ST3 general surgery application and interview process explained 

Applying for an ST3 general surgery training number is a pivotal part of your surgical career. This is where you begin to work your way through speciality training on the road to becoming a consultant. 

Within this article, we have summarised the ST3 general surgery application process and provided useful resources for your ST3 general surgery interview. 

Applying for ST3 general surgery

In our first section, we’ve outlined the application process for ST3 general surgery. There have been several changes to the process for the 2023 and 2024 application window which we have covered in this article.   

How many ST3 general surgery national training vacancies are there per year?  

Based on the HEE competition ratios for 2022, there were 153 general surgery vacancies across all deaneries in the UK. There were 532 applicants in 2022, making the competition ratio for general surgery training 3.48. That means there are roughly 3-4 doctors for every ST3 general surgery post. Of the 66 specialties listed, general surgery applications are more competitive than 47% of other training specialties in the UK. 

We know it can be disappointing if you’re unsuccessful when applying to specialty training.  If you don’t secure a post, there are plenty of opportunities available to prepare you for reapplying the following year. You may want to look for a locum or fixed-term surgery job to gain experience or improve your portfolio. Whether you want a full-time post or part-time shifts, we can support you in finding a placement.  

When do ST3 general surgery applications open and close?  

The ST3 general surgery person specification is a comprehensive guide of the entry criteria, eligibility, and selection criteria that you would need to meet to be considered for ST3 general surgery training. The personal specification is usually updated annually but it remains unchanged for 2024 applications. You can view the latest version of the HEE general surgery ST3 person specification for 2024.  

A top tip for aspiring surgeons is to start looking at the annual person specification as soon as you decide you want to pursue a career in general surgery. This will give you an idea of the essential and desirable selection criteria so that you can start building your portfolio and experience around it. 

How do I apply for general surgery ST3?  

Apply for your ST3 general surgery training number by completing an application form on the NHS Oriel system. General surgery recruitment to programmes in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is managed via a nationally coordinated process hosted by London and Kent, Surrey, and Sussex (HEE London and KSS) Recruitment Office. The application process has changed this year and is now as follows: 

  • Application form via Oriel 
  • Evidence uploads for each domain via templates (portfolio)  
  • Templates countersigned by your educational supervisor 
  • Portfolio reviewed by a pair of consultants  
  • Portfolio score issued  
  • Shortlisting  

What evidence will I need in my ST3 general surgery portfolio? 

A key difference with the ST3 surgery portfolio this year is that a template will be provided during the application process clearly outlining the evidence required for each domain. You will no longer need to upload large volumes of unstructured evidence and the emphasis of scoring the portfolio will be on quality over quantity.  

Listed below are the 7 questions which appear on the 2024 General Surgery ST3 application form

1. By the end of July 2024, or by the completion of Core Training if this is later, how many months will you have spent in total in General Surgery in any post-Foundation job in any country? 

2. By the end of July 2024, or the completion of Core Training, will you have spent at least 4 months in T&O, Plastic Surgery, Neurosurgery, ENT Surgery, Cardiac/Thoracic surgery, A&E, ITU, Paediatric Surgery, Urology, Vascular or OMFS posts since completing your Foundation Programme?   

3. At the time of application, how many appendicectomies (laparoscopic and/or open) have you completed which have been done either STS or STU or P or T? These must be recorded in a validated logbook and each sheet signed by a consultant. 

4. Please submit your 2 best publications, published in any PubMed-indexed journal. To be eligible for this section, publications must have a PubMed ID and be published by the time of application. 

5. Please submit your 2 best presentations. To be eligible for this section, the presentation must have occurred by the time of application. 

6. Please submit your 2 best closed-loop audits and your best additional audit/QIP. Please only submit audits/QIPs which have been presented as you will need to provide evidence of presentation.

7. At the time of application, have you completed and been awarded a stand-alone UK higher degree or equivalent (see evidence below) examined by thesis/dissertation? (NB: This does not include intercalated degrees)? 

For each question, a description of the evidence required is given. You will only be awarded marks if the evidence provided matches the description of the evidence required for that domain. You must record your responses to all 7 questions using the provided templates. All 7 templates must be signed where required (typed signature will not be accepted). 

For more information on the questions, templates and evidence required for each domain, visit HEE Medical Training Recruitment. 

What is the ST3 general surgery self-assessment?  

You were previously asked to submit a self-assessment score during the Oriel application process. As part of the 2023 and 2024 process, you will no longer be asked to self-assess your portfolio. Your evidence uploads via structured templates will now be scored by a pair of consultants and discrepancies addressed to provide a robust score. These scores will then determine who will be shortlisted for a 40-minute interview. 

Your ST3 general surgery interview guide 

In this next section, we’ve outlined the interview process for general surgery specialty training. This includes useful resources for your ST3 general surgery interview. 

What is the format of the NHS ST3 general surgery interview?  

The general surgery ST3 interview consists of three core stations that last 40 minutes and involve reading time, a clinical scenario, a management scenario, and a career discussion. 

The interview format is as follows: 

Your performance is usually assessed and scored by at least two consultants. Sometimes there is a lay representative present who does not score or assess but makes sure the process is fair and consistent. 

Is the ST3 general surgery interview in person or online?  

In recent years the ST3 general surgery interview has been held online, usually on Microsoft Teams. The same format is adhered to whether the interview is online or in person. 

How to prepare for the ST3 general surgery interview  

The ST3 interview is knowledge-intensive, you will need to focus on knowing the content and allocating time during your preparation to practice your delivery. Below, we have looked at what to expect and ways to prepare for each scenario.

Clinical scenario 

The reading time is crucial so it’s important to stay calm so that you fully understand the scenario and what you are being asked. You’ll then have 10 minutes to explain your management for the clinical scenario given, step by step. A good strategy is to identify the issues at the beginning and then follow a clear structure for your management plan.  

The clinical topics which come up are quite similar and there are question banks available so you can revise effectively. Topics could be emergency or outpatient. Some examples include: 

  • Severe vomiting and abdominal pain 
  • Painful and swollen right groin abscess  
  • Abdominal pain  
  • A single stab wound to the abdomen  
  • Acute Appendicitis  

Management scenario  

You’ll then be given a scenario relating to a management problem in a clinical environment and five minutes of reading time to prepare. You’ll then have 10 minutes to answer questions related to the management scenario given. This scenario could be a list of clinical tasks that need to be completed with a staffing shortage, delay in a clinic or hospital bed shortage. Your answer should identify the issues, risks, priorities, and actions needed to manage the clinical scenario effectively.  

In your reading time, make a note of the key management issues in the clinical environment and how you would approach them. In both scenarios, you will be marked down if you need to be prompted to highlight a key issue or aspect of management.  

Portfolio review  

The final 10 minutes of the interview will give the panel an opportunity to ask you any questions about your career or your submitted self-assessment and portfolio.  

ST3 general surgery interview resources 

We have researched online blogs, testimonials, and online courses to collate a list of general surgery interview resources for you, as recommended by ST3+ general surgery doctors. 


Medset’s complete ST3 general surgery online interview course is split into four modules which cover everything you would need to know in your interview. This includes emergency, outpatient and management scenarios, essential clinical knowledge and how to stand out from the competition. The course includes frameworks to manage any scenarios you may face. The course was created by a General Surgical Registrar who scored 100% in his ST3 interview. The current price is £129.


Medibuddy has created an online course and question bank. This is broken down into the two main components of the interview and 120 scenarios. The questions are presented exactly like they appear at the interview. The team have scoured the internet and spoken to registrars who have had successful interviews to create this general surgery interview course. The current price is £135.  

ST3 general surgery application and interview process summarised

Applying for a national training number is a pivotal part of your general surgery career. To prepare yourself for this process, it is important to  

  • Understand the person specification and self-assessment guidance for the portfolio well in advance.  
  • Talk to colleagues and those who have recently been interviewed to familiarise yourself with the national selection process.  
  • Prior preparation, practice, and a clear understanding of what to expect on the day of the interview are essential.  

These steps can give you extra confidence and increase your chances of acing your ST3 general surgery interview. 

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