Your academic performance in medical school is worth less than your performance in this one aptitude test alone. Yet, many of your colleagues will say, “you can’t prepare for it”. Sure, it’s not like you can memorise facts in bulks and apply them clinically like in medical exams, but don’t throw in the towel just yet.There are two main methods to prepare for the SJT; practice questions and day courses. The latter can set you back anywhere between £60 to £100 for a day.
Practice questions come in two forms: a practice test endorsed by the Foundation Programme, or third-party practice questions from various publishers. Due to the somewhat subjective nature of this test, the Foundation Programme cannot endorse third-party practice content, however, the logic behind each question and its answers must stand up to a lot of scrutiny. The tradeoff of using third-party questions is that you get a lot more practice, and a lot more explanations for the reasoning behind each answer. But its not easy to decide which third-party content is trustworthy, unless of course, that third-party happens to be the Oxford University Press (OUP).
Whilst there are other third-party publishers that have valuable practice material for the SJTs, I’ve chosen to use OUP’s book for this checklist as it can be used directly from Synap, allowing you to easily keep track of progress and make sure you haven’t missed significant areas of competencies. In the interest of simplicity, I’ve ordered my practice plan into a few steps:
1) Getting your feet wet
If you’ve decided to start preparing for the Situational Judgement Test five minutes ago, and this is the first thing you’ve come across, I recommend that you get your feet wet and practice 5-10 questions straight away, just to get an idea of what to expect. Heck, here you go – take these 10 sample questions and come back here with some well needed insight. You’ll notice two types of questions: ranked items and multiple-choice answers (best 3 out of X). The crucial distinction between the two is that for ranked questions, only the first answer has to be correct, the rest can be varying degrees of incorrect. However, in questions where you have to select the best 3, all 3 must be correct, and all the remaining must be incorrect to varying amounts. For this step, I discourage using the official practice paper from the Foundation Programme – with only 70 practice questions at your disposal, it’s wiser to save them towards the end of your preparation as a marker of your efforts.
2) Understanding the SJT
The SJT is designed to see how you, after graduation, will deal with difficult, but common, situations on the wards. The questions ask you to place yourself in the shoes of a doctor with a perfect moral compass and a working understanding of medical ethics, law and hospital processes. The last of this includes the knowledge of how to sensibly escalate a situation. This is discussed in great detail over the first 8 chapters in OUP’s SJT assessment package, which you can read directly from Synap. You should also take this opportunity to familiarise yourself with the test instructions and scoring system.
3) Developing your ground knowledge
Don’t fall into the trap that the SJT is purely scored upon aptitude; there are plenty of questions that base their reasoning behind the GMC’s Good Medical Practice. There are four domains in this guidance:
- Knowledge, skills and performance
- Safety and quality
- Communication, partnership and teamwork
- Maintaining Trust
You can get through the above four domains is roughly 1-1.5 hours depending on how fast you read, and how much of it you already understand. After that, you can put it in practice by running through these interactive cases, provided by the GMC:
4) Practice, practice, practice
Using your choice of third-party practice questions, go through the 5 areas of competencies tested in the SJT:
- Commitment to professionalism
- Coping with pressure
- Effective communication
- Patient focus
- Working effectively as part of a team
If you’re using Synap, always select ‘practice’ mode for the SJT quizzes (apart from chapter 14) as shown below – this allows you to get instant feedback after each question which is essential as you want to compare and contrast your reasoning with what’s provided. Waiting until the end of a practice test to see your feedback will mean that you forget much of why you selected each answer. On top of this, you can skip questions and end a session at any point with ‘practice’ mode.
Considering how many questions there are to get through, you will find yourself losing focus after only 20-30 minutes of practice. Not only that, you may end up going through the various chapters randomly to keep things interesting. That is why we provide a handy progress chart on Synap so you can see how much you have covered from each area, and and how well you have performed in it.
5) Test yourself
You should aim to do this roughly a week before your exam date (early December or early January). Start by taking the ‘Test’ quiz on OUP’s SJT book through Synap (Chapter 14, 60 questions) – do this in one go and set yourself a maximum of 120 minutes maximum. Aim to complete this in one sitting to mimic exam conditions. If you’re not happy with your scores, you can either review step 3 or consider booking onto a practice course. Otherwise, take yourself over to the Foundation Programme practice test (70 questions), timed for 140 minutes, and see if you’re in good standing for the real thing.
Good luck! I, too, will be taking this very test in January 2017.