Knowing how and when to start preparing for the ST3 speciality selection orthopaedic application and interview can be difficult. This Wednesday Blog article is written by a candidate who got his first choice job directly from CT2 and offers some insights as to how to prepare.

By J. Thomas ST3 T&O Severn Deanery

As a rough guide I had kept an eye on what the ST3 interview process and questions asked at local selection when I was a CT1. In September of my CT2 year I familiarised myself with the interview process and got in touch with the new ST3s for tips. In November-December I organised my Portfolio and in January I attended an interview course and had my boss and SpR ask me questions in clinic and theatre.

Below I have condensed what I did into a stepwise guide and added in some tips on how to prepare for each station. Everyone will prepare differently but this is what worked for me, I hope you find it useful.

Step 1. Do Your Research

Knowing when the application opens, when interviews will be and the format of the interviews is a basic but vital first step in your preparation. Last year, 2013 selection, the decision was announced in November that the selection process would be nationalised. Information regarding application and interview dates was sent out late in December. Information was hard to come by at times and hopefully 2014 entry will run more smoothly.

As the process was changed last year it is likely that dates for 2014 will remain the same with applications opening in February and interviews in March.

It is also important to look at the Person Specification for ST3 T&O and the application eligibility requirements and to note what documentation needs to be brought with you to interview (this can be organised nearer the time).

Keep your eyes on the ST3 Ortho Interview website and twitter page together with the Yorkshire and Humber Deanery website for the latest news on dates and the interview format.

Step 2. Understand The Stations

Getting your head around what the stations test, how they are scored and what questions have been asked in previous years is the next step. You don’t need to start revising just yet but getting an idea of the level that you will need to be at for the interviews is important.

Details of the interview stations and their marking can be found in the Interview section of this website. It is also sensible to find the new ST3s in your deanery and quiz them for tips, resources and past questions.

Step 3. Organise Your CV & Portfolio

If you have looked at the marking scheme for the Portfolio Station you will know that half the marks are awarded for the Self-Assessment questions and half for your answers in the station itself. As the station only lasts 15 minutes and interviewers will have limited time to look through everything you have done it is important that your portfolio is well organised, items are easy to find and you have evidence for everything you have done inside.

Top Tip: Although this sounds easy collecting certificates, choosing a presentable A4 binder and creating a contents page takes a significant amount of time. I spent at least a solid week over Christmas deciding how and then organising and creating my portfolio. Make sure you get it organised early and have time to edit the contents. 

A future Wednesday Blog post will look in detail at how to write your CV and organise your portfolio.

Step 4. Revise Emergencies, Common Questions, Papers and Anatomy

Over Christmas I also began thinking about the Clinical Station. This worried me the most due to the shear breadth of topics that could be asked about. I had asked the local ST3s what questions had previously been asked at local interview and made sure that I prepared answers to these questions together with knowing in detail how to manage emergencies, how to quote BOAST and national guidelines and used my MRCS Part B books to revise musculoskeletal anatomy. 

I found that selecting important review papers for topics such as supracondylar fractures and knee dislocations helped me to prepare good answers but I did not spend a long time looking though the literature or learning papers as this is unnecessary.

One of my bosses who had interviewed the previous year gave me some great advice: ‘treat the interview like an exam’. 

Top Tip: I used my iPad to highlight pdf documents of important papers, guidelines and my own notes. This allowed me to revise between theatre cases and in work.

Step 5. Practise, Practise, Practise

The only way to revise for the Interactive Station and to test your knowledge for the Clinical Station is by being put on the spot and asked questions. I had my consultant and SpR grill me in clinic, in theatre and in structured interview sessions between cases and after work. I also practised questions with one of my friends who was also sitting the interview.

This was good initially to help identify gaps in my knowledge but the most useful experience was attending a full mock interview course that simulated the pressure of the real thing and also gave me feedback from SpRs who had recently been through the process and could offer more inside tips than my consultants.

After the interview course I continued to practise questions by myself. The Question Bank on this site will be a great resource for anyone applying for 2014 as without an external source of questions it can be difficult to locate realistic questions to practise.

On the day I felt well-prepared and although there were some difficult questions that I was unsure about I only ended up dropping a few marks and got the post that I wanted.

Next week’s Wednesday Blog will look at the 2013 Self-Assessment Questions and Scoring…