A helping hand to GPST applicants

Mr Matt Green and Dr Hamed Khan explain how to advise juniors applying for GP specialty training.

Cadidates will assessed on their interaction and contribution during a group discussion on a 'hot topic'
Cadidates will assessed on their interaction and contribution during a group discussion on a 'hot topic'

Overview of the application process
The current recruitment process for selecting GP specialty training (GPST) candidates allows for a complete assessment of their suitability to general practice.

The four stages of the GPST application process are outlined below with helpful advice to pass on to applicants.

Stage one
This is an online application that checks whether an individual is eligible for GP training.

The main point to consider is that the candidate carefully reviews the eligibility criteria. They should also adhere to the various deadline dates.

Stage two
Stage two involves an examination which is conducted under invigilated conditions. The exam consists of two multiple choice papers:

Paper one: Clinical problem solving
This tests the applicants' ability to apply clinical knowledge to various scenarios.

It is designed to be appropriate to the knowledge-base of a FY2. The full specification for this paper can be viewed on the GP recruitment websites.

Paper two: Professional dilemma
This tests the candidates' professional attributes and whether they are able to deal with various clinical and non-clinical scenarios.

Candidates may not be familiar with these professional dilemma questions where different answer combinations can score marks/partial marks.

Advise candidates to revise GMC guidance to help them with this paper. They should focus on: patient safety; confidentiality; child protection issues; working with patients; guidance on accepting gifts from patients; and arranging cover.

Candidates with the highest scores will be invited to attend stage three at their first choice deanery or, depending on availability, they could be allocated to an assessment at their second or third choice deanery.

Stage three
There are three parts, held over a day, to stage three:

Patient simulation exercise
This is a role-playing exercise using actors as patients. Scenarios include: explaining a condition to a patient; breaking bad news; dealing with a complaint; and dealing with a difficult or demanding patient.

Candidates may be unfamiliar with effective consultation skills within general practice. When advising applicants, describe the skills that work for you during consultations rather than focusing on theory.

A 'hidden agenda' item will only be revealed after probing - something most applicants will not have experienced before.

Group discussion
This usually lasts for 20 minutes, with a five-minute preparation time. Candidates will be asked to discuss a particular topic and will be assessed on their contribution.

Ensure candidates are clear on the various 'hot topics' within primary care including (but not be limited to): a day in the life of a GP; audit; NICE; out-of-hours; PCTs; polyclinics; and QOF.

It is important to advise candidates that they will be assessed primarily on how they interact with their group.

Assessors want to see candidates working well in a team by being considerate during discussions, but also assertive when putting across their views.

The clarity of their ideas will also be important, as will their ability to help keep the group organised, and the discussion focused on the objectives set by the examiners.

Written prioritisation task
This task requires candidates to review a list of tasks, prioritise them into order of urgency and then justify their prioritisation.

Advise candidates to practise questions to ensure they can complete the task in the time available (usually 25 minutes).

Stage four
Stage four is the allocation and acceptance of places.

If candidates are not offered a place at their first choice deanery, they may be offered a job at another deanery, depending on scores and availability of places.

  • Mr Green is managing director of Developmedica and Dr Khan is a GP ST2 in Croydon, Surrey
Learning points

GP specialty training
1. Ensure candidates understand what attributes are being assessed at each stage.

2. Candidates should be familiar with GMC guidance relating to patient interaction.

3. An understanding of the basics of clear and effective communication is essential.

4. The key to success is to review example questions online or practise the role play and discussion exercises with fellow applicants.


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