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By Dr Danielle Sutherland

How I scored 90% on the SJT

5 min
Dr Danielle Sutherland

What is the SJT?

The SJT can often seem shrouded in mystery, and as such, causes final year medical students a lot of anxiety. It determines 50% of the score that will decide where you get your first job and has the same weighting as your entire medical degree – so it’s crucial you know how to prepare.

My main tips to do well at the SJT are to pace yourself, make the most of the official resources offered and to trust your gut, but read on for some more detail on how to succeed.

The structure of the SJT

The exam is made up of three sections that are designed to test the key attributes in the person specification from the foundation programme curriculum. These tests are presented as a series of clinical scenarios.

The three sections include:

  • Rating - A scenario will be presented to you along with a series of responses. You must then decide how appropriate or important you think they are.
  • Multiple choice questions - You will be given eight possible responses to the scenario. You must then pick the three options that form the most appropriate way to address the scenario.
  • Ranking - This is possibly the most straightforward section. You are given five responses to a scenario to rank from best to worst.

The scenarios tackle a variety of dilemmas and situations you may encounter in the workplace – from dealing with unhappy patients to addressing mistakes and prioritising tasks.

Preparing for the SJT

Whilst you aren’t meant to be able to revise for the SJT, there are certainly ways you can prepare so you feel confident and able to achieve the best score you can.

Pacing yourself

Don’t start too early! It may be tempting to revise for the SJT in the same way you would for exams, but I found after a few weeks I became burnt out and started scoring worse in the practice questions because I was second guessing myself.

If I could go back, I would start familiarising myself with the format and content around four weeks before and start practicing questions around two weeks before.

Getting started

The best place to start is on the UKFP website. Read about the test structure, question formats and timings. You can also attempt the UKFP Practice Paper on the Pearson Vue website to get comfortable with the software and layout.  

You would be surprised at how many people I know who were tripped up by this and made mistakes on the day that they couldn’t correct. 

Before attempting any practice questions, I recommend reading through the GMC Good Medical Practice Guidelines, as this is what the SJT questions and answer rationales are based on. They even have a series of interactive scenarios called Good Medical Practice in Action which you can use to practice putting the guidance into a clinical context.  

This will help you to become familiar with the scenarios you are likely to be asked about. While the SJT has a very large question bank and everyone’s exam will be different, there are certain scenarios and themes that come up repeatedly.

Practice questions

Once you’ve got to grips with the test format and familiarised yourself with Good Medical Practice, it’s a good time to look at practice questions.

I started by using online question banks, but found their questions and rationales weren’t the same as the official practice papers, which quickly became confusing.

Use the practice papers provided on the official website as your primary source of revision, as this will avoid confusion and give you a better insight into what the actual exam will be like. Time yourself from the beginning, as many people struggle with the fast-paced nature of the test.

Alongside the practice papers, I made a spreadsheet to keep track of my progress and identify areas I struggled with or the types of questions I was getting wrong.

On the spreadsheet I tracked my score, model answers, question themes, similar questions and the key principles from Good Medical Practice that the questions were based on. This helped me to recognise patterns in the types of questions that came up and understand the rationale behind the correct answers.

This meant by the time I sat my SJT I was able to apply this logic to unfamiliar scenarios and new questions.

After completing the papers the first time and making this spreadsheet, I took a break from revision over the weekend before attempting them a second time.

This really helped me to refresh my mind, because as I mentioned previously, it is very easy to get decision fatigue when revising for the SJT. Repeating the papers solidified the principles I had learnt when making the spreadsheet.

On the day

I decided to sit the exam early in the morning as this is when my brain works best. I chose a test centre slightly further away from my university, so I wouldn’t be sitting the exam in a room full of my colleagues.

When completing the test, I went with my gut rather than spending ages deliberating over the potential rationales. If I spent too long on one question, I found myself spiralling and becoming more confused.

For the same reason, I also decided not to check my answers once I was finished.

Take away messages

My key take always would be to pace yourself, use the official resources offered to you and don’t second guess yourself!

If you’ve gotten to the final year of medicine, chances are you already fit the person specification the SJT is designed to test.

There’s no need to spend lots of money on every resource out there but make the most of the ones provided to you. Remember, this is your chance to show off what a wonderful doctor you will be in less than a years’ time.

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