Most Common SFP Questions & Answers

SFP Application Specialists

SFP interview preparation requires a great deal of preparation, focused on clinical, academic and personal domains. This article focuses on some of the most common questions.

You can find a range of tips and tutorials, as well as dedicated interview questions, in our SFP Question Bank & Online Course.

Academic Questions

Considering the academic path you've chosen within the Speciality Foundation Programme, which of the three focus areas — Research, Education and Teaching, or Leadership and Management — holds the most interest for you? Justify your preference and outline how this focus aligns with your long-term career goals in medicine.

Leadership and Management are perhaps the areas that stand out the absolute most to me from the Specialised Foundation Programme – I firmly hold that these competencies are often underestimated in their contribution to effective healthcare delivery.

My interest in leadership was piqued during my role as team lead in a student project aimed at improving the way in which medical students interact as part of the broader multidisciplinary team. The experience exposed me to the complexities of healthcare management and the significance of effective leadership for achieving operational efficiency.

Long-term, I aim to assume managerial roles in healthcare organisations where I can contribute to policy formulation and strategic planning, in addition to maintaining my clinical practice. By choosing the Leadership and Management track, I would gain the skills to lead teams, manage healthcare services, and understand the intricacies of healthcare policy. This programme will serve as a solid foundation for me, refining my capabilities in administrative tasks, team management, and decision-making processes, all while complementing my clinical skills.

How do you intend to balance clinical responsibilities with academic commitments in the SFP?

In my view, the most crucial skills or qualities required for success in a Specialised Foundation Programme (SFP) are clinical acumen, teamwork, and adaptability. Clinical acumen is fundamental for making accurate diagnoses and for managing patients effectively. Throughout medical school, I have cultivated this skill by seeking diverse clinical experiences, such as my elective in cardiology. Here, I had the opportunity to interpret complex ECGs under expert supervision, which deepened my understanding of cardiovascular diseases.

Teamwork is equally indispensable. As healthcare is delivered by multi-disciplinary teams, the ability to collaborate is vital. During my years in medical school, I actively engaged in group projects and attended multi-departmental meetings, which provided practical training in teamwork and communication.

Finally, adaptability is essential due to the unpredictable and diverse nature of medical scenarios one encounters in specialty training. I’ve found that emergency medicine rotations have been particularly useful for developing this skill, as they require swift and sound decision-making in high-pressure situations.

In what ways have you demonstrated your capability for independent learning and how do you think this will benefit you in the SFP?

Throughout my medical education, independent learning has been a cornerstone of my approach to both academic and clinical excellence. For instance, during my cardiology rotation, I independently researched the latest advancements in interventional cardiology techniques to enhance my understanding.

This not only improved my clinical knowledge but also led to the development of a departmental presentation. Being proactive in seeking knowledge enables me to adapt to the evolving nature of medicine. In the Specialised Foundation Program (SFP), the dual responsibility of clinical care and academic contribution requires a high degree of self-directed learning. The skills I’ve developed will help me integrate cutting-edge research into clinical practice, enhancing patient care and contributing to my chosen field of study.

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Academic (continued)

How do you plan to incorporate lifelong learning into your medical career?

Lifelong learning is an indispensable part of a medical career, given the rapidly evolving nature of science and healthcare. I plan to incorporate lifelong learning by consistently participating in Continuous Professional Development (CPD) activities, attending conferences, and pursuing further academic qualifications. I also intend to remain abreast of current research and regularly review guidelines to ensure that my practice remains evidence-based.

Engaging in academic activities, like journal clubs and multidisciplinary team meetings, will serve as platforms for learning and keeping my knowledge current. This holistic approach will not only enrich my own practice but will also enhance the quality of care that I can offer to patients.

Discuss your involvement in medical publications. How did you contribute and what did you learn from the experience?

I was involved in the research and writing of a paper exploring the neurobiological underpinnings of chronic pain, published in a peer-reviewed journal. My responsibilities included literature review, data analysis, and manuscript preparation.

The multidisciplinary nature of the work required me to liaise with experts in neurology, psychology, and pharmacology, enabling me to appreciate the value of cross-specialty collaboration.

This experience enhanced my skills in academic writing, critical analysis, and teamwork. Importantly, it educated me on the peer-review process, an essential element in academic medicine, enhancing both the rigour and ethical standards of my future work.

What steps have you taken to continuously improve your soft skills, such as communication, empathy, or teamwork?

Continuous improvement of soft skills is crucial, both for personal growth and professional development. To enhance my communication skills, I enrolled in public speaking courses and regularly attend webinars. For improving empathy, I volunteer at community centres and participate in role-playing exercises designed to enhance emotional intelligence. I’ve also joined team-building workshops to bolster my collaborative abilities.

These deliberate efforts have not only made me more proficient in these areas but have also broadened my understanding of their importance in real-world situations, irrespective of the professional setting.

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Clinical Questions

You are an on-call junior doctor. The nurse informs you that an 80-year-old patient with advanced dementia has developed a severe case of pneumonia. The family insists on aggressive treatment, including intubation, while the patient has a DNACPR order in their medical record. The patient lacks the capacity to make medical decisions. How would you approach the situation, taking into account the DNACPR and the family's wishes?

In this ethically complex situation, my primary responsibility is to act in the best interests of the patient, adhering to the DNACPR order unless there’s a compelling clinical reason to revise it. I would begin by asking for an SBAR handover and the latest observations to assess the patient’s clinical status. DNACPR orders should not preclude other forms of treatment, including antibiotics and oxygen therapy for pneumonia. I would involve the senior medical team and consider seeking legal advice. Meanwhile, I would have an open, empathetic dialogue with the family to explore their concerns and wishes, clearly explaining the DNACPR’s implications and why aggressive treatment may not be in line with established patient-centred care plans for someone in the patient’s condition. The family’s wishes, while important, cannot override what is medically appropriate and ethically sound. If a consensus can’t be reached, further ethical and legal avenues may need to be pursued. Throughout this process, I’d ensure ongoing monitoring of the patient’s condition.

You are an FY in the ED. A 25-year-old patient presents with facial swelling, wheezing, and difficulty breathing, 10 minutes after eating a restaurant meal containing peanuts. The patient appears anxious and is hypotensive.

My immediate approach would align with the ABCDE-HSGD framework and NICE guidelines. First, focusing on ‘Airway’, I would assess the patient’s ability to maintain their airway while calling for senior help. During ‘Breathing’, I would administer intramuscular adrenaline 1:1000 (0.5 ml) in the anterolateral aspect of the thigh, in accordance with NICE guidelines. I’d also provide high-flow oxygen to maintain SpO2 levels above 94%.

Under ‘Circulation’, I’d initiate IV fluid resuscitation with a crystalloid solution to counteract hypotension. For ‘Disability’, I would continuously monitor the patient’s consciousness level. ‘Exposure’ would entail checking for other signs of allergic reaction.

Following that, under ‘History’, I’d obtain more details about the incident and potential allergens involved. Under ‘Sample’, I would order blood tests to assess the severity of the allergic reaction and for baselines. Finally, for ‘Glucose’ and ‘Documentation’, I’d check blood glucose levels and thoroughly document the situation, interventions, and patient response.

You are an FY. A teenager needs urgent surgery for a life-threatening condition. Her parents are unavailable and she refuses the surgery, stating she’s afraid. How would you handle this?

The dilemma lies in balancing her autonomy with her best medical interests. I would first aim to understand the depth and basis of her fears through empathetic communication, possibly involving a psychologist if available quickly.

I’d make every effort to reach her parents or legal guardians for consent, while also consulting with the surgical and ethical teams. If the teenager is deemed not competent to fully understand the implications of her decision, the situation may warrant a decision overriding her refusal to ensure her well-being.

Here in the UK, the concept of “Gillick competence” would be taken into account, assessing if the teenager has sufficient maturity to fully comprehend her medical situation. All steps taken would be meticulously documented, and where possible, the ethical and legal departments would be consulted to validate the approach. 


I would ensure that I involved senior clinical staff from the outset, as this is a complex issue that will require input from consultants.

You realise you've administered the wrong medication to a patient but the error has not resulted in any harm. Would you disclose this to the patient?

If I realise I’ve administered the wrong medication to a patient, but no harm has occurred, the ethical considerations involve truth-telling, accountability, and patient autonomy. First and foremost, I would immediately consult with a senior colleague or pharmacist to ascertain the risk of harm and any necessary corrective action.

Once any immediate clinical risks have been mitigated, I would inform the patient of the error, adhering to the ethical principle of honesty in patient care. This is not merely to clear my conscience but also to uphold the patient’s right to be fully informed about their care, even if the mistake had no adverse effects.

A full disclosure can also help maintain trust between medical practitioners and patients. Additionally, I would document the error and report it through the appropriate hospital systems to ensure future preventative measures.

While acknowledging one’s mistakes can be difficult, it is ethically and professionally required to maintain the integrity of patient care and to promote a culture of continuous improvement in healthcare settings.

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