Dental Core Training interviews can be quite daunting. This post will focus on tips and tricks to help with the interview process. The wider application process has been covered in a different post: A Guide for Dental Core Training Applications

Dental Core Training Interview

The standard interview is currently made up of 3 stations (4 if you are applying for DCT 2/3):

  • Clinical Communication (with a simulated patient)
  • Clinical Scenario
  • Quality Improvement and Teaching (DCT1) / Evidence and Suitability (DCT 2/3)
  • Portfolio for DCT 2/3

Each station lasts 10 minutes with 3 minutes reading time beforehand. The scenarios are not shared prior to the interview day. The entire interview will usually take 45-60 minutes. The criteria for assessment is highlighted below:

Criteria assessed at Interview - as per COPDEND Application Guide
Criteria assessed at Interview – as per COPDEND Application Guide

Each station has 2 examiners (including the simulated patient for communication), though occasionally there may be a third individual observing. Prior to each station, you will have 2 minutes to read the scenario outside the room and then you immediately enter and begin your scenario. If you feel you have finished, then you can leave the room before time. At 8 minutes you will receive a knock on the door and then another knock when the time is completed.

The portfolio station is not a ‘true’ station. You will be required to put together a portfolio prior to the interview day, following a very detailed specification. This is then handed in at the start of the interview day and, whilst you do the other 3 stations, your portfolio will be marked.

You can see some of the sample scenarios here.

Clinical Communication

Clinical communication scenarios involve a simulated patient. They involve typical patient-clinician scenarios such as:

  • Management of periapical pathology
  • Anxiety management
  • Whitening

Your instruction sheet will provide you with basic information and a history before you enter the station, but you often have to discuss these further or summarise them with the patient. Often re-taking the history can be useful. It is important in this station to demonstrate your clinical knowledge but, more importantly, your communication skills and management of a patient are critical.

Things to be aware of
  • Verbal communication
    • Introduce yourself to the patient
    • Ensure empathy is demonstrated
    • Ensure you use jargon-free language
    • Explain everything clearly and use ‘diagrams’ and demonstrations if needed
    • Allow the patient time to speak
    • Chunk and check the patient’s understanding regularly
    • Summarise any plans at the end
  • Non-verbal communication
    • Check your posture – are you threatening or too relaxed
    • Try to control any nervous ticks

There will be an examiner in the room but you should only concentrate on the simulated patient – ignore the examiner. You can even include guidelines when explaining things to patient, demonstrating evidence-based practice.

Quality Improvement and Teaching/Evidence and Suitability

This station varies slightly between DCT1 and DCT2/3, however, the overall subject areas are similar for both. They usually involve topics relating to ethic or legal issues, or clinical governance. These are all topics that you can prepare for beforehand – so make sure you do!

Things that you may want to consider looking at include:

  • Decontamination
  • Pillars of Clinical Governance – check out this post
  • Audit process
  • Evidence hierarchy
  • Evidence-based practice

You will be speaking directly to examiners and they may ask you to draw on your own experience. You can use jargon and speak in detail but make sure you still maintain good non-verbal communication and speak clearly. Try to fill as much time as possible by demonstrating your knowledge in the area.

When discussing any topic, particularly clinical governance, it is very useful to have examples for each aspect and to demonstrate how this has changed/improved your practice.

Clinical Scenario

The clinical scenario aims to test your knowledge and judgement of a clinical situation (without a simulated patient being present). Example stations could include:

  • Patients attending with facial fractures to hospital
  • Patients requiring complex dental treatment
  • Ethical situations with patients

You will discuss the case with 2 examiners and advise them how you approach the situation. This may be all the way from history, to investigations and treatment planning. Your aim is to demonstrate that you are thorough, systematic and know your limitations. You need to demonstrate your knowledge surrounding the subject.

Tips for Clinical Scenarios
  • Don’t forget the basics – for example, with an A&E incident, don’t forget ABCDE!
  • Be systematic and always start from the beginning – a thorough history will help you later on!
  • When discussing investigations and treatment planning, discuss all options available and what may inform your decision. Again, don’t forget basic options, including doing nothing.
  • The scenario is not something that should be beyond you, but it may need some thinking and trawling back to dental school in your mind!
  • Involve guidelines where possible – this demonstrated evidence based practice and that you are aware of current guidelines.
  • It isn’t the end of the world if you don’t know the clinical details – you need to demonstrate you are safe and keep the patient safe within your competence. There is no harm in saying that you would ask for help from a senior colleague. This is better than improvising or working out of your competence.

Structuring Answers

There are 2 key ways that you can structure your answers, depending on the type of question.

  1. For questions where you need to demonstrate a competency/quality/skill – use STAR:
    • Situation – provides a summary of the context of the answer
    • Task – explains what you were required to do in the situation
    • Action – explains what you did and why you did it, demonstrating your involvement and competency
    • Result – explains the outcome of your actions, including a reflection.
  2. For ethical/professionalism issues, use SPIES:
    • Seek information – learn more about the situation – what is actually happening? Is it a regular occurrence? What are the likely impacts from the situation?
    • Patient safety – Is patient care compromised? How can this be mitigated?
    • Initiative – What can you do yourself to help the situation?
    • Escalate – Involve other colleagues/bodies are appropriate – who will you go to?
    • Support – How can you support the individual, the team and patients?

Presentation and Other Tips

As with any interview day – dress smart and present yourself well:

  • You want to come across as a professional and so dress appropriately.
  • Speak clearly and confidently as this will give a better impression of yourself
  • Practice, practice, practice – find other people doing the interviews and practice together. There will be many things you will pick up whilst interviewing each other that can be improved on before the interview.
  • Film yourself – it’s often a good technique to film yourself whilst doing an interview. This will help identify any nervous ticks or poor phrasing/sentencing.
  • Be yourself – try not to lie or make-up answers. If you don’t know an answer, just admit you don’t know but have a reasonable solution for how you can find the answer out.
  • Try to forget any mistakes from one station to the next, otherwise it may play on your mind!

Useful Resources

* DISCLAIMER – This post is based on personal opinion – it does not guarantee a good ranking nor is it informed by information from within COPDEND.

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BDS (Hons.) MFDS RCPS (Glasg.) Cert Med Ed FHEA - Currently working as a Speciality Doctor in OMFS and as an Associate Dentist


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