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Taking your Situational Judgement Test

All applicants to DFT must take the Situational Judgment Test, which is a computer-based assessment designed to determine essential competencies outlined in the national Person Specification.

Neha Mehta
Neha Mehta Dental foundation dentist, Member, Young Dentist Committee

The test is based on clinical scenarios and aims to target key attributes of being a professional, including patient focus, commitment to professionalism, coping with pressure, effective communication, and working within a team.

Everyone applying to Dental Foundation Training must take the Situational Judgement Test (SJT), which can be sat at your preferred Pearson VUE testing centre. Remember to fully read and understand the requirements of the online testing provider. The timelines to book a slot can be found on the NHS website. It's important to make sure you have enough time to get there, as failure to sit the SJT will result in your application being removed from the process.

What is involved in the Situational Judgement Test

The SJT presents you with a series of work-related situations, and questions how you would respond. The test is divided into 56 questions to be answered in 105 minutes, however, only 50 of those questions will be used for your ranking. The remaining six are used to test a bank of questions for the next cohorts and you won't know which questions are chosen.

The questions take different formats, between multiple choice and ranking questions, and the scenarios include:

  • Evolving dilemmas, where you are given three scenarios linked by common context. You must respond to each scenario as they represent workplace dilemmas and tend to be multi-faceted
  • Speech dilemmas, where you must choose how to respond to a difficult conversation. These usually revolve around patients, their families, or other professionals.

How to prepare

The test challenges your ethical and decision-making skills so the process might feel different than usual academic exams, but there are strategies you can use to both prepare and take the exam. Revise little and often, starting with basic reading material like the GDC Standards for the Dental Team, the Foundation Dentists handbook, the Health Education and Improvement Wales website, and the NHS England website, to cover the basic knowledge required. The BDA also offers student members access to their SJT mock exam and SJT question books through their library to help you prepare for the day.

First try to learn the technique without time pressure, once you have that covered you can start timing yourself when you take mock exams. A good way to ensure you are managing your time properly is to create a checkpoint at this stage. Knowing which question you are supposed to be answering at any given time can help you stay on track.

When tackling each type of question, remember to take the time to thoroughly read each of them and avoid unnecessary mistakes. Ranking questions will ask you to place answers on a scale from most to least likely. Always start by ranking the first and last ones. Because of how the scoring system is designed, by getting the extremes correct you can receive a minimum score of 16 out of 20. Then move on to second and fourth, leaving the middle one for last. Remember to always attempt to answer each question, even when you are unsure.

Multiple-choice questions will provide a scenario and three different possible answers to choose from. Make sure to have prepared and recognised buzzwords to look out for. Words like 'Explore' or 'Listen' are more positive compared to 'Tell', which can be considered more aggressive. Try to relate each question to the GDC standards, by matching them you are more likely to respond correctly.

Everything you need to know about your Situational Judgement Test

As long as you prepared and did your best on the day, there is really nothing to worry about. In many cases, scoring lower on the test means that you might not be placed where you were looking for. However, everything happens for a reason, make the best out of your experience and try to learn as much as possible from it. Different practices will bring invaluable knowledge that you can take with you for the rest of your career.

To maximise your chances of receiving a place, make sure to preference all available places. If you limit the geographical areas or schemes where you are willing to work, there is a risk that you will 'preference yourself out'. This means that you may not rank highly enough to receive a place in your top choices and won't be eligible for schemes you have not preferenced but that might have places. In case you preferenced all schemes but rank relatively low, do not worry, usually there are enough places for UK graduates eligible to train.

If you are offered a place for which you have a low preference, try to remember that your placement only lasts for one year, afterwards you will be able to go back to the area that you prefer. Make the best of your time there and remember that Educational Supervisors work hard to provide the best possible training environment for you.