ST3 General Surgery Interview Preparation and Essential Reading

The key to success in the General Surgery interview is preparation. Candidates will have a much greater chance of success if they start preparing early and wisely. This requires planning and a combination of solo reading with group practice. Below we have tried to summarise the best methods of structuring your interview practice, and finished the section with a selection of texts that we have found very helpful. We’ve also developed a General Surgery ST3 Interview Question Bank to help you prepare


  • Preparation for this interview begins at the start of CT1. This is because the clinical experience required to score maximum points at the Portfolio and Clinical stations takes time to develop. We’ve summarised the application process here.
  • It is highly recommended to have at least 12 months of elective and emergency general surgery experience. This allows you to develop the necessary WBAs and logbook experience to achieve the essential General Surgery competences at CT level.
  • Ensure you read the application guidance and interview format at the start of CT2 so that you can plan your revision accordingly as if this were an exam. You can read about the interview format here.


  • Look through the individual components of your portfolio and ensure you can score maximum points in each section.
  • For example, ensure all your audit cycles are completed and submit abstracts to national conferences (e.g. ASGBI) early on.
  • Go to every General Surgery course that you can – there are many courses on the RCS website e.g. Core Skills in Laparoscopic Surgery.
  • Some candidates choose to do an extra postgraduate qualification e.g. a distance learning PGCE in medical education, to score extra points.
  • Ensure you make sure all your WBAs are validated by Consultants and show progression from level 1/2 to 3/4. Review the Core Procedures for General Surgery on the ISCP website.
  • Sign up to BMJ case reports and submit any interesting cases which will count as a first author publication. Your supervisor will usually have an old case or two that they can suggest.
  • Review the mark schemes and recommended reading on this website. Start reading these essential books/websites early.
  • Review and learn all the model answers on this website and practice saying them out loud.

Small groups

  • Find other core trainees and arrange to meet up in person or on Skype on a regular basis.
  • Practice all the interview stations under timed conditions.
  • Give each other feedback based on the Pendleton model so that you can learn from each other.
  • Find the ST3 trainees in your hospital and arrange interview practice sessions.
  • Small group sessions are the best way to prepare for the abstract and skills stations. You should regularly be reading and summarising abstracts to each other, as well as practising teaching skills.
  • Nearer the interview, practice under timed conditions that are stricter than the formal interview e.g. 2 minutes reading time for the abstract as this will force you to extract the necessary information very quickly.


  • There are several commercial interview preparation courses which can be expensive and vary in quality.
  • These are useful for candidates who are not able to practice with other trainees or who would like more general interview practice.

Essential Reading

Key Dates and Post Numbers:

Person Specification:

The latest application documents can be found on the Oriel website:

  1. Log in to the website using your username and password
  2. Click on the ‘Vacancies’ tab
  3. Under ‘Training Programme’ select ‘General Surgery’
  4. Under ‘Include closed vacancies’ select ‘Yes’
  5. Select ‘General Surgery – ST3’ recruiting for United Kingdom for the year of interest
  6. Click on ‘Documents’

Make sure to read

  • General Surgery and Vascular Surgery Application Guidance – complete advice on the application process and what to include in your portfolio
  • Documentation for Interview – ensure you have all these documents early on (e.g. a valid ALS certificate)
  • How to print your WBAs – ensure you print off the WBAs and logbook in this format, including labelling Consultant-validated WBAs with a ‘C’

Recommended books and websites for individual interview stations


No specific books are required to prepare for this station, since this station is a simple scoring station without any formal questions. The full portfolio scoresheet is available for Medibuddy members.

Clinical and Professional Communication


  • ‘The Doctor’s Guide to Critical Appraisal’ by Gosall and Gosall (Pastest) – a concise but thorough overview of all the relevant issues and terms used in critical appraisal.
  • ‘Landmark Papers in General Surgery’ by MacKay and Molloy (OUP) – the chapters on ‘General Surgery’ and ‘Emergency Surgery’ are essential reading to establish context for most of the papers in these subject areas.
  • ‘How to Read a Paper’ by Greenhalgh (Wiley) – the chapters ‘Getting your bearings: what is this paper about’, ‘Assessing methodological quality’ and ‘Statistics for the non-statistician’ are easy to read and provide a useful starting point before moving on to the Pastest book for a more in-depth overview.
  • ‘Cracking the Intercollegiate General Surgery FRCS Viva’ by Ball (CRC Press) – the ‘Academic Viva’ chapter covers all the main questions that you could be asked during this station.
  • ‘Medical Statistics Made Easy’ by Harris and Taylor (Scion) – a very small book that covers the definitions of statistical terms that you must remember.
  • Key journals: British Journal of Surgery, The Lancet (surgery section), New England Journal of Medicine (surgery section), Annals of Surgery, British Medical Journal (surgery section).
  • Smartphone applications such as ‘Read’ by QxMD allow you to keep up to date with abstracts from all the main surgical journals and allow you to practice critical appraisal on the go.


Technical Skills and Teaching

  • Basic Surgical Skills Course Manual and DVD (Royal College of Surgeons) – ensure you read the booklet and watch the DVD carefully so that you will be able to teach the ‘College’ method of these procedures.
  • ‘Basic Surgical Techniques’ by Kirk (Churchill Livingstone) – provide detailed descriptions of instruments, sutures and tissue handling which form the basis of this station.

Further Reading

The Application Process

The Interview Format

Professionally written General Surgery question bank

Competition is fierce, so let us give you that extra edge to get the job.

Further reading

More tips on smashing your General Surgery interview.
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