Browse all articles
By Kieran Ferris-Bureau

How to rank foundation programmes

3 min
Kieran Ferris-Bureau profile

So, you’ve made it through five years of medical school and you’re starting to rank your foundation programmes. This can be quite a daunting task, given that there can be as many as 400 jobs to rank.

Here, fellow medic Kieran Ferris-Bureau shares some advice on how to approach the task based on his own experience.

Learning more about a rotation

It’s natural to want to find out more about a particular rotation before ranking it, and there are a few ways you can do this.

Firstly, you can review the GMC survey. This is available on the GMC website and outlines the reported experience of previous trainees in a particular specialty.

Secondly, you can try contacting others who have previously been on the specialty, as first-hand experience is often the most valuable.

And thirdly, make the most of your time on placement. Ask junior doctors about their experience with a particular specialty and any advice they have on job selection, as they’ll have recently been through the process.

Knowing how many jobs to rank

It’s incredibly important to make sure you rank enough jobs. The algorithm iterates through each person in the ranking list, ordering scores from highest to lowest to give everyone their top available job.

If you only rank 20 jobs, but your ranking is 100, then the chances are that those 20 jobs will have been taken by the 99 people being allocated before you. The system will then randomly allocate you to another job with none of your preferences considered.

Therefore, a good rule of thumb would be to increase your ranking to at least x1.5. So if your ranking is 100, rank 150. The reason for ranking extra is because there can sometimes be issues with particular jobs, meaning they’re removed or taken by those getting pre-allocated.

But remember, you can never go wrong with ranking all the jobs. It takes more time, but this is at least two years of your life at stake!

Location or speciality

Something to consider is what matters more to you – location or specialty? Are you willing to travel further for a more desirable speciality? Do you have a car, and if not, do public transport links allow for a reasonable commute? Remember that a standard junior doctor contract is 48 hours per week, so excessive commuting time can make a big difference.

It’s also important to remember that just because you don’t get a rotation in a particular specialty, it doesn’t mean you won’t be able to enter it’s training programme. You can always sign up for a taster week during your foundation years to get experience in other areas.

The practicalities of ranking

When it comes to actually ranking jobs, there’s a couple of things you can do to make your life easier. You can download the jobs as a .csv file that can be opened in Excel. This will allow you to view all of the jobs at once and filter by desired area.

After you’ve ranked them, you’ll need to transfer this to Oriel. You can do this by searching the job reference and dragging it across. Remember, you can also select multiple jobs at once by holding the control key. This can help if you have a group of jobs with equal preference weighting (say, a particular location).

How you rank jobs also involves personal preference. My technique involved putting everything into a spreadsheet, adding a column for ‘location score’ and ‘rotation score’, and then allocating each one a number between one and five based on my initial impression.

I then totalled both of these scores and sorted them from highest to lowest so I could easily see which jobs had the best combination of location and rotation. If you want to get technical, you could also add a weighting based on your preference between location and rotation by multiplying the respective score by two.

I hope this has helped to provide a useful starting point for ranking your jobs. It’s a daunting task, but with a bit of time and effort it can be done!

You might be interested in...

Top tips for starting FY1

FY1 can be daunting when you're new to working life. Here, Dr Rachel Khaw shares her top tips - from asking questions to getting organised.

Your outgoings as an FY1 doctor

In this blog, Dr Kiran Morjaria talks us through the additional outgoings that caught him by surprise when working as an FY1 doctor.