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By Dr Danielle Sutherland

A four-week guide to preparing for the SJT

5 min
Dr Danielle Sutherland

The Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is a clinical reasoning and aptitude test that determines 50% of the score allocated to final medical students for their Foundation Programme application. Therefore, it’s essential that you know how best to prepare for it.

The SJT is a long exam which requires you to make a lot of ethical and clinical decisions back-to-back. It’s easy to become fatigued, both during the exam and whilst preparing.

With this in mind, I’d recommend leaving it until around four weeks before the exam to start your revision. That gives you plenty of time to familiarise yourself with the structure and content, without getting burnt out by the time the exam rolls around.

In this article, I’m going to cover the preparation I carried out leading up to my SJT that helped me score 44.849/50.

Week 1

UKFP website

The best place to start is at the source, so take a look at the SJT sections on the UKFP website.

Read all the resources about the structure of the exam, the content, the different sections, timings and question styles. Being familiar with what is expected of you will help you to stay calm on the day and allow you to make the most of the practice questions when you come to them.

Timed practice exam

The SJT is a timed exam. You have two hours and 20 minutes to work through 70 scenarios, each of which may have multiple questions attached.

It’s helpful to get an early idea of how the timings feel. There is a timed practice exam on the UKFP website, so once you’ve familiarised yourself with the information on there, I suggest you take this test under exam conditions.

An added benefit of doing this is that you’ll get a feel for the software and layout of the exam on the day. You’d be surprised how many people I know that got tripped up by this and made mistakes, such as exiting a section of the exam and not being able to go back and change their answers.

Week 2

Good Medical Practice guidelines

The SJT scenarios and model answers are based on the General Medical Counsel’s ‘Good Medical Practice’ guidelines. Have a read through this document, and then try working your way through some of their interactive scenarios.

Doing 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.

Question banks

If you are using question banks (such as Passmed or Quesmed) for finals revision, there will usually be a bank of SJT questions that you can access. Using these resources will help you to get an idea of the kind of situations you may encounter on the exam.

I limited myself to no more than 100 a day so that I didn’t become burnt out. I found that if I tried to attempt any more than this, my brain became muddled, and I started to second guess myself.

Week 3

Past papers

Once you’ve got to grips with the test format and familiarised yourself with Good Medical Practice, this is the time to start practicing past papers. There should be a few official papers available on the UKFP website.

While it’s helpful to use other sources, such as the question banks, the official past papers should be your primary revision source. They are the closest thing to the real exam and will give you the best insight into what it will be like on the day.

Make a spreadsheet

Alongside attempting the practice papers, I made myself a spreadsheet to keep track of my progress. This helped me to identify the areas I was struggling with and the questions I was getting wrong repeatedly.

I tracked my score, model answers, the theme of the question, similar questions and the key principles from Good Medical Practice that the questions were based on. Having done so, I was able to recognise patterns in the types of questions that came up and understand the rationale behind the correct answers.

Consequently, when I sat my SJT I was able to apply this logic to unfamiliar scenarios and new questions that came up on the day.

Week 4

Rest and repeat past papers

After completing the past papers once and making a spreadsheet, I gave myself a few days off to recuperate and relax.

Once I was feeling refreshed and had forgotten the model answers, I took the practice papers again under exam conditions. I then inputted my scores into the spreadsheet so I could see what progress I had made.

Overall, it was encouraging to see I had done better, but it also helped me to identify key topics I was struggling with to focus on in the days before the exam.

The day of the exam

I booked my exam for first thing in the morning, as this is when I work best. I’d recommend booking at a time of day where you know your brain will feel most switched on.

I wore some comfy clothes and took a padlock for the locker, as well as a couple of pens to take into the exam, a water bottle and a snack. I had to leave my water bottle outside but took quick breaks during the exam to stay hydrated and ate my snack when I was done.

Personally, I decided not to check my answers. When I tried to do this, I ended up muddled and changing them all. If you do want to check your answers, make sure you leave plenty of time, and do this before you move onto subsequent sections as you won’t be able to go back.

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