The Specialty Recruitment Assessment (SRA) is used by various specialties as part of the recruitment process for training posts. It has been used longest for GP training. In this article, Dr Amelia Thompson explains how she got a score high enough for a direct offer while juggling studying with caring for 2 young children and working in Malawi!
I applied for GPST in 2012 in my FY2 year, scored band 3 for both papers at stage 2, but was unsuccessful at the Selection Centre. I had heard it was easy to pass, so I felt pretty confident and didn’t do too much preparation. Naturally I was devastated. General Practice was all I really wanted to do. However, my husband had just been offered a job internationally, so I decided to take some time out of formal training, and get some more experience through volunteering. The planned one year away turned into five, we started a family, and I worked in public hospitals in Rwanda and Malawi. However, I was keen to reapply for General Practice and aimed for the August 2017 intake.
I signed up to the Pastest question bank 5 months before the January exam- I knew I would have to start preparing early with 2 children under 3. I slowly worked my way through the question bank, doing about 2-3 hours a week and making notes of and rehashing weak areas. We were still living in Malawi and our internet was terrible, so I managed to get hold of a few books of practice questions from Pastest and ISC Medical.
By the beginning of December I realized I hadn’t really made much progress and was still achieving the same average score when doing the mock exams. I really wanted to qualify for the Direct Offers Pathway. As we were still in Malawi, travelling back for the Stage 2 already meant leaving the family behind (my youngest was 12 months and still nursing), doing an overnight flight, arriving the day before the exam, doing an Emedica course for stage 3, and flying back again the following day. I REALLY didn’t want to have to travel back twice in a 4 week period, but I just didn’t think I could compete to get into the top 10% that went straight through to a direct offer.
So I started doing 3 hours of revision a day. I was at home with the kids at this stage so I managed to do an hour at lunch while they were napping and then 2 further hours in the evenings. Daily. I took a 3-day break for Christmas and that was it for 6 weeks until the exam. I did about 200 questions per day, would make a note of the key areas to revise, and at the end of each set of specialty questions I would write notes (using screenshots of answers, NICE guidelines, Patient UK professional reference, Emedicine, etc). I worked my way through the entire question banks of Pastest, Emedica, and BMJ On Examination, and then I started again, doing all the ones I had answered incorrectly, and then again for the ones I had got wrong a second time! And when I had done that I did mock exams for the last week, and went over and over my revision notes. By the beginning of January I was scoring about 85-90% on mock exams but I still didn’t think this was high enough to qualify for Direct Offers. So I just resigned myself to doing as best I could and praying a lot! I scored a total of 610, qualifying for direct offers, so I am thrilled to have got this far and hopefully will get my first choice job!
Some tips for SRA revision:
- Don’t underestimate the difficulty of the SRA, start studying early, and do as many questions as you can afford to. It will pay off.
- All the question banks were good, and it is great to get used to as many formats as possible. Emedica was the closest in format and wording to the actual exams and the mock exam papers have questions that are not included elsewhere in the bank.
- Work through one specialty at a time- questions follow common themes and the repetition will help consolidate your learning. Aim to go back over the ones you answered incorrectly within 3 days- you’ll be surprised how easy it is to get them wrong again and doing it within this time frame will help it stick!
- For the SJT, you just need to practice, and practice some more- you will start picking up on subtle wording differences that will make prioritisation so much easier.
- When you start doing timed papers, make sure you do a few sessions with the 2 papers back to back. I was not expecting the SJT first in the exam, and that threw me. I was nearing the end of my concentration by the end of the clinical one- so get used to doing a 3-hour exam.
- Do lots of timed papers. I was expecting to have at least a 20-minute window at the end of each paper to check them through but in the exam this was more like 7-10 minutes.
Tips for the exam:
- If you are travelling a long way Pearson locations around Heathrow and other airports get booked up quickly, so act fast!
- Get there early, or consider staying in a hotel nearby the night before. Walk to the test centre before the exam, partly to clear your head and calm nerves. They may let you book in earlier than your slot too, so it’s worth deciding if you want to do that.
- Double check your appointment and ID the night before.
- Take some water and a non-messy, non-salty snack with you- you’ll be able to pop out for a short break if you have time.
- If you come out of the exam feeling it was awful, don’t give up hope!! I came out of the SRA thinking I had probably got about 60%, based on my experience of the mock exams. You probably did better than you think!
- If you don’t qualify for the Direct Offers Pathway, DO THE EMEDICA GP STAGE 3 REVISION COURSE. I did it immediately after the SRA because I couldn’t afford to travel back before the stage 3 yet again. I failed the stage 3 Selection Centre 5 years ago, and after the doing the course now I can not only see why, but also without it I just wouldn’t have had a clue as to what the examiners were looking for! Good Luck!
Dr Amelia Thompson scored 610 (~top 1% in the country) and got a direct offer in her 1st choice area. She starts GP ST1 in August 2017.
You can find out more about the Emedica online revision service for Stage 2 and get a 20% discount by using the code srapass at http://courses.emedica.co.uk/acatalog/Stage2prep.html