What is Dental Core Training?

Dental Core Training (DCT) is a set of up to 3 years of post-graduate training that can be carried out by a dentist. Many dentists choose to do a year of DCT to simply increase their experience – particularly in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery (OMFS) – which they can then take back to practice. Many may only do a single year of DCT; however, it is becoming more common to do several years to strengthen your CV. In order to apply for specialist posts, you need to look at doing a few years of DCT. DCT posts range across the majority of dental disciplines, though the majority of posts are OMFS, and they range across the UK.

If you’re unsure whether DCT is for you, check out the video below which highlights some of the pros and cons of the process!

💡 If you are interested in learning more or for 1-to-1 preparation for DCT, check this out!

Dental Core Training Application Process

Dental Core Training applications, much like Foundation Training in the UK, are a National Recruitment process. There is a single application form through Oriel, which is filled in and submitted. All further progress of your application is done through this.

You follow the steps and fill in the application as required. Ensure you complete all the required sections properly and you attach any evidence  – for example, Foundation Dentistry completion certificates may be needed for DCT 2 applications.

The most involved aspect of the application is the preferencing system. You will be presented with a page of all the jobs (potentially) available for the chosen DCT year. You then are required to rank these based on your preference. There are jobs throughout the country and each post may have multiple vacancies. By clicking each post, you can find out a bit more about it e.g. the type of speciality involved. Majority of posts are typically OMFS based as explained, but there are other specialities available. Only preference jobs you are willing to take but ensure you rank enough so that, even if you don’t do well on interview day, you have a chance of being upgraded.

Example of a preferencing screen in Oriel
Example of a preferencing screen in Oriel
When dragging and dropping your preferences, be aware that the newest one will go to the top of the list – so please check and make sure the preferences are in the right order!

The advantage of DCT preferencing is that you can re-preference the jobs later on in the application process. The window re-opens around the interview time so that you have another opportunity to adjust the order. Additional jobs/posts may also become available.

When applying for DCT 2 and 3 posts, you are required to put together a portfolio to demonstrate your professional activity and how you are developing as an individual. This is something the examiners will receive on the interview day, but you do not directly come in to contact with them whilst they assess you. The portfolio covers a variety of things including your CPD, posters and presentations, CV, audits and e-portfolio data from the year just gone. There are guidelines available on how to complete this, including the crucial self-assessment form. This form needs to be completed by yourself and placed to the front of your portfolio. You need to honestly assess yourself and attach this form. The examiners will also assess your portfolio and see how closely you have matched their mark – do not try to be too confident/cocky when self-assessing! Ensure your portfolio is easy to follow and read and provides the required evidence.

It is very important that you meet the deadlines set out by Oriel! A sample for this year is provided. There is no room for late applications as they clearly state so ensure you have everything in place for your application.

Dental Core Training 2019 Timeline

Situational Judgement Test (SJT)

Provided you pass the initial stages of the application, you will then be invited for an interview. The first part of this is the Situational Judgement Test (SJT). This is also part of Foundation Dentistry applications and is now widely used as part of job applications. SJTs aim to assess you on a wider picture and assess other aspects of your personality and character e.g. decision-making ability and professionalism. Historically, they were completed on the day of application but now they are done on a separate day at a venue near you. They are conducted in centres similar to those for driving theory exams. You can apply online for time and date slots and attend to complete you SJT. This will then feed towards your interview and application mark.

SJTs are difficult to master. Unfortunately, little clinical knowledge is actually necessary to do an SJT exam. The examiners are looking for whether you’re safe and whether you make the ‘right’ decisions. The exam you sit has usually been sent out to several individuals in the same field beforehand to calibrate the ‘right’ answer – they will have completed the paper and then, based on their answers and the ones deemed correct, the correct ranking order is established. Complicated – I know!

The SJTs are usually made up of two types of questions:

  • Rank in order – rank 5 options from most to least appropriate based on the stem question. Typically, these will have an obvious most appropriate and least appropriate – it’s the ones in the middle that are trickier to decide. Based on your ranking, your marks will be determined. If you are right with the position of an answer – you score 4 marks; if you are one away then you score 3 marks; 2 away you score 2 marks and so on. This is clearly explained in the COPDEND documents and sample paper.
  • Choose the 3 most appropriate – list of several options and choose the 3 most appropriate options when put together. You get 4 marks for every correct answer – so either 0 or 4.

The SJTs are notoriously difficult – not necessarily because of the content but more so because of the time pressure. You have 115 minutes to answer all the questions. Many of the questions are quite wordy so it’s important to be quick and efficient with reading them. The SJT mark makes up 25% of the DCT 1 application and 20% of the DCT 2 and 3 applications.

There are numerous books to help with preparing for SJT exams, including:


The next step is the interview. This is made up of 3 stations (4 if you have a portfolio station). The 3 stations last 10 minutes each and are:

  • Clinical communication (with a simulated patient)
  • Clinical Governance and Risk Management
  • Clinical Scenario
  • Evidence and Suitability (DCT 2 and 3 only) – Portfolio station

The scenarios for these stations are not shared prior to the day. Each of these stations aims to test your skills in a variety of areas including planning, clinical knowledge, awareness and communication. 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.

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

You can see some of the sample scenarios here.

Clinical Communication

This station usually is a typical clinical situation that requires discussion with a patient, examples such as periapical pathology and whitening are good to practice. Usually, you will need to discuss investigations, diagnoses and treatment planning. The key to this station is not necessarily your clinical knowledge, though this will contribute, but it’s other aspects of your consultation. Things to be aware of:

  • Verbal communication
    • Introduce yourself to the patient
    • 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
  • Pretend the examiner doesn’t exist and just focus on the simulated patient

Clinical Governance and Risk Management

For this station, you usually need a knowledge of typical ethical and legal subjects. These are things you can prepare for beforehand and learn relatively well. Things that you may want to consider looking at include:

  • Decontamination
  • Pillars of Clinical Governance
  • 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.

A book that I’d recommend for this area, and interviews in general, is Medical Interviews (2nd Edition): A comprehensive guide to CT, ST & Registrar Interview Skills – Over 120 medical interview questions, techniques and NHS topics explained

Clinical Scenario

This station will present you with a clinical situation but without a simulated patient. 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. Some tips include:

  • 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!

As with any interview day – dress smart and present yourself well. As you move from one station to the next, try to forget any mistakes on the last one. The entire interview will usually take 45-60 minutes.


Once the Dental Core Training interview cycle is complete, you may or not be offered a job based on your interview performance. The job you are offered will depend on your national ranking and may be something you’re initially not too happy about. You will have the option to accept or accept with upgrades – if the job is not one you are keen on then accept with the option to upgrade. If others reject their offers or drop out of the application process then other jobs may open up and you may get upgraded.

Unlike last year, there is no longer a second round of interviews for jobs later on in the cycle. There are, however, sometimes jobs that become available by direct interview later in the year – so it’s worth keeping your eyes open!

Useful Links

Disclaimer –  The information in this article is based on COPDEND guidance documents and personal opinion. This article does not guarantee you a job, nor does it reflect any actual interview questions – only potential examples. Please ensure you read all the appropriate COPDEND guidance.

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