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Messly Top Tips for the SJT 2016/17

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This week we have a special blog for those of you who are in your final year of medical school. With the first SJT date looming, we invited Alice Moon, Careers Consultant at St George’s University of London to share her top tips for preparing for the SJT.



As all final year medical students in the UK will be acutely aware, the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is just around the corner – early December for some, early January for others. Scores determined in the SJT make up 50% of students’ applications to Foundation Programme 2017. It has a huge impact on students’ future experiences.



SJT can appear daunting as it tests students in a very different way than students have been tested for clinical and academic learning. In fact, SJT has been specifically designed not to assess clinical knowledge or skills, or academic ability. Rather, applicants are required to use their judgement about what is effective behaviour in a scenario directly relevant to a Foundation Doctor.



UKFPO say the SJT cannot be revised for (but can be prepared for). The creators of the SJT say it has been designed to eliminate any possible impacts of coaching.



Fear not. Solid preparation will serve you well. Working with the recommended materials, you can gain insight into what the questions are asking you, understand the rationale of the answers and what they are based on, and become familiar with the question and answer formats. Making the most of your own experiences in clinical rotations, you can gain an understanding of the reality of professional judgement and decision-making in clinical settings.



Here are five top tips for confidently approaching the SJT:


1) Trust the process



The SJT questions are all based on solid rationale, and have undergone significant research, design, testing and review, including by consultants, clinicians, F1s, and medical students. Both the content and wording have been scrutinised, and designed to eliminate any biases. The process of an SJT has also been researched and shown to be effective, reliable and fair.More details are in the SJT Monograph.



There is much information available on the process of scaling the SJT raw score to a mark out of 50, on the range of applicants’ scores from previous years, and on the accuracy of the marking process. Don’t get hung up on these details. Rest assured the processes are rigorous and robust. Focus your energy on your preparation and performance in the test. Knowing these formulae, facts and processes won’t help increase your score. (If you do want to see more, start with UKFPO SJT FAQs 10, 11 and 25).



2) Answer some practice questions



The UKFPO provides a complete SJT Practice Paper of 70 questions. This can be taken online under timed conditions, if you wish. It can also be printed and taken on paper, giving you valuable opportunity to familiarise yourself with answering questions on the machine-markable paper answer sheet which will be used in the test.



All answers are then provided, plus the rationale behind them. This is key. Take time to understand this, plus re-read and reflect on every word of the question. All the information required is written into the question. You will not need to make any assumptions, or require any additional information. If the rationale behind the answers is not clear to you, keep working on it until it is. (See point 1).



The SJT Practice paper is the only preparation materials endorsed by the UKFPO. These questions have undergone testing, piloting and review, and will most accurately reflect questions in the SJT.



Many books on SJT and commercial preparation materials are available. If you wish, use these to support your preparation. Remember that these questions will not have undergone the rigorous testing of the UKFPO practice questions. Consider them an opportunity to deepen your own judgement through practice and reflection, rather than to ‘learn’ the correct answers.



3) Become familiar with the Professional Attributes and the GMC’s Good medical Practice



These are the rationale on which the questions and answers have been formulated. Following a thorough analysis for the SJT of the role of an F1 Doctor, the five Professional Attributes required were defined as: Commitment to Professionalism, Coping with Pressure, Effective Communication, Patient Focus, and Working Effectively as a Team. These are explored in more detail in Appendix A of the SJT monograph. These attributes are underpinned by the GMC’s Good Medical Practice, which gives guidance on issues including consent, confidentiality, raising concerns and child protection. The GMC website has helpful scenarios to explore what application of these might look like in practice.



4) Gain all insight you can from your clinical rotations



Your experiences on rotation can provide deeper insight into the reality of local processes, judgements, and decision-making in practice. Learn from your colleagues. How have F1s acted in particular situations? Why this way? When do they ask for guidance from senior colleagues? What is the process for raising concerns in your Trust? Ask you colleagues to explain their rationale behind decisions you aren’t clear on. If they are willing, ask for their insights on any SJT questions you are still puzzling over.



4.5) Take the SJT Practice Paper (again)



From your preparation and practice, you should be getting a feel for the question format and the rationale of the answers. If not, take this as a cue for more preparation. Re-read and reflect on the GMC guidance and attributes, go through the GMC scenarios, ask F1s, ask colleagues, ask peers.



5) Take your time during the test



SJT is not a test of speed. The vast majority of applicants report that they have enough time, and answer all the questions. As there is no negative marking and marks for ‘near misses’ in the ranking questions, make sure you answer all the questions too.



Take your time to read and re-read every word of the question. Read all the answers before starting to make your choices. Discern the key themes referred to in the question and from the range of answers. What kind of issue is it – ethics? Communication? Patient Focus? Patient Safety? Is there an element requiring urgent action? Identify all the issues arising.



At this stage, having done your preparation, be confident in your judgement, and the answers you give. You have done your best, what more can be asked?



Wishing the best of luck to all sitting the SJT!

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