The information sheet will provide you with an overview of the Peninsula Deanery's assessment centre process. It has suggestions of how to prepare for and perform at specialty training assessment centres.
Doctors training in the Peninsula are able to access free copies of the Peninsula Deanery/AGCAS DVD Selection Centres for Specialty Training.
- The DVD has won first prize in its category at the national Learning on Screen Awards 2009. The DVD was adjudged to be Best Non-Broadcast Education Programme. Other category winners include the British Library, the BBC, the Open University and Channel Four.
The assessment process allows consultants, in your specialty of choice, to assess your competencies, in a variety of areas. They are also looking at whether you are trainable in their specialty. The following are suggestions of how to prepare for and perform at specialty training assessment centres.
Interview Techniques – Spending time on your interview techniques will really help prepare you for the day and in turn may help boost your confidence.
- Read the Person Specification, paying particular attention to the selection criteria section.
- Be clear as to the type of skills required for the specialty e.g. adapt to rapidly changing circumstances
- The assessment process requires you to demonstrate to the panel that you have the skills required.
- Make sure you have spent time researching the specialty. Ensure that you really know why you are applying for a particular specialty and what you can bring to that specialty in terms of skills, personal attributes, enthusiasm and experience e.g. rotations, tasters etc.
- The person specification will help you anticipate the types of questions you may be asked. Have a variety of strong examples from your own experiences ready so you are able to answer the questions appropriately.
- Familiarise yourself with the STAR technique it may help with structuring answers to possible questions. (STAR – useful resources section at the end of this document)
- Are you up to date with wider NHS issues?
Portfolio – Your portfolio is an extremely valuable tool, in the Peninsula Deanery it will play a key part in the proceedings. The portfolio is a great starting point to generate ideas for examples to questions and helps illustrate your personal development to the interviewers. It should tell a story of personal and professional development.
- Make sure it is laid out neatly and has a clear structure.
- Some consultants have mentioned the inclusion of a brief 2 page CV (see our CV hints and tips sheet) as being very helpful in giving them a quick overview of your career to date. Put it after the contents page at the beginning of your portfolio.
- Familiarise yourself with the content. If a panel member asked you to show and talk them through your Personal Development Plan (PDP) could you take them straight to that section and start discussing it?
- Knowing what’s in your portfolio makes it easier to sell yourself to the assessor’s panel.
What to expect / Set up
Assessment Centres can vary dramatically, depending on specialty, location, training level. For example:
- You may be asked to arrive approximately 15mins before the start of your assessment.
- You will be registered and must provide the specified documentation (e.g. Graduation Certificates, Photo ID, Portfolio, GMC Registration, Proof of English Language) to the member of staff responsible for administration of the assessment. If you do not bring the required documentation, you maybe refused assessment.
- The assessment centre is normally broken down to a number of assessment stations.
- The stations may be set up in an open plan area, segregated by partitions. Others may be in a seperate room or private, confidential area.
- On average 2 to 3 Consultants will assess you in each station and a lay chair will rotate between stations to make sure the process is equal and fair to all candidates.
- Consultants may, also rotate between stations every couple of hours. In total you maybe assessed by 6 – 8 different consultants as you rotate through the stations.
- You are allowed equal time at each station, in the Peninsula it maybe between 10 -15 minutes. You will normally have 5 minutes between each station while consultants score candidates.
- When all stations have been completed, your documentation will be returned to you and you are free to leave.
- Successful candidates are normally advised a day or two after the assessment.
Assessment Centre Process (Peninsula Experience)
Clinical Scenario – e.g.
- Simulated Man – You maybe required to work on a pretend patient, which is operated by a computer. You maybe given a scenario and clinical information to help you access the patient. You may also have help from fully trained nurses.
- Role Play with a patient – You maybe given a clinical scenario and asked to treat/assess a patient in a role-play format.
- Suturing – You maybe require to work on a prosthetic limb or actor and demonstrate knowledge and a range of competencies from the person specificateion.
- Structured Interview – May consist of 2 consultants asking set questions.
- Portfolio – You may be required to talk through your portfolio and how it has helped your professional and personal development.
- Presentation – You maybe asked to write and present a presentation in a limited amount of time. The topics vary and sometimes they are drawn from your portfolio.
- Team Based Discussions – You may come across this in GP selection.
- Non-clinicl Scenarios - e.g. these may be used at interview and presentation stations
The purpose of the different assessment stations is to give consultants a way of assessing whether individuals have the specific skills required to train in the specialty, therefore take this opportunity to demonstrate to them that you have. Remember that all of the skills they are assessing tie into the Person Specification.
For example in the structured interview, you maybe asked:
Describe a time when you had to break bad news to a patient or relative.
What skill/s is this question asking you to demonstrate? This will be covered in the person specification and will be different depending on the specialty and level.
ST1 Surgery in General Person specification (2009)
- Communication Skills - Capacity to communicate effectively & sensitively with others, able to discuss treatment options with patients in a way they can understand.
The question may require you to demonstrate more than one of the skills in the person specification. Make sure you use a strong, appropriate example so you can demonstrate you have the skills they are looking for.
Some assessment centres include a presentation station, which requires candidates to give a short presentation. Once the preparation time is up, you will have a set time to deliver within. Remember time management is important with this one, stick to the time limit.
Think! What skills does this assessment station want you to demonstrate? As with all stations, they are usually looking for you to demonstrate more than one skill from the person specification.
First impressions are very important. Research shows that first impressions are made up of the following:
55% Visual – dress, body language.
38% Tone of your voice.
7% is from what you actually say.
- Make sure you are appropriately dressed for the assessment, if you are not sure what to wear, a smart suit always looks professional. It’s important to feel comfortable in what you wear.
- Make sure you have good standards of personal hygiene, but don’t go over the top on aftershave, perfumes etc…
- Since 55% of our first impressions are visual make sure your hair, clothes and shoes are clean, neat and tidy.
- Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and you set of with plenty of time to get to the assessment centre. If possible, make a trial run beforehand.
- Make good eye contact with each assessor. This will show your enthusiasm and make each assessor feel included even when they are not asking a question. It may not be appropriate to make eye contact if you are taking part in a clinical assessment.
- Pay attention to your body language, and try not to fidget as you talk, as this can be very distracting. If you are sitting try and sit up straight, leaning back in a chair slouching may give the impression that you are not interested. A well-timed smile can also help build rapport with the assessment panel.
- Speak slowly and clearly, think about the pace and tone. Try not to use “um” and “er” this can be distracting. If you don’t understand a question, it’s ok to ask the assessor to rephrase it.
Do's and Don'ts
- Ensure that you have evidence in your portfolio that matches your claims on your application form and that you can draw from when you are using examples at the various stations e.g. presentation and interview station
- Keep your portfolio up to date
- Bring the right documentation – you don’t want to be refused interview
- Know the time of your interview
- Know the location and do a trial run if possible
- Get a good night sleep the night before
- Eat breakfast, lunch, etc…
- Take a few brief notes afterwards so you can reflect on the experience later and improve your performance in the future.
- Turn up late
- Turn up with out the right documentation
- Worry if one station doesn’t go according to plan, you can perform better in the next one!
- Exaggerate your answers, be Honest.
- CV Techniques and Styles, Portfolio Design and Development, Interview Techniques and the STAR Technique, which is a great way of tackling competency based questions on application forms and at interview. Click Here
- To see other examples of CVs (medical and non-medical); search any of the other Deanery websites or University Careers Service websites, see Prospects http://www.prospects.ac.uk/ or do a Google search.