This guide is mainly for those applying to London and Kent, Surrey and Sussex (LaKSS). LaKSS application does not have any white space questions, and the application process is pretty straightforward since they are only interested in your achievements (shortlist scores) and knowledge (interviews).
The Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP) can be highly competitive, with the competition ratio being 7.05 for LaKSS (2021). Nonetheless, a wise man once said: “you miss 100 of the shots you don’t take”. So shoot your shot and remember that you have nothing to lose by applying!
Each SFP AUoA is challenging in its own way, and since each person can apply to 2 Academic Units of Application (AUoA), choose them strategically. If you want to learn more about the competition ratio, stats and facts about the 2020 recruitment, you can find the information here (2020 Recruitment Stats and Facts Report – https://jchui.github.io/fpas-calc/data/2020%20Recruitment%20Stats%20and%20Facts%20Report_FINAL.pdf)
Support and Resources
In terms of resources and support, there is a sea of information on the application process and advice on preparing for the interview. The best thing is that most of the resources are freely available on the internet (YouTube is a wonderful platform). The UK Foundation Programme also has an application booklet that contains most of the stuff you need to know about the application process.
Here are top tips that will help you get your dream SF
- When filling out your application, write down EVERY award/presentation that you could possibly think of. And I mean EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM. Do a thorough search in your email for keywords such as ‘prize’ and ‘award’. Even if you think the prize or award isn’t up to the SFP standard, you won’t be negatively marked! I remember putting down a prize I got from placement, it was not a well-known prize for a local cohort, and I still got a point for my shortlist score.
The following few points about the interview process. This is the part where you can really shine if you prepare well. Even if your shortlist score isn’t great, as long as you do well in your interview, you will do just fine!
Now, how do you get high marks in interviews? I was told as long as I knew everything in the emergency section of the oxford handbook, I would smash the interview. Well, not quite…
- They can viva you on things outside of the emergency section! Do not go into the interview thinking only the Oxford Handbook emergency will come up. Be prepared to answer any questions on the conditions.
- Do not forget about COVID. The Oxford Handbook is very comprehensive with the exception of COVID. I made the mistake of not knowing enough about COVID and I paid the price.
- Some clinical situations can be highly suggestive of a condition, but do not dive in thinking just that one condition. It’s important to show the examiners that you are also thinking of other differentials (and in a systematic manner, list out the important/urgent differentials and do them by systems). Just because someone comes in with red urine, doesn’t mean they have haematuria (it could be due to rifampicin).
- Who you should call and when you should call them. Every clinical scenario will require you to hand over the situation, either acutely asking for help, i.e. 2222; or calmly bleep the reg for further advice. Handover -> Handover to the correct person
- Practise the exams with your mates, get used to difficult interviewers. Some interviewers will interrupt you to ask questions, whereas others may give you plenty of time to finish. The important part is not to get flustered when they do interrupt. Think of it as now you get to answer the questions they are more interested in.
Most people initially struggle with the academic part and don’t worry if you don’t have an intercalated degree in science. Like everything else, it comes with practice. The LaKSS academic interview follows a very set structure. They can ask any personal questions (ie. why you want to do research) but often don’t, you just get on with the critical appraisal straightaway.
- Understanding the rationale behind the study is important. Why did they pick this population and set the treatment dose to 20mg. Because ultimately, you are answering these three questions: Is this a good study and why (if not, why not), and how will this study impact the current practice (how will this study affect the medical management, its economic and societal impact).
- One suggestion I found really helpful was reading and writing Letters to the Editor. Not only will this get you extra points for your shortlist score, but it also helps you to get used to the critical appraisal mindset.
- Once again – structure! As long as you follow the structure (PICO, internal/external validity and ETHICS), you will get decent scores in your academic station. Not only do you need to have a good/logical structure, but you need to show the interviewers that you do!
- Final Tip (THE MOST IMPORTANT TIP): ASK FOR HELP! Many of the SFP doctors are super friendly and keen to help. Reach out to them either in person or via social media, and you will be surprised how many SFP doctors are happy to help (from a coffee/MS Teams chat to a full-on SFP masterclass). Many university societies and medical organisations host tutorials for SFP; make sure you attend them (or at least some of them). It is one of the best opportunities to learn more about SFP and also network!
Last but not least, remember SFP is merely a slightly different path to FP. Don’t get discouraged or disheartened if you don’t get a place; there are many other ways to get to where you want to be (whether it’s academia, leadership or MedEd).