11 tips to help you boost your Foundation SJT exam scores

The Situational Judgement Test (SJT) for final year medical students plays an important part in your ranking for the applications for the Foundation Programme (UKFP). Whether you have a great Educational Performance Measure (EPM) score or not, the SJT will influence which placement you get.

In this article, Dr Mahibur Rahman discusses some key tips to help you improve your score so you can get the placement that you want.

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Foundation SJT tips from a high scorer – how I got my 1st choice Foundation programme

The Foundation SJT is an important part of the application process for entering the Foundation Programme (FPAS). In this article, Niamh Rogers explains how she managed to score amongst the top 2% of over 8,000 candidates that took the SJT for Foundation Programme entry in her year. She scored 45.42 and got a place in her 1st choice Foundation Programme, Northern Ireland.

Foundation SJT

The Foundation SJT

The Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is an exam that is now faced by all final year medical students hoping to gain a Foundation Programme training place in the United Kingdom. As the exam itself has only recently been brought in as a method of selecting candidates to training posts, a lot of speculation and anxiety surrounds the test. The fact that the SJT accounts for 50% of all marks available means that for most students this exam is the single most determining factor in allocation of foundation schools and house officer jobs. I was lucky enough to achieve a high score, placing me in my first choice deanery with my choice of jobs. Here is my experience of preparing for the situational judgement test and hints and tips for performing well on the day.

Emedica Foundation SJT Course

I booked one SJT preparation course, Emedica, to tackle the SJT. I choose Emedica because although the SJT is new for medical students, it has been used for doctors in GP training since 2007, and Emedica has been running courses for it since it began. As my SJT assessment date was in December I made sure to book the earliest course in October to give myself sufficient time to practice.

The course itself was excellent and gave me both the confidence and knowledge to know how to prepare for the exam. Emedica explained the different types of question styles, how to go about structuring your time (in what was an extremely time pressured exam) and to rank each option for the question at face value.

The mock test at the end of the day was a good insight into the process of the exam and the mark obtained was translated into points like in the real SJT.

Preparing for the Exam

The SJT isn’t an exam you can cram for! Speaking from the biggest crammer of every exam going, I soon realised that the SJT was more a “way of thinking ” than something you could learn with intense days of revision before the test. As I was revising for medical finals and doing A&E placements I knew that I would have to schedule some time to practice questions. I found that by doing around 30/45 minutes of questions 3/4 evenings a week, after I had finished revision for the evening, very manageable.

This is where going to the Emedica SJT course came into its own. There are vast numbers of SJT books with hugely varying quality between them. The Emedica course provided you with a question bank that was split into smaller sections- perfect for completing small stints of practice. The questions accurately reflected the content, length and difficulty of questions in the exam.

Initially I didn’t practice timed- I wanted to thoroughly understand why each option was in the order stated. I felt that by understanding why exactly the options ranked in a certain order , it would give me a better insight into what the exam was testing. With about two weeks to go I started timing myself and always tried to use blank answer sheets so that it would become second nature on the day.

I printed out the sample paper online along with a blank mark sheet, and over the course of my revision I did this exam x3 times. I felt that repeating questions helpful as often I was getting the same questions wrong .

Two other SJT books I found useful were Situational Judgement Test for the Foundation Years Programme by Dr Omar Taha and Dr Mizanul Hoque and Get Ahead ! The Situational Judgement Test. These were handy to have in your bag whilst travelling or having a spare few minutes when you could look at question or two.

Exam Day

In order to focus for the exam I had an early night’s sleep, went for a run that morning and made sure to have a good breakfast before the exam. The exam is long and timing is a big factor. I made a mental note of what question I should be on at 30 min intervals and wrote this down on the front of the exam paper when I sat down. Make sure you use the bathroom before you start as the exam is 2 hours 20 minutes long!

I highlighted key words in each question (each word is used specifically as the exam is developed by subject experts and psychologists) . I numbered my order on the exam paper and once happy with my answer, transferred it to the answer sheet. I found using a ruler helped focus my eye and made sure I wrote my answer in the correct box. I went through the paper systematically. I circled some questions that I felt I could spend more time on and returned to them at the end.

In summary, the SJT is a high stakes exam that can be prepared for. Practice little and often can boost your score and give you confidence on the day of the exam. Being extremely familiar with the format of the paper and the answer sheet and preparing mentally to focus for an intense 140 minutes are key factors to succeeding in the SJT.

Best of luck!

Niamh Rogers

Final Year Medical Student Norwich Medical School

Niamh  scored 45.42 (within the top 2% in the country) and got a place in her 1st choice Foundation Programme, Northern Ireland.

Foundation SJT Course

Foundation SJT course review – preparing for the FPAS SJT exam

The Foundation SJT exam plays a large part in determining which Foundation rotation you get placed in. In this post, a final year medical student from Glasgow shares his thoughts on the Emedica SJT preparation course.100281534

So recently I sat the situational judgement test (SJT), a test that every final year medical student who wants to work in the UK has to sit. The score in this test is given 50% of the total score used to rank medical graduates in the process through which they’re allocated to foundation schools across the country. Everything else one has done in medical school and before including grades, extra degrees, publications, prizes, merits and distinctions all account for the other 50% (aka EPM score). In fact the lowest EPM score one can get is 34 out of 50 while with the SJT one can get anywhere between 0 and 50 which makes the SJT all the more important. In other words this 140-minute test pretty much determines where in the country I’ll work for the first two years as a doctor, and which hospitals and rotations I get. This could potentially have a knock-on effect on where I’ll end up in the long-term and which specialty I will get into.

Needless to say I was getting anxious in the run up to the exam. This year was only the 3rd year this test has been used so the available information about it was still relatively scarce, with only 1 official practice paper released by the UK foundation programme office (UKFPO).  There are several preparation books and online question banks but they were getting varying reviews and most of their questions were not similar in difficulty level to the official ones.

There were also at least 2 revision courses that I was aware of that were being advertised. One of them was in its first year, and the other one, by Emedica, had been going on for three years. A quick search on Google revealed that Emedica has also been running GP SJTs for several years. The search also led me to a blog by a King’s College med student in which she reviewed the course. Her favourable review and the fact that she got 45.6 in her test encouraged me to book this course.

A big myth which has been repeatedly regurgitated at us is that the SJT is not an exam one can prepare for. Having taken the test, I can now say that this couldn’t be further from the truth. While it’s true that the SJT doesn’t assess medical knowledge and that answering  questions comes down to good judgement, one still needs to have a good knowledge of the ethico-legal framework that doctors are expected to operate within. One also needs to be aware of the natural hierarchy of the medical team, the role of other healthcare professionals, and the dynamics of interaction between all these people.

This became very clear when I attended the Emedica SJT course. I quickly realized that there is a lot more to the exam than just “using common sense” and taking the questions at face value. When I left the course I felt that while I was still not 100% confident of my preparation for the exam, I felt that there were less unknown unknowns, and that at least I had learnt a structured approach to answer the questions. The course lasted from 10 till 5.30 and apart from a small lunch break and 2 tiny tea breaks, it was a full day. It started with an introductory talk about the SJT, its significance, and how the score is calculated. I found this part was very interesting as it contained a lot of insider info not available anywhere else. The second part was a run-through of the ethical and legal issues one needs to be aware of as well as outlining the resources one can use to prepare. The third part, which I found the most useful, was about how to approach the questions. This part opened my eyes to things I was not aware of such as the big difference in the approaches required for the two types of questions (ranking and choose the best 3 out of 8). After the course I was a lot more comfortable with answering practice questions, and found myself able to answer question quicker and in a more confident manner while still sensibly considering all the choices and their potential risk/benefit/urgency. The last part of the course touched on general exam strategy and time management issues which was also very helpful. The course was well attended and the people I chatted with afterwards all gave good reviews. And although none of them said they were completely worry-free after the course, most said that it helped them adopt a structured approach to the different types of question and gave them good tips when it came to general exam strategy.

A few days after the course I was pleasantly surprised by an email from Emedica giving me extra revision material, in the form of practice questions as well GMC and other official material covering the important ethical and legal topics. They also offered to answer any questions I had in the last week before the test. Their practice questions were similar in length and difficulty level to the official practice questions, but I still didn’t take them as dogma, which is what I did with the official UKFPO answers to the practice questions.

The test went well overall. At the moment, I cannot predict my score since for most questions there were no clear right and wrong answers. And compared to the practice paper I would say there were more questions which weren’t very clear in terms of the most appropriate answers. Nevertheless I’m overall happy with how it went. I managed to finish all the questions about 6 minutes before the end of the exam which gave me enough time to go over the answer sheet again to make sure that I didn’t forget to fill in my answer for any questions.  This was also reassuring for me as it meant I was able to consider all the questions without having to guess or rush though any of them, meaning I gave each and every single one of them a fair shot. My understanding is that most people who have done poorly in the SJT in previous years were those who didn’t finish all the questions in time or who made major mistake such as not transcribing the answers to the answer sheet in time. Hopefully this will mean that I won’t get a score less than 2 standard deviations from the average (i.e not less than mid-30s) which would guarantee me at least my second choice foundation school. And if all goes well and I haven’t messed up my rankings for a big chunk of the questions, I should be looking at a 40+ which would – based on previous yearly figures – be enough to get me into my first choice foundation school. Update – this student actually scored 41.5 SJT points, and accepted an academic rotation – however this score would have got him a spot in his 1st choice rotation!

The Emedica Foundation SJT preparation course has been running since the first year the SJT was used for Foundation programme entry / FPAS. It has been updated to take account of the new format questions added for 2015 entry onwards.

Foundation SJT tips from a resitter, Part 2

Foundation SJT tips from a resitter, Part 2100281534

With FPAS applications open now, the day is getting closer- the SJT, which will rank you with the rest of the UK medical students for jobs. It seems daunting, but remember that to get this far you are a sensible, intelligent person- it’s simply a matter of showing this as best you can, with my help!

As the exam comes up, I can’t stress enough that it is different- not about knowledge but about applying the right principles to make sensible decisions. It’s really not about cramming practice questions- after finding many of the books problematic I did very few. It’s about knowing the key guidance. It’s about showing that you know the GMC Duties of a Doctor and can apply them in scenarios of day-to-day hospital life.

You will need to reduce these massive documents to frameworks that are easily memorable for you. Have an idea of the kind of situations you will need to seek help in- when will you talk to an F1 colleague? When will you escalate a problem, and to who? We found it useful to have a framework “hierarchy” of who you would go to next with an unsolved problem.

It’s also worth reading over things such as DVLA guidance and ethical guidance on issues such as confidentiality and consent, so you are prepared for any of those issues that may come up.

Last year as part of my preparation for the SJT I took a course with Emedica– part of what was so helpful about it was their clear summaries of ethical principles, conscientious objections, confidentiality and other guidance that can almost be applied as “rules” to certain questions.

Remember that the test reflects “real-life” behaviour: Are you remembering to take care of yourself in your decisions, as well as projecting the image of the perfect caring Doctor?

On the flip-side, remember that the exam tests what you should do ideally: so even if you’d be too scared to phone your Registrar in real life, so you can put the ideal option.

FPAS provides a practice paper, which is the only “official” one so you might want to consider when you use it- early on to get an idea of real questions, or closer to the exam as a “mock”.

Consider how you’ll answer the questions. With 70 questions in 140 minutes, you have just 2 minutes in which to read a question, weigh up the scenario, and mark your answer down. Usually with MCQ’s I like to go through the question paper at least twice- you won’t have time here. Also if you’re one of those people who likes to write down your answers and transfer them at the end, consider if you want to risk running out of time for that! Bring several sharp HB pencils (so you don’t waste time sharpening, or worse, waiting for an invigilator to sidle along to you to bring you a new pencil), and please, a decent rubber, so we can avoid the marksheet fiasco of 2012!

I wouldn’t recommend cramming for this exam at all. You can’t learn answers as a slight variation in a question would change it completely. (None of the past paper questions came up last year, either!) Even if it’s not your usual pre-exam style, I’d recommend a good night’s sleep and a good breakfast before the exam, so you’re awake and ready to reason out situations, and apply some well-needed common sense!

This article was written by a final year medical student at Kings College London medical school. She has since passed finals, got a great SJT score again, and is now a foundation doctor at her 1st choice Foundation rotation in London.
The Emedica Foundation SJT preparation course has been running since the first year the SJT was used for Foundation programme entry / FPAS. It has been updated to take account of the new format questions added for 2015 entry onwards.

Foundation Programme Situational Judgement Test Preparation Course Launched

Foundation Programme Situational Judgement Test Preparation Course Launched

Emedica have launched an intensive half day course aimed at final year medical students from all UK medical schools. This course will help students gain a thorough understanding of the Foundation Programme entry Situational Judgement Test.

All final year medical students will sit the SJT exam as part of their Foundation Programme application for 2013 entry. The exam will be held on the 7th December 2012 and the 7th January 2013.

The course covers key theory as well as all important tips and techniques to help you boost your SJT score. We hope this will maximise your chances of getting your first choice Foundation Programme / Foundation School.

This course is aimed at final year medical students at any university applying for entry in the UK Foundation Programme 2013 – you will be sitting the SJT exam in December 2012 or January 2013.

The course covers:

Situational Judgment Tests in Foundation Programme Entry – Background, development, piloting for Foundation programme entry. How your SJT score is calculated / used. Why the SJT score is more important than your EPM in ranking.

Key Theory and Techniques for SJT exams – Key attributes and domains tested in the Foundation SJT exam. Medical ethics, confidentiality, capacity, consent,GMC Good Medical Practice. Differences in how to approach ranking SJT questions vs. selection SJT questions. Understanding how the SJT exam is marked. Key tips and techniques to boost your scores.

SJT Mini Mock Exam – 24 question mock SJT paper with the same timings per question as the real exam. This includes 16 ranking questions and 8 selection questions. Detailed answers and explanations with discussion of WHY the best responses are correct, mapped to the Foundation Programme SJT attributes / person specification.

Questions and Answers – Dedicated question and answer session on SJT questions and Foundation programme entry. 1 to 1 clinic at the end of the day if you wish to discuss anything privately.

The course will be taught by Dr Mahibur Rahman – the author of the first article on Situational Judgement Tests in medical recruitment –Tackling Situational Judgement Tests – BMJ Careers 2007. Dr Rahman is a Portfolio GP and a consultant in medical education – he is an expert in medical careers, and has taught over 15,000 delegates since 2005.

Course Programme

13.00 Registration
13.15 Welcome and Introduction
13.20 Situational Judgement Tests in Foundation Programme Entry: Overview
13.35 Tackling SJT exams: Key theory, tips and techniques
14.30 Situational Judgement Test Mini Mock Exam
15.30 Break for Refreshments
15.50 SJT Mock: Answers, explanations and feedback
17.30 Questions and Answers
17.45 Summary and Close

The course will be held on:

Saturday 3rd November 2012 – MANCHESTER

Sunday 11th November 2012 – BIRMINGHAM

Sunday 18th November 2012 – LONDON

The course costs £95 – but you can save £20 by taking advantage of the early bird discount – just book by the 30th September 2012.  You can save a further £20 each if you book with a friend – so it pays to be social!

Book your place today and boost your Situational Judgement Test scores!