The Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is crucial for ranking in your Dental Core Training and Dental Foundation years. However, they can be notoriously difficult to do well and, so, this post will hopefully provide you with some examples and resources to maximise your SJT score.
What is the Situational Judgement Test?
The Situational Judgement Test is an assessment of an individual’s character and professional attributes. As per the COPDEND website, the attributes being assessed include:
- Patient-centred care
- Coping under pressure
- Critical thinking
This means that your clinical knowledge has very little impact on your results – this is not a clinical exam. One of the reasons SJTs are difficult is that the ‘correct answer’ is one formulated by asking a body of professional for their answer to the question and an average is taken. This may not necessarily align with your thought process.
There have been some subtle changes to the SJTs due to the COVID pandemic. Normally, they would be held at a Pearson Vue testing centre, however there will be the option to have the exam at home instead as well. A bit more on the application process during COVID can be found here.
As compared to previous years, the SJT will account for a greater portion of your overall mark for ranking. In Dental Foundation Training, it was the only method and in Dental Core Training, it will account for 33%. These factors make it even more important to do the best you can.
Question Format 1 – Rank Most to Least Appropriate
There are two types of questions used in the Situational Judgement Test. The first type is a ‘rank from most appropriate to least appropriate’ from a set of actions in response to a situation.
For this question, you are provided with a stem question and then given 5 options. These options are to be treated individually and are not linked. You must then assess these options and rank them from most to least appropriate.
For each letter that is in the correct position you get 4 marks, i.e. you can get a maximum of 20 marks per question. For each position a letter is off its correct position, you lose a mark.
The best way to understand this is to do an example. Below we have a scenario:
If we look at the options for this question as well:
Let’s analyse each of these options to see where they may fit:
- A – This option isn’t ideal as you aren’t dealing with Amba’s frustration and are dismissing her concern. It is unlikely that her opinion is going to change with wearing the crown for 10 days
- B – This isn’t a terrible option but it’s not ideal either. When answering these questions, you are meant to answer them at the level of which you’re applying, i.e. as a DCT or an FD. This means that you aren’t expected to be competent at everything and so getting your supervisor is sometimes a valid option. However, in this situation, you haven’t attempted to reassure Amba yourself and are removing all responsibility from yourself
- C – This immediately seems like the most inappropriate option. You aren’t dealing with Amba’s frustration but also you are working unethically by telling her that the procedure would need to be private. So I would place this as my least preferred option
- D – This is a reasonable option. You are listening to Amba’s concern and trying to rectify any doubts yourself.
- E – This immediately seems like the most appropriate option. You are allowing Amba to have her reaction, calm herself down and take the time to understand her concerns. This would immediately be my preferred option.
So from this quick analysis, we can see that the most appropriate option is E and the least appropriate to be C.
If we then assess the remaining options, then I would consider placing D as my next most appropriate as you are listening to her concern and trying to remedy it. This would be followed by B – as involving your supervisor as you are still trying to manage the situation. Finally, I would place A as the second to last as, though it’s not a preferred option, you are getting the patient to come back which shows a slim hope that you’re considering her concerns.
Our final order, therefore, would be E D B A C. The answer is explained below:
As there is the correct order here, we would expect to receive 20 marks. However, if, for example, B and D were the wrong way around i.e. E B D A C, then we would only get 3 marks each for B and D and so would have a total of 18 marks.
Question Format 2 – Choose the Three most appropriate actions
The second question involves choosing the 3 most appropriate linked actions to a scenario. As compared to the first question type, these items are linked and not individual so they must be considered together.
Each correct answer accounts for 4 marks. Therefore, you can potentially lose more marks on these questions as if you miss a letter, then you get nothing for it.
Let’s look at the example below:
Our options for this questions are:
Again, if we analyse these options:
- A – this is a relatively good option
- B – again, a relatively good option, though apologising isn’t ideal as you’re not aware they are in distress and they may lose confidence in you
- C – this undermines the nurse and isn’t an appropriate option
- D – this in inappropriate as it’s your job to determine what to do in the situation
- E – not an ideal option as you’re giving up on the situation by getting your supervisor in
- F – this seems reasonable as you’re giving the patient the option to stop working
- G – this is dismissing the patient and nurse’s concerns – not an appropriate choice
- H – reflection is always an excellent idea – so this is a reasonable option
By working through these, we can see that there are only really four reasonable options – A B F and H. We now need to consider which of these are the best when linked together and like I said, the option of apologising doesn’t seem to match well with the other options. Therefore, I would settle with A F and H.
Tips and Tricks for the Situational Judgement Test
- Read the key resources – as mentioned, this isn’t a test of your clinical knowledge. This is an assessment of your professional attributes and so make sure you read key documents including:
- GDC Standards
- FGDP guidelines
- GDC Scope of Practice
- Pay attention to wording – small words make a difference in these questions so ensure you read questions carefully. For example, there is a big difference between stating that something is cancer and something may be cancer.
- Think idealistically – unfortunately a lot of the scenarios are idealistic in how you would respond. You would probably respond differently in a real-world scenario but you have to change your mindset and think what would the ideal situation require?
- Competency for the level you’re applying – if you’re applying for dental core training or dental foundation training, your level of competency is expected to be at this level. Therefore, it is expected that you will sometimes need your supervisor and need help – this is far safer and shows you are working within your competency.
- Patient first – in any decision you’re making, always put the patient’s best interests first. This is why, in our sample of most to least appropriate, the options that put Amba’s thoughts and concerns first, ranked better than those where they were dismissed. It is the first GDC standard for a reason.
- Time yourself – this is really important – often it’s quite a push to get all the questions done in the time period set. If you are struggling on a question, don’t ponder too long on it and move on to the next one. This is where practicing becomes really important and really useful.
Resources for the Situational Judgement Test
Some helpful books to practice with include:
- The Dental Foundation Interview Guide: With Situational Judgement Tests
- 250 SJTs (Situational Judgement Test questions) for Foundation Year entry (Foundation Programme – FY1)
- Oxford Assess and Progress: Situational Judgement Test
- Situational Judgement Test for the Foundation Years Programme
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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