How to prepare for your Core Surgical Interview

Confused about how to prepare for your core surgical interview in January? John Jeffery, Orthopaedic Registrar and founder of, takes us through his top tips to give you the best chance of success.

The Basics:

  • Interview dates: 14th-25thJanuary 2019
  • Location: London Events Centre, Russell Square, London

Last year the competition ratio for UK Core Surgical Training jobs was 3.3:1. This means that for every 3.3 applicants, 1 was successfully appointed to a CST post.

In 2019 the CT1 recruitment interviews will be held in London in January over 10 days where between 1100 and 1500 applicants will be interviewed. Those that are successful will get one of 500-600 available CST jobs. How highly you score during your interview will also determine whether you get your first choice job or not.

The interview format is 3 stations (each of 10 minutes) with a few minutes in between each one. These stations are divided into:

  • Clinical – two clinical scenarios to test your surgical knowledge.
  • Portfolio – a look through your CV and portfolio of achievements and an opportunity to validate self-assessment questions asked during the application.
  • Management – give a short presentation that you prepare before the day and then a management scenario with questions.


Before your interview:

Preparation is everything! The interview has a format much closer to that of an exam than any ‘traditional’ job interview and therefore those that revise and practice their answers to the common interview questions/scenarios will score the highest on the day. Don’t underestimate how much time this preparation takes. You need to start a good few months in advance and allocate regular time to going through past questions and practicing the delivery of your answers.

Find a buddy to prepare with. This can be someone at work or a friend from outside of work but ideally someone else who is sitting the same interview. Practice quizzing each other on your surgical knowledge and role playing some of the common interview scenarios that come up year after year. For examples of previous interview questions visit


On interview day:

Interview slots over the 10 days are issued on a first come first serve basis and once you have a time slot booked you will be told when to turn up on the day. As with any interview there will be lots of nervous candidates and seemingly intimidating interviewers but the whole process has always been run very well. There is a wait of about an hour while your documents are checked and portfolios are taken off to be looked through. Candidates are then called into groups and taken to different corridors of the conference centre. You start sat outside of a room with station instructions on the door and then work your way round the circuit with bells and whistles to signal when to move onto the next station.


After the interview:

At some point during the application process the list of jobs available in each deanery will be confirmed. This is often not until after the interviews have been held. You rank the jobs in your desired order and then wait for your scores and job allocations to be released. This almost always happens later than the advertised date and so prepare yourself for a stressful wait. After jobs have been allocated, those that have been successful will be contacted by the deanery they have jobs in and you can look forward to life as a Core Surgical Trainee!

For more information on competition ratios, the interview scoring system and for access to an extensive online question bank of previous interview scenarios and questions with top scoring answers head on over to

To read about how to prepare for ST3 Trauma and Orthopaedic Interviews, head here.

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