Preparation is key!
Clinical radiology is a competitive speciality. In 2016 there were 963 applicants for 249 jobs in England, Scotland and Wales giving a competition ratio of 3.87:1.
Recruitment takes place from October each year (when the applications open) until the interviews in February. Offers tend to be released within the first few weeks of March. Applications are made through Oriel (online) and are a simple box ticking exercise, so as long as you've not made a mistake or picked the wrong box most people are longlisted and invited to sit the specialty recruitment assessment.
The SRA (Specialty Recruitment Assessment)
Due to increasing competition the Royal College of Radiologists (RCR) have recently introduced a SRA which is an exam to be sat in the first two weeks of January. In 2016, 286 applicants fell at this hurdle.
The SRA is an approximately 3 hour long multiple choice exam and is identical to the exam that applicants to GP and Psychiatry take. It has two parts to it: a professional dilemmas paper followed by a clinical problem solving paper. The exam is sat at your local Pearson VUE centre. Be sure to book a slot early (as the best slots tend to go first), otherwise you could end up having to travel a long distance to sit this exam.
The tip to success in this exam is to read all the questions, make sure you answer all of them (there are no negative marks) and to practice, practice, practice. A list of good websites to help you pass can be found here and they are worth their weight in gold as they teach you the way to answer the professional questions in order to get the top marks.
The interview day
Over the last few years the interview format has changed, and we believe it will continue to change year on year for the foreseeable future. To give you an idea, in 2016 it was a 40 minute process with 3 x 10 minute interview stations and a preparation station. You had 8 minutes for each station and 2 minutes to move in-between the stations. Each station had two radiology consultants (and occasionally an invigilator). One of the consultants marked you out of 40 whilst the other consultant asked the questions. During the preparation station you were given a report which you needed to critique; you were also given the themes for the subsequent stations.
Station 1 was a commitment to specialty station. Your portfolio should be up to date and easy for you to find the evidence. Make sure your taster week letter is signed and ready to show, otherwise you'll start off on the wrong foot. Evidence they'll want to see includes:
- Conferences and radiology course attended
- Any prizes or international / national presentations
- Any other degrees. Have you come straight from FY2? If not, how will you cope with a "demotion" in your medical career back to being a ST1?
- Any completed post-graduate examinations
They'll likely to ask you about the working radiology department and how you will cope with all the exams. Spend time in your local radiology department - they can spot a mile off someone who's just read about it compared to someone who's actually engaged with the department and who is keen and interested.
Station 2 was about knowledge and skills. Here the preparation sheet from the preparation station comes into play. Make sure that you give positives and negatives and how to improve whatever it is they give you. They will ask about audits and may pick up if it's not radiology related, however a completed audit cycle done well in another speciality is far better than a poorly designed or incomplete radiology audit. Even if the audit wasn't directly related to radiology, think about how it correlates to radiology and how you've learnt from the experience. How will it make you a better radiologist?
They'll want to know about any teaching you've done and love the feedback to prove that you've done it. If you've sped through the questions don't be surprised if they then ask you a clinical or professional question and ask how you would handle the situation.
Station 3 was the ethical scenario question. Here you'll be asked a variety of questions dealing with profession and ethical issues. This isn't about getting the "right" answer but about how you respond to the situation and deal with it. Many interview courses are available and can give you the opportunity to have a mock interview. Grab this opportunity by the hand; it's better to make a mistake or say something silly in the mock than in the real thing. Some courses may remind you in the upcoming weeks of key topics that might appear.
Above all just be yourself and smile. The main point of the interview is for them to appoint a radiology trainee that they can train and want to work with, so relax, breath and smile and good luck.
This article was written by Dr Rachel Hubbard, an ST1 Clinical Radiology Trainee at the Chelsea and Westminster Hospital at time of publishing.