The following article is written by Dr. Jehanli who is an ST1 in Radiology in Liverpool.
She gained 78/80 overall when applying for Radiology in 2020.
She received 8/10 points in her portfolio section, marks were lost only as she did not have an extra degree.

Taking an F3 year can provide you with opportunities to work on your portfolio so that you are ready for applying to the specialty of your choice. The process of preparing your portfolio can sometimes feel daunting, but putting effort into creating the perfect portfolio can really pay off.

Tip one: create a checklist

Some colleges (e.g.) provide checklists which tell you exactly what you need to provide evidence of to score a certain amount of points. Printing/downloading this and creating a checklist is a great way to clarify what you’ve achieved so far, and what you need to work on to perfect your portfolio.

If the college of your choice is less forthcoming with application scoring, look to CT1/ST1 trainees to provide you a list of what they were marked on, or check the Person Specification documents which are available to download on the NHS careers website. There are plenty of resources out there to help guide you to work out how what you need to create the perfect portfolio for the specialty of your choice.

Your checklist should look something like this:

Scoring checklist for IMT PortfolioAchieved+ Evidence collectedAim to achieveHow will I achieve this?
Undergrad degreexX  
Postgrad degree    
Publication  xFinish draft of case report (by next monty
Presentation at a conferencex  (E-mail Joe.bloggs again)
2-day teaching course  XSign up to teaching course (this year)

Use this a a starting point to help you create a plan to maximise your portfolio points.

Tip two: create a timeline to achieve your goals.

Applications normally open in October/November, so

Ideally you want all your portfolio points and evidence sorted before the point in your application in which you have to start collecting evidence or self-assessing your portfolio. In the case of IMT this usually means having your portfolio ready by October/November, while with other specialties you can have up till the interview day (February/March) before your evidence has to be compiled and declared. The sooner you find out what your deadline is for your specialty, the more time you have to create a timetable to help you collate the evidence you need.

Bear in mind, if you’re undertaking an F3 year which begins in August and your planning to submit apply for specialty training that same year, you may only have a couple of months in your year out to work on collecting evidence, so consider if you feel you need to start prepping your portfolio much sooner, or whether you want to take an “F4” year to give yourself even more time to focus on getting your publications or QI projects completed in time.

Setting achievable goals will make sure you don’t leave things till the last minute. Don’t lose out on points because you emailed your supervisor too late in the day to receive a letter confirming your involvement in a project/taster week. Start early, and prioritise things that you want to achieve but will take time ie getting a publication (it can take several months to get published sometimes!)

Step three: improve your points to effort ratio.

When doctors begin applying for the specialty of their choice, their biggest concern is often whether not having postgraduate degrees or publications will significantly impact their chances of getting the training pathway of their choice.

If this is you, don’t feel disappointed in yourself for not having intercalated or published anything!

There are ways to maximise your points without spending £3000 on a degree!

The trick is to do your homework and find out how you can achieve maximum marks for as little effort as possible. If you take the IMT application for example, you are awarded 2 points for receiving 2-days worth of training in teaching methods. Often people achieve this by spending anything from £450 on expensive teaching courses (which of course may be beneficial in many other ways but can be very costly to a junior doctor with little study budget to use!)

However, if you were to get involved in a free national teaching courses such as the Asked to See Patient (ATSP) teaching program, and get those 2 points without tapping into your study budget!

If you plan ahead (as per STEP 2), and keep an eye out online or visa emails for opportunities like the ATSP programme, you can identify easy ways to maximise your points.

Step four: put together your portfolio

If online portfolios remain the status quo (given the current climate this may be a likely scenario), then you should put together a folder on your computer which contains your portfolio evidence in order. Start collecting your evidence early. If you were a representative on the committee at medical school, you should have collected your certificate way before the portfolio deadline. Don’t leave it so late that you miss the deadline for submitting evidence.

If in the future paper portfolios return, then presentation is key. You want a portfolio that is easy to navigate, and directs the examiners to the point-scoring parts of your folder. Invest in good quality folders, pockets and paper. And don’t overfill your portfolio – if its too thick to navigate through and find your important evidence then you may miss out on points.

**COVID-19 advice: This year has shown us that anything goes when it comes to the application processes for specialty training. Don’t just assume that because one year they asked for X requirement, that they will ask for this again. We can’t just rely on interviews to get us through anymore!***

Article written by Dr. Lara Jehanli 15/02/2021

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