Core Surgical Interviews

Dafydd Loughran & Jayan George's guide to maximising your chances

Where to start? The core surgical training website has a plethora of invaluable information. Pay particular attention to the station guidance and the downloads section which will help structure your portfolio. Start early, it takes longer than you think!

Core Surgical training interview for 2015 consisted of a similar format to previous years:

  • 3 x 10 minute stations
  • Clinical, Management & Portfolio
  • Maximum score 216. Cut-off 136/216

Portfolio Station

Start early. Easy station to score highly but only with thorough preparation. Use the documentation for the checklist as this sets out each section. Make the order of your portfolio exactly as the checklist is. Investing in a good binder gives a good impression, & use plastic sleeves with dividers that are clearly seen & labelled. Individual section summaries can help to highlight achievements to maximise points.

Emailed in January with additional element from 2015:

"Please present a 2 minute leadership biography, based on skills you have acquired as a leader and how you will be able to apply these to core training."" - Answered verbally and not as a Powerpoint presentation. Followed by 3 minutes of questioning.

With the leadership presentation, the time for the portfolio aspect of the station is halved, making ease of finding evidence even more vital. The marking scheme & ideas for developing your portfolio can be found here.

Questions will be based around your portfolio but you may receive a question asking you to summarise your key leadership, communication or academic skills. Practice selling yourself with these summaries using personal examples.

Top Tips

  • Start early & use the portfolio checklist
  • Highlight 3-5 achievements for each section
  • Prepare & practice your leadership presentation to make a great impression

Clinical station

"Questions are designed to assess how applicants would behave in typically challenging clinical situations. Interviews should start with a clinical scenario which ‘sets the scene’ followed by probing questions which allow assessors to make a careful and considered professional judgement of an applicant’s attributes/non-technical skills.”

Two scenarios, each lasting 5 minutes. 1 usually an ATLS scenario and the other an unwell patient on the ward.

Common scenarios include:

  • Haemodynamically unstable - talk through ATLS principles (ABC's!)
  • Paediatric - fracture / torsion / appendicitis
  • Post op - MI / PE / Pneumonia
  • Compartment syndrome

Top Tips

  • Try to get on ATLS course. If unavailable borrow handbook & familiarise yourself with approach
  • Practice introduction - "I would assess the patient using the ATLS algorithm starting by..."
  • Remember to escalate early & if unsure of an answer be honest & offer a safe answer. You are expected to be good FP's not registrars!
  • Practice both acute and post-op complication scenarios

Management Station

“The Management station uses scenario or broad based principle questions. Questions are designed to assess how applicants would behave in typically challenging management/leadership situations. The applicant will be asked 2 management scenario questions by the interview panellists with 5 minutes allowed to answer each question. Both questions will be read to the applicant once in the interview room.”

The key to these scenarios is to have a systematic approach, keeping to the following effective management structures.

Difficult scenarios - SPIES

  • S - Seek information
  • P - Patient safety
  • I - take Initiative
  • E - Escalate appropriately - know the NHS escalation mechanisms
  • S - Support

Examples of candidate skills

  • S - Situation & context
  • T - Task required
  • A - Action undertaken showing skill being demonstrated
  • R - Result and Reflect, should form majority of answer

Highly recommended is the ISC medical "Medical Interviews" book which gives a huge number of questions and answer examples.



Summary Points

Prepare portfolio early.

Systematic ATLS approach to clinical scenarios.

Familiarise yourself with management scenario structures.

Intensively practice with others for 2 weeks pre-interview.


Good Luck!


Created by Dafydd Loughran