Internal medicine training (IMT) interviews are usually held in January and February, so if you are applying for IMT this year, it’s important to start preparing your portfolio as soon as possible. This can be a daunting task. Lots of people won’t have ever made a portfolio before and that’s alright (I certainly hadn’t!). What’s important is to start reviewing the portfolio points early and not throw it together at the last minute. You should start thinking about it now and slowly pull together all the information that’s going to make you look great!
The ‘Portfolio’ makes up a whole station when it comes to the interview, so it’s very important! The examiners will expect you to know everything that you put into your portfolio, so again, it pays to arrange it early and know it backwards!
The portfolio or ‘Evidence Folder’ should be put together in a standard lever arch folder with a contents page at the beginning and dividers for each section. You can name the sections as you want but I would follow the titles given to you for each of the scoring sections: Undergraduate, Postgraduate, Prizes/Awards, Presentations etc. This way the examiners can quickly go through each section and mark off the evidence against your application scores. This means there will be more time for actual questions in the interview, allowing you to sell yourself rather than wasting time helping the examiner find a bit of evidence!
Ultimately the ‘portfolio’ is a way for the examiners to get an idea of you before you enter, but it is how you present and discuss the items within it that really scores you points. Think about the parts of your portfolio that you are most proud of, and the parts that will make you a good fit to be a medical SHO. These are the bits to focus on in your answer – make the examiners look at your best bits.
I would also include a section at the back detailing any extracurricular activities. The examiners want to see that there is a life beyond medicine and ultimately that you are a nice human being who they could actually work with. Anything could go in this section. Maybe you sing in a choir, or you love mountain climbing, or you’re just really good at baking. Whatever it is, find a way of including it and it will certainly make you stand out that little bit more!
- Make sure it’s neat and easy to use. The examiners only get ten minutes with it before you enter the room. It should be clear from the contents page where every bit of evidence is and how to get to it.
- Do not over fill your portfolio! You may think that you have to put in everything you have ever done in medicine. Do NOT do this. All this will accomplish is to irritate your examiners. Be selective with what you include – chose only the best bits and the things YOU want to talk about. It must be relevant to the job your applying for so don’t include it if it isn’t!
- Make it stand out. How you achieve this is up to you, but you want your examiners to remember you. You could include some great patient feedback, or a letter from your consultant. Whatever you do, make sure it’s easy for the examiner to find so they have read it before you enter
- Prepare it early. Putting a portfolio together the night before happens more often than you would think. It will be disorganised and you may miss things! Start collating your info now!
- Nurture your portfolio. The portfolio you start putting together now will likely stay with you throughout your training career. The same things that score you points now will likely score you points in the future. Don’t think of your portfolio as something you need for interviews but rather as a reflection of your career to date
The portfolio station is worth 33% of the overall score in the interview and is the only station for which you can guarantee points prior to the day of the interview.
There is a total of 68 points on offer for your portfolio. With only a few points between candidates, an extra point can make a significant difference to the outcome of your interview.
The remaining 66% of interview points come from the management and clinical stations for which performance also relies on good preparation, but all points are determined on the day – please see our IMT Interview question bank for preparation in these areas.
The portfolio is divided into 8 sections and we’ll detail below how to maximise your points in each one.
More general information on the IMT application process can be found here.
Section 1 and 2: Undergraduate and Postgraduate Degrees
This section covers any degrees obtained alongside your medical degree and any additional degrees you may have obtained since. There are no easy ways to maximize the points in this section in a short time scale. If you are an applicant for 2020, you either have them or you don’t.
The scoring is straight forward and relates to your final mark. Make sure you have your degree certificates in your portfolio!
Undergraduate degree scoring:
Postgraduate degree scoring:
If still at medical school or in a position where you would like to take an additional degree, the shortest option to max out points would be an MSc or intercalated BSc (with 1st class honours). However gaining points in this area is certainly the most expensive and time consuming, and you may be better of focusing on other areas of your portfolio.
Section 3: Prizes/Awards
This relates to awards and prizes obtained during medical school or after graduating. These can be challenging to achieve in a short space of time if you do not have them already. Potential areas include:
- Essay competitions from medical societies. These often have poor submission figures with less competition than you may think. Submission details are easy to find with a quick search on google.
- Conference poster or presentation prizes – try to submit to as many as you can but consider:
- Small conferences or regional meetings may be less competitive to win prizes, while larger meetings may offer a range of prizes – have a look at what is offered!
- Prizes related to Quality improvement projects/ audits (can score points in multiple categories with one project!).
This list also includes people who received honours for their medical degree. Now you may think you don’t score here, but it’s definitely worth digging out a copy of your medical degree transcript and looking at all your marks over the five years. If you scored a few merits in a few exams then highlight it and get it in your portfolio and you can score points: ‘merit related to parts of the medical course’!
Section 4: Presentations
This section is separate to Quality Improvement so don’t include posters you have presented for QI projects. If you’re struggling here, now is the time to go and talk to your supervisor about what projects they have coming up and whether you can help with an abstract submission for any conferences on the near horizon. You don’t have to present, but get your name on the poster and you get the points!
Many applicants are unaware of the low rejection rates for posters in small conferences, particularly regional and national. It can be much easier to get accepted than most people think!
Section 5: Publications
You score the most points for being first author on two or more PubMed cited papers. But points can be picked up for any publications you have been involved with so hang on to them and get them in your portfolio. If you don’t have any then talk to your consultant about writing a case report, as these pick up points. You could even write a piece for a journal such as a conference review as this still scores! Be prepared to talk about any publications that you include!
Section 6: Teaching
Teaching is splint into two sections: ‘Teaching experience’ and ‘Training in teaching’. The points in the first section are gained for showing that you can develop and deliver your own teaching program and are split as follows:
2 points – Teaching medical students or other healthcare professionals occasionally: All applicants should have this and it can be done as volunteering to do a departmental teaching session or a teaching session for medical students. Many hospitals also offer twilight teaching sessions for students, which you can get involved with. Don’t forget to get your certificate!
4 points – Teaching medical students or other healthcare professionals regularly > 3 months. As above – this is a very achievable goal.
6 points – Organised a local teaching programme & provided teaching for 3 months or longer – Requires you to be very proactive and consider the hospital which you work in, looking for areas where medical student or other MDT teaching is lacking. Ask the students if you are unsure. Speak with the nurses on your unit as they always have teaching and it may be something you can get involved in. If you are aiming for this category, it would not require much extra effort to go for the maximum marks.
8 points – Worked with local tutors to design and organise a teaching programme (a series of sessions) to enhance locally organised teaching & provided teaching for 3 months. As above, but liaise with other tutors to implement new changes into a teaching programme. Contact the education leads for medical students in your hospital or the education leads for the different nursing departments. They will be happy for the help!
Examples of teaching programmes include:
- Structured bedside teaching
- Clinical skills in early years
- OSCE preparation +/- examination
- Communication skills
How to set up a program
- Start as early as possible e.g. in induction week
- Briefly plan a program e.g. session titles, audience, setting, teaching style, teachers e.g. others colleagues/ junior doctors.
- Discuss the plan with your education supervisor during the first meeting as they may be able to assist.
- Discuss with the medical education department and arrange meetings with the head of medical education to discuss your proposal.
- If approved, you will need to plan the program in more detail
Following this, the medical education department will usually email junior doctors asking for volunteers to prepare and deliver teaching based on your topics, offering certificates and formal feedback.
Training in teaching
Whilst it may not be feasible to achieve higher qualifications in teaching before the interviews (maximum), it is definitely achievable to score 2 points for brief training in teaching (online modules or in person). There are plenty of online course available from institutions such as the Open University. Many of these courses are free, so don’t feel you have to spend lots of money just for a few extra points!
Another tip is to look at what was covered in medical school. Some Undergraduate MBBS courses provide dedicated training in teaching – which can get you 3 out of 4 points it this section, with no extra work. Try and find your certificates/ proof of attendance.
Section 7: Quality Improvement
This section used to be called ‘Audits’; but now it’s QI and getting full marks should be straight forward. You can design a QI project tomorrow – follow the PDSA Methodology and capture two cycles, present it and you’re done. The mark scheme does not specify where it should be presented. It will look better when it comes to interview if you have presented it at a regional or national meeting/conference but ultimately it doesn’t matter! No excuse for not hitting the 10 points on offer! If you’re looking for ideas then a good place to present your project is the RCP Trainees Conference
Section 8: Leadership
The points are scored for being a trainee representative on a committee and the number of points on offer goes up depending on the level of the committee. Being on national committees scores the most but of course not everyone can do that. Put your hand up when they ask for local training reps or members for the Junior Doctors Forum and you’ll easily score points here that others won’t. Just remember to get your letter/certificate as evidence!
Leadership roles that you can score points for include:
- Trainee rep: this is potentially an easy point. Consider applying for this position if available at your trust during induction
- FY2 representative – If not available you may suggest this should be a position.
- Role in the doctor’s mess: probably the easiest point in the portfolio and something to apply for during induction. You may just organise drinks once a month but this is worth points!
- Rota Coordinator: ask your consultant or registrar if you can help with this. They will be delighted!
- Organising a journal club
- Organising teaching
Evidence of Leadership Development and Management Courses sadly won’t score you points but are good things to include and will be great to talk about!