How to Prepare for SFP Interviews: Tips and Strategies

SFP Application Specialists


Securing a spot in the Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP) is an ambitious goal, and the interview stage is the final hurdle. The SFP interviews usually follow a format similar to that of the Academic Foundation Programme (AFP), encompassing multiple question types. This structure aims to evaluate a range of abilities in a brief period, including clinical acumen, academic understanding, and team skills. This guide provides targeted preparation tips to help you excel in your SFP interviews.

Understand the Interview Structure

The structure of SFP interviews generally parallels the AFP interviews, involving a blend of academic and clinical components. Academic components scrutinise your understanding of research and its applications. Clinical stations, on the other hand, seek to gauge your proficiency in patient care. Typically, the academic component may include queries about your motivations, interests, and experiences in medical research, as well as specific skills and qualities you possess that make you an ideal candidate. You could also be tasked with appraising an academic paper or abstract, making your familiarity with medical research language and statistical concepts invaluable.

Given the broad scope of questions, adopting a logical structure in your responses can improve coherence and impact. For instance, the PICO (Patient, Intervention, Comparison, Outcome) model is frequently employed in answering research-focused questions. Likewise, the ABCDE (Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure) approach is a reliable template for addressing clinical scenarios. Knowing these structures beforehand enables you to maintain clarity and organisation in your answers, ensuring that you address each question comprehensively.

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Prepare for the Academic Component

A challenging yet critical part of the SFP interview are the academic questions, where you may be asked to critically assess research papers or discuss your understanding of research methodology and statistics. Before the interview, it’s advisable to familiarise yourself with standard research terminology and statistical tests. A highly recommended preparatory resource for this is “Users’ Guides to the Medical Literature” by Guyatt et al., which covers everything you need to know for a successful interview experience.

It’s also beneficial to hold mock interviews focusing on research appraisal. Engage with your peers to discuss your evaluations of various papers or abstracts. This practice not only hones your ability to articulate complex ideas but also exposes you to different viewpoints, enriching your understanding of the subject matter.

Your ability to effectively critique research literature could substantially impact the success of your application.

Hone Your Clinical Skills

The clinical component is not merely a test of your medical knowledge; it’s a comprehensive evaluation of your practical skills, situational judgement, and ability to function within a medical team. To ensure clinical safety, you’ll be presented with patient scenarios of varying degrees of urgency. Here, the ABCDE (Airway, Breathing, Circulation, Disability, Exposure) approach is indispensable. It not only provides a structured framework for emergency care but also serves as a touchstone that interviewers use to assess your clinical competence.

Teamwork is equally pivotal. Make sure to highlight your capacity for effective collaboration with various healthcare personnel, such as nurses and senior doctors. Recognize the resources available to you in the clinical setting and how best to use them. This could be as straightforward as knowing when to summon clinical outreach teams or specialised consultants for patients who need them.

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Personalise Your Responses

One of the unique aspects of SFP interviews is the importance placed on individual experiences and attributes. Both academic and clinical components may feature questions that require you to delve into your personal journey. Here, you have a golden opportunity to distinguish yourself from other candidates. Reacquaint yourself with your CV and make a list of your most compelling experiences and achievements, especially those aligning with the General Medical Council’s Good Medical Practice guidance and the criteria SFP seeks.

Be sure to craft your answers in a way that emphasises your unique contributions to past experiences. Whether it’s a research project, a challenging clinical scenario, or a teaching opportunity, aim to use phrases like “I spearheaded,” “I initiated,” or “I led the team to accomplish”, which can be far more impactful than generic statements like “we did.” Personalising your responses in this way does more than tick boxes—it forms a compelling narrative about who you are as a professional and what you will bring to the SFP.

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