. You will then be required to make a telephone call to an interviewer acting as a consultant on the other end of the call. Your approach to this task will be scored against criteria set out in the nationally agreed person specification. You will be scored for your professional way of communication, prioritisation, picking up urgency, appropriate management plan including plan of further investigations.
The total time for this station is 15-20 minutes during which you have to read the scenario, look at the investigations and complete a telephone call to your consultant (Mr/Miss White) – you have 5 minutes to read the scenario and 10-15 minutes for phone call. You will be informed when the time allocated for the call is at the halfway point, and again 1 minute from the end.

Traineeportal Perks to attempt professional communications station:

Common scenarios are a call to consultant after the shift, after post-take ward round or after you are done with clinic. Uncommonly a call to the radiologist to discuss patients for possible further radiological investigation or intervention can also be expected.

As you go through the scenarios in the initial 5 minutes, make a grid on the paper to give you quick summery of which patients are critical and which are non urgent. Or in case of outpatient clinic scenarios, patients requiring admission, further investigation / referral to other speciality / booked for elective surgery, or discharge.

Write numbers in a column to represent the given patients. (Patients are numbered already). Then you can use star scheme from 1 to 3 to give you an idea of which patients are most critical and which are the least.

In case of call after clinic, you can give 3 stars to the patients you have admitted, 2 stars for further investigation / referral to other speciality / booking for elective surgery, 1 star to those you plan to be discharged back to GP.

Ready for the call!

  • Confirm who you are speaking to (Good Morning, Am I speaking to Mr White?)
  • Introduce yourself and your role (Hello, I am …. ST3 registrar on call)
  • Ask if it is ok to talk through patients
  • Give a summery first. (Something like: I have seen 9 patients on call. There are two patients who need urgent operation, three patients I am concerned about, there are two stable admissions, one to be discharged and one to be referred to urology.)
  • Then talk through patients one by one in the order of priority
  • Don’t read out what is written on the sheet, give brief presentation and your clinical impression
  • Always describe what is next step (further investigation / resuscitation / admission / opinion from other specialities etc, For example in a female patient with clinically appendicitis make sure you get urine dip and pregnancy test, patient with biliary colic / cholecystitis make sure you get LFTs, Serum Amylase, Critically ill patients make sure you involve critical outreach team / intensivist.. etc)

Valuable Resources

Following you can download valuable resources to help you preparing frequently asked questions at Clinical and Management stations

ST3 General and Vascular Surgery Questions Bank

Click here to access Questions Bank to practice frequently asked Clinical and Management Practice Questions, And Communication Station Scenarios.

ST3 General and Vascular Surgery Interview Preparation Course