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 training number or not will depend on how well you answer the questions in the other stations. In this post we hope to give you some general advice on how to prepare. We’ve also developed the Plastic Surgery ST3 Question Bank to help with your revision.
You should prepare for your interview as you would for an exam. Give yourself plenty of time to cover all the core topics – we would recommend 2-3 months depending on how intensive your revision is likely to be.
The majority 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 have been changes to the 2021 interview structure. The interview is now virtual and will be undertaken via a single panel for 30 minutes. The types of questions asked are expected to be similar to previous years, with the exception of the presentation station which is no longer taking place. The portfolio station will also no longer occur during the interview, with portfolio evidence instead being uploaded online.
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 practise answering them for the core topics over and over again. Aim to convey the key points to the simple questions in a clear and concise way. Your goal is to get through them quickly and get onto the harder questions where you can demonstrate your knowledge.
You should aim to get your clinical knowledge up to scratch early on in your revision period and then focus on how you deliver you answers. The best way to do this is in small groups of 1 or 2 other candidates.
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 which are too high level for the interview and it can be quite demoralising, particularly if the interview is not far off!
The OSCE is divided into 2 sections (previously 3) and you should prepare for each one separately:
Call the Boss
The best way to prepare for this station is to find a consultant and ask them to give you some mock scenarios to call them about. They will be very used to receiving phone calls from registrars and their feedback on how you come across can be invaluable. There are only a limited number of plastic surgery emergencies so it’s possible to prepare for all of them.
Make sure you are clear on exactly how the marks are allocated in this station and aim to tick every box.
Again there are only a limited number of core procedures that you are likely to be asked to consent for. Try to think of all the procedures that you have seen registrars perform and prepare your consents for them.
Like with the call the boss station you need to be clear on how the marks are allocated. Going through the potential risks/complications is only one part of the mark scheme so make sure you split your time evenly.
Keeping to time can be difficult in this station, particularly with some of the more complicated procedures like breast reduction. You should practice your consents 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.
Presentation (Removed from 2021 interview)
This is one of the hardest stations to prepare for as there are a large number of potential topics you could be asked to talk about. You should keep up to date on what is happening in plastic surgery by reading the BAPRAS website. Healthcare podcasts and news websites can also give you an understanding of the key NHS topics that year.
Once you’ve done your own reading you should aim to give as many practice presentations as possible, on a wide range of topics. Each time you present, ask the person you are practising with to give you feedback. You will find that with time your presentation style becomes more refined and you will start bringing in points/evidence from a variety of other topics to help you argue your case.
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. We would recommend writing down all your examples and then practise answering questions about audit/leadership/management etc. in small groups.
You should be 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 onto the other questions and collect more points.
Portfolio (Removed from 2021 interview)
It is important you know your portfolio from back to front and can quickly find any bit of evidence they ask for. Prepare your portfolio early on and ensure you have evidence to back up all your achievements.
Get a number of different people to look through and give you feedback on your portfolio. You should aim to lay it out based on the mark scheme as this will make it easier for your interviewers to go through it.
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
- Key Notes on Plastic Surgery – You don’t need to know this cover to cover, just focus on the key topics that come up at interview. The first chapter on core principals 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 of this from the BMA library.
- Essentials of Plastic Surgery – The breast and facial reconstruction chapters explain the principals 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 principals 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 portfolio.
- BAPRAS News & Views – This is a good source of potential topics for the presentation station.