Preparation is key to doing well in the Core Surgical Training Interview. Both the clinical and leadership station are equally weighted in the mark scheme, so it’s important that you prepare for them both individually. With over 1000 people applying each year, the CST interview is competitive, and we would advise you to prepare for it in a similar way to how you would for an exam. To help you prepare we’ve developed our online Core Surgical Interview Question Bank.
Many people spend the majority of their time preparing for the Clinical station, as there is a lot to learn for it. The Leadership and Management station is often perceived as being difficult to revise for and can get neglected. It is true that there is less ‘content’ to learn for the leadership station, however, to score highly in this station you will need to practice answering the common questions over and over again.
To begin with, we’ll start by talking about the Clinical station:
The Clinical station lasts 10 minutes and you’ll usually be given two scenarios to work though. They tend to use the same topics each year and they are often based around emergency scenarios. You should start by making sure you have a good understanding of all the common General/Urology/Plastics etc. emergencies and the principals behind their management.
The amount of revision you will need to do will depend on what jobs you have had in your foundation years. If you have done a general surgery or urology job you are likely to require less background reading that someone who hasn’t done any surgical jobs. Bear this in mind when planning your revision schedule.
Get into the habit early on of saying you would start by using an ABCDE approach (you’ll be sick of saying this by the end). As a rule, you can generally get enough marks to be deemed appointable by going through the ABCDE process logically and then escalating to a senior. It’s important that your answer is fluent and concise, as his will put the examiners at ease and allow you to quickly get onto the harder questions which will decide whether you get the top marks.
The follow-up questions you get in the last 1-2 minutes of each scenario can be unpredictable and are often dependent on the examiners and their impression of you. This is why having a good understanding of the principals of all the key topics is important. You should have at least a working understanding of the aetiology, presentations, disease processes and management of all the conditions you revise.
Time is of the essence in this station, so with a small group of candidates, practise repeatedly answering questions about the core conditions in the run up to the interview.
- ATLS Course Manual
- CCRiSP Course Manual
- Core Surgical Training Person Specification
Leadership and Management Station
Make sure you start preparing for the Leadership station early. If you leave it to the last minute, even if your answers contain the right content, you won’t come across fluently and you won’t get the top marks.
This station is best prepared for in small groups of other candidates. The key to scoring highly is answering the questions concisely and bringing in your own examples. We would recommend writing down the examples that you would like to use and making sure you can describe them quickly.
You should be able to summarise examples such as the time you showed leadership/saw bad leadership etc. and then quickly move onto the reasons why it was good/bad leadership and what you learned from it.
When it comes to the management scenarios you should be practised in approaching each scenario using common frameworks such as SPIES, CAMP and STAR. You should get your fellow candidates to make up management scenarios for you, and then practise applying those frameworks.
- ISC Medical – Medical Interviews
Overall, it is perfectly achievable for anyone to get a Core Surgical Training Post, provided they put in the time to prepare for the interview. The clinical and leadership stations are worth two thirds of the marks, so even with a below average portfolio you can still score highly.
If you have any specific questions, please do get in touch. You can access our other interview resources in the Core Surgical Interview section of the website.