Plastic Surgery ST3 Interview Preparation and Essential Reading
Plastic Surgery 20th November 2023

Plastic Surgery ST3 Interview Preparation and Essential Reading 2024

Preparation is key to doing well in the Plastic Surgery ST3 Interview. You will have spent months/years developing your portfolio, however, it only represents a small proportion of your overall mark. Whether you get a Plastics training number or not will depend on how well you answer the questions in your interview. In this post, we will give you some general advice on how to prepare, and we have also developed our Plastic Surgery ST3 Question Bank to help with your revision. High-scoring plastics trainees update our interview question bank every year with new questions based on feedback from the interviews.

Important dates for Plastic Surgery ST3 Recruitment 2024

Important dates to note for 2024 recruitment are as follows:

Stage Date
Advert appears 15 November 2023 by 5pm
Applications open 16 November 2023 at 10am
Applications close 7 December 2023 at 4pm
Evidence upload portal opens 26 January 2024
Evidence upload portal closes 12 February 2024
Self-assessment verification window 26 – 27 February 2024
Appeal window for candidates 29 February – 4 March 2024
Preferences open date 12 March 2024
Invites to interview 21 March 2024
Preferences close date 29 March 2024
Interview dates 8 – 9 April 2024
Initial offers 18 April 2024 by 5pm
Hold deadline 23 April 2024 at 1pm
Upgrade deadline 24 April 2024 at 4pm
Interview scoresheet release date TBC

Plastic Surgery ST3 Application

As you see from the 2024 recruitment dates above, the Plastic Surgery ST3 application process involves the following stages:

  1. Completing your application via the ORIEL system, which includes your self-assessment score (more detail is given about this in the following section).
  2. Once the evidence portal opens, you’ll need to upload your evidence to justify your self-assessment.
  3. This will then be reviewed by a team of Plastic Surgery consultants to verify your self-assessment score. This gives your verified evidence score.
  4. Following this, the highest-scoring applicants will be invited to attend an online interview.
  5. Your verified evidence score and scores at interview will then be combined to determine your final score and ranking.


This part of the Plastic Surgery ST3 application form asks candidates to make a declaration of achievement in various criteria relating to the 2024 person specification. These measurable indicators of achievement are then used to score applicants relative to their level of experience.  

The self-assessment section of the application changes slightly every year. Below is the self-assessment guide from the current 2024 application round, which can be used as a guide to help with portfolio preparation:

Competence assessment

You will need to submit evidence of completion or prospective completion of all requisite core surgical competences by post start date as per the 2024 person specification. You can find more information about the 3 possible candidate groups for the competence assessment in the self-assessment and verification guidance.

MBBS (or equivalent)

Pretty straight-forward, but you must list your primary medical qualification in the Entry Qualifications section.


You must achieve full MRCS – Part A and Part B – by offer date. You should indicate on your application form whether you have full MRCS or if you intend to successfully complete the exam by offer date.

Years in Practice

A maximum of 6 points will be awarded for this section of the self-assessment:

Years in Practice Score
<5 6
5.1 – 7 4
7.1 – 10 2
>10 1

Clinical Knowledge and Experience

Clinical knowledge and experience is separated into the following domains:

Surgical Experience: Hand Trauma

There are a maximum of 8 points available across 3 sub-sections:

Level Experience
A No Experience
B Nail bed repair
C Repair extensor tendon (Zones I – VII)
D Repair flexor tendon (Zones III – V)
E Repair flexor tendon (Zones I – II)
Level Experience
A No Experience
B MUA hand fracture
C K wire hand fracture
D ORIF metacarpal fracture
E ORIF phalangeal fracture
Level Experience
A No Experience
B Suture skin wound
C Digital nerve repair
D Mixed nerve repair
E Nerve Graft or Nerve Transfer

Surgical Competence: Burns

You can be awarded a maximum of 8 points for the following sub-sections:

Level Experience
A No Experience
C Burns resuscitation 10-19%
D Burns resuscitation 20-49%
E Burns resuscitation >50%
Burns – Escharatomy
A No
B Yes
Level Experience
A No Experience
B Excise and SSG wound <5% BSA
C Excise and SSG wound 5-19% BSA
D Excise and SSG wound 20-49% BSA
E Excise and SSG wound >50% BSA

Surgical Competence: Skin Cancer

Again, there a maximum of 8 points available:

Level Experience
A No Experience
B Excise skin malignancy and close directly
C Excise skin malignancy and FTSG
D Excise skin malignancy and flap closure
E Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy (SLNB)

Academic/Management/Teaching Achievements

This section of the self-assessment is scored for the following domains:

Management/Committee/Leadership Experience

A maximum of 4 points are available:

Level Experience
A Little or no evidence
B Undergraduate management role or committee
C Departmental rota or management role
D Trust, regional or deanery committee or management role
E National committees, e.g. PLASTA, BMA

Higher Qualifications Directly Related to Medicine

With a 1.5 weighting, there is a maximum of 6 points available for this section:

Level A B C D E
1 None BSc awarded or completed (intercalated degrees do not score) Masters with less than 1 year of research awarded Full-time masters with 1-2 years of research awarded Full-time MD with >2 years of research awarded or PhD awarded
2 Masters with less than 1 year of research in progress Full-time masters with 1-2 years of research writing or submitted (lab phase or equivalent complete) MD with >2 years full-time research or PhD writing or submitted (lab phase or equivalent complete)
3 Full-time masters with 1-2 years of research (lab phase or equivalent in progress) MD with >2 years full-time research or PhD lab phase or equivalent in progress
4 BDS or equivalent MRCP or equivalent FDS or equivalent

Higher Qualifications Not Directly Related to Medicine

For higher qualifications not directly related to medicine you can score a maximum of 5 points:

Level A B C D E
1 None BSc/BA awarded or equivalent Post Graduate Certificate of Education (PGcert) Masters with <1 year of research awarded Masters in Medical Education awarded Full time Master’s with 1-2 years of research awarded PhD or Doctorate with >2 years full time research awarded
2 Masters with <1 year of research in progress Full time Masters with 1-2 years research writing or submitted PhD or Doctorate with >2 years full time research writing or submitted MBA
3 Full Time Masters with 1-2 years research in lab phase or equivalent PhD or Doctorate with >2 years full time research in lab phase or equivalent


There are a maximum of 2 points available for this section; however, an extra point can be awarded by the verification panel if they feel the audit significantly improved patient care or has significant merit.

No Audit Activity
An audit relating to plastic surgery as primary author, presented at an audit meeting but full cycle not completed
A full cycle audit relating to plastic surgery where both audit and re-audit are completed by the applicant as primary author, presented by candidate at audit meeting and ideally AoA WBA

Teaching and Training

Teaching and training has a maximum of 4 points available:

Level A B C D E
1 No evidence Collaborator on book chapter Lead or principle author of book chapter Editor or author of surgical textbook
2 eLPRAS author or web-based learning resources
3 Formal departmental, regional or undergraduate teaching presentations Full time (≤6 months) formal teaching role or significant formal part-time role >6 months Full-time teaching role (>6 months)


A maximum of 5 points is available for the publications sections.

Applicants are asked to provide evidence of your four “highest scoring” papers. Your overall score will be based on the total of your “Impact factor scores” for the four papers. The impact factor score will be worked out as below:

  • Principle authorship will get 100% of impact factor, giving the “Impact factor score”
  • Any other authorship will get 50% of impact factor, giving the “Impact factor score”

All papers will have to be pubmed cited and have an impact factor. If co-authorship is claimed then it will need to be evidenced from the journal itself.

Total Impact Score
0.01 – 2.50
2.51 – 7.50
7.51 – 12.50
12.51 – 17.50


Candidates must provide up to four posters or presentations as first author that you have presented at a national or international meeting. You can score a maximum of 4 points for this section.

Collaborative Research

Collaborative research and publications is encouraged. Evidence of involvement in two collaborative papers will score a single point (half points cannot be awarded).

The candidate must provide evidence of their inclusion on the collaborative author list to be counted.

1 point will be given if the candidate has evidence of TWO collaborative papers.

Principle Investigator

1 point is available here for certificate of being associate or principal investigator in formal NIHR or equivalent trial.

Plastic Surgery ST3 Interview

Approximately 100 candidates get shortlisted every year for interview. You should prepare for your interview as you would for an exam. Give yourself plenty of time to cover all the core topics; we recommend 2-3 months, depending on how intensive your preparation is likely to be.

Most of your time will be spent learning the content required for the clinical station. However, it is important that you don’t neglect the OSCE and structured interview. We’ve broken down the stations below with tips on how to prepare for each one.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were changes to the interview structure. The interview now takes place online using a system called Qpercom Recruit. The interview will be 30 minutes, with 4/5 panel members. There may also be a lay representative who monitors the interviews to ensure they are all conducted fairly. Check your microphone, camera and connectivity in advance, and ensure your background is clear and that you are in the right environment for an important interview. If you live with friends, tell them when your interview is, so they know not to disturb you. The types of interview questions asked are expected to be similar to previous years, with the exception of the presentation station, which is no longer part of the interview.

Interview Structure 

OSCE and Communications

The OSCE is divided into 2 sections and you should prepare for each one separately:


This station will last 5 minutes. There are only a limited number of core procedures that you are likely to be asked to consent for. Consider all the procedures you have seen registrars perform and prepare your consent for them. We have also produced several scenarios in our interview question bank with example answers to help guide you through your preparation. Here is a picture of our consent dashboard, so you know what to expect when you purchase.


Keeping to time can be difficult in this station, particularly with some more complicated procedures like breast reduction. You should practise consenting on your own and with others until your delivery is slick and concise. We would recommend timing yourself right from the beginning of your revision, as fitting everything in is key to doing well here.


This part will also be 5 minutes. This station looks at your communication skills when calling consultants to discuss scenarios. There are only a limited number of plastic surgery emergencies, so it’s possible to prepare for them, and we have included these in our interview question bank. It is a good idea to record yourself when working through these practice scenarios, as you can then listen back and see where you need to improve your delivery. Here is an example of a chemical burn scenario from our interview question bank.


Clinical Scenario

This station lasts 10 minutes, and you will be made aware of 2 clinical scenarios for discussion. The same key topics tend to come up each year in this station and you should make sure you have a good understanding of all of them. You aren’t expected to have FRCS knowledge at this stage, but you should have a good understanding of the diagnosis and management of common plastic surgery conditions.

They will often start with simpler questions such as asking you to describe a clinical image, followed by questions on what you’d ask during the history, what you’d look for on examination and what investigations you would order.

They will form an impression of you based on how you answer these first few questions, so you should repeatedly practise answering them for the core topics. Aim to convey the key points to the simple questions in a clear and concise way. Your goal is to get through them quickly so you can move on to the more challenging questions where you can demonstrate your knowledge.

You should aim to have your clinical knowledge up to scratch early in your interview preparation period and then focus on how you deliver your answers. 

As you get more confident, you can ask your registrars and consultants to grill you, although be wary of seniors with a poor understanding of the interview process! Many will ask you questions that are too high a level for the interview, which can be quite demoralising, particularly if the interview is not far off! Here is an example of a clinical interview question from our question bank, so you can get an idea of the level required.


Structured Interview

If you’ve been through core training, you will have had some experience answering similar questions to the ones you will get in the structured interview part. This section lasts 10 minutes. We recommend writing down all your examples and then practising answering questions about audit/leadership/management etc., in small groups.

You should aim to summarise the key aspects of your audit/management roles etc. in roughly 1 minute to 1 minute 30 seconds. This will give you time to move on to the other questions and collect more points.

This station will cover of the following areas:

  • Audit
  • Research
  • Teaching
  • Risk and safety
  • Management
  • Consent
  • Ethics

We have updated and enhanced our structured interview questions this year to give you the best support for your interview possible!

Essential Reading

These are some of the resources that we used to prepare for interview. Most of the books can be picked up in hospital libraries. If you have an Open Athens account, the app Clinical Keys can also give you access to many of them.

  • Plastic Surgery ST3 Person Specification
  • E-LPRAS – This is the e-Learning project for Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgery and can be accessed for free on the e-learning for healthcare website 
  • Key Notes on Plastic Surgery – You don’t need to know this cover to cover; focus on the key topics and use them to get a broad understanding of the specialty. The first chapter on core principles is particularly helpful for getting to grips with the fundamentals of plastic surgery. If you are a BMA member, you can access a free pdf from the BMA library.
  • Essentials of Plastic Surgery – The breast and facial reconstruction chapters explain the principles well and will help you shape your answers in the clinical station.
  • Green’s Operative Hand Surgery – This is a good book for learning the principles of the key hand surgery procedures required for interview. You should be able to talk through and explain all the procedures you state you can do in your self-assessment.

We hope you have found this blog useful when thinking about and preparing for your Plastics ST3 interview, and don’t forget to check out our Plastics ST3 Interview question bank, helping you prepare for your interview and get maximum points!

Good luck!

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