Junior doctor Applying for training

Last updated:

Top tips for your specialty application

No matter what your path, applying to the next stage of your training is an important period.

We've pulled together tips and advice to help you with your specialty training application.

  • Quick checklist

    Get started with our quick checklist:

    • Specialty explorer is a tool for BMA members that supports your research into medical specialties and provides you with a personalised report.
    • Visit NHS Medical Careers website and Oriel for overall guidelines on the 2017 recruitment process and register as soon as possible for Oriel, the online application portal for specialty posts.
    • Check the dates for application - late applications will not be accepted! Don't put it off until the last minute.
    • Plan your application timetable for interviews and offers, so you know what to expect and when over the six months. See all the key dates for specialty applications.
    • Decide first choice, 2nd choice, 3rd choice etc. - be prepared for what you may get!
    • Understand the route - is it broad based, core, run through?
    • Think about competency examples you could use, these will come in handy.
    • Update your portfolio and CV - you'll need to provide hard copies at interview.
    • Build a case for commitment to specialty - you'll need to prove this to get the specialty you want.
    • Consider alternatives to taking up a specialty training post next year - maybe you want to take a year out or try a different career before continuing with your medical career.
  • Be prepared

    Check the application process

    Check out the application mechanisms and deadlines for the specialties you are interested in.

    If you are interested in Academic Clinical Fellowships, be aware that the deadline for applications is a month earlier than specialty and GP applications.

    See our guide to the new Oriel system

    Investigate the support available

    Investigate the support available from your Postgraduate Medical Education Centre and from your Deanery in relation to specialty applications. Part of the role of your Educational Supervisor is to assist you in thinking about your career options, they may be very useful in putting you in touch with representatives from various specialties.

    In addition, you may be able to attend workshops or webinars on the Specialty application process. In some cases, one-to-one appointments with career consultants may be available - ask your Educational Supervisor or Postgraduate Medical Education Coordinator.

    Understand the required personal qualities

    Understand the required personal qualities stated in the specialty Person Specifications on the HEE website.

    Look for examples of these qualities being demonstrated by doctors around you and opportunities to develop and demonstrate these qualities yourself, especially leadership, management and teamwork.

    Read the GMC Good Practice guidelines

  • Explore your options

    A range of specialties

    Explore the range of different specialties available - not just the ones you are exposed to through rotations - so that you can demonstrate that you are taking your specialty choice seriously through self-directed reading, observation and interaction with specialty doctors and consultants.

    Compare different specialties to identify similarities and differences and to equip you for multi-disciplinary working.

    Identify your preferences

    Think about what is going to be important to you in your future medical career.

    What do you enjoy? What stresses you? What environments suit you? Who do you like to work with?

    Try to link these with distinguishing characteristics of the different specialties. 

    Interested in audit, research or teaching?

    Make sure you have experience of the whole audit cycle including presentation of results - a small audit that leads to actual changes in practice can be more useful than a large audit that you only see part of.

    Try to get your name on something that is published, a case report, a letter or a conference abstract.

    Get as much and as varied experience in teaching as you can - different topics, different methods, different audiences and different group sizes.

    Don't be afraid to approach people who are not your immediate supervisors to enquire about opportunities - and do it early. Then record it all to show what you have achieved.

  • Get interview ready

    Mock interview experience

    Get mock interview experience from consultants and other colleagues.

    You can find lists of sample questions for ST1/CT1 interviews online. Try to steer clear of prepared, standardised or scripted answers.

    Practise weaving in appropriate anecdotes and thinking on your feet.

    Practise describing your achievements

    Practise describing your achievements and the examples you will use to demonstrate your skills and personal qualities.

    Not all of your examples need to be from your chosen specialty or even from your clinical experience. However, choose examples that an assessor could easily connect to the typical demands of the specialty.

    For example, if you are trying to demonstrate your communication skills, make sure your example addresses the specific communication challenges of that specialty.

    Remember to describe what you did, how you did it, why you did it, what you learnt and how you followed it up.

    Discuss clinical and ethical scenarios

    Discuss clinical and ethical scenarios with your peers and seniors. You may want to organise this as a regular event in your peer group.

    This is good practice for the situational judgement exercises you are likely to encounter in the selection process and it will help you more quickly to spot the key issues and to evaluate alternative responses.

    It can also be very instructive to ask more senior doctors to recount actual situations in which they have had to grapple with issues of professionalism, probity and good clinical practice. This will help you to demonstrate that your awareness of these topics is grounded in more than just theoretical knowledge.

    Danny Lim's book How to Get A Specialty Training Post has lots of sample scenarios and interview questions is available as an e-book from the BMA library.

    Make the most of the BMA library's online resources

  • Further information

    Will my immigration status affect my specialty training application?

    If you are subject to UK immigration rules then it is essential you find out if you may be affected on your path through specialty training, before making any decisions regarding your application.

    Whatever visa you are on, make sure you have all the facts about your eligibility to continue training in the UK by checking our latest UK Immigration updates for information. Depending on where you live and train, visa rules are different so it's important to stay up to date on any changes that may affect you.

    The BMA is authorised to give our members basic immigration advice.

    If you have an immigration or visa query, please send an email to the immigration advice service or call 020 7383 6133.

    You can also subscribe to our visa alert service.


    Where can I go for further information?

    You can get details information about the process by downloading the Applicant Handbook 2015 or, for GP trainees, get information from the National Recruitment office.

    Detailed information is also available from the relevant Royal College, LETB or deanery.

    Each of these will have further guidance to help you through the application process, including recruitment timetables, interview dates, interview format, required documentation and person specifications.

    You will also find the programme descriptors and be able to view the competition ratios for each specialty.