The JCST put out a tweet on 5/10/22 to announce the publication of the person specifications for 2023 for all specialties, and they also included that the MSRA would be used to shortlist candidates for core surgery.

This was retweeted by ASiT:

What Is The MSRA?

The MSRA is a computer-based assessment, delivered in partnership with Work Psychology Group and Pearson VUE, which has been designed to assess some of the essential competences outlined in the Person Specification and is based around clinical scenarios. The MSRA has two component parts - a Professional Dilemmas (PD) paper and a Clinical Problem Solving (CPS) paper. The MSRA is delivered as a single exam.

The MSRA was originally introduced to help shortlist GP applicants and has gradually rolled out to other specialties with CT1 Anaesthetics adopting it during the COVID pandemic.

The questions are not surgery specific and mix SJT-style problem questions with finals-style clinical scenarios spanning multiple specialties.

When Is The MSRA Held?

The MSRA is delivered at Pearson VUE testing centres with remote testing provisions in place for those who are isolating/shielding due to COVID-19 or depending on their geographical location, local or national COVID-19 lockdown measures preventing access to a testing centre. The testing window is typically the last week of Jan/Beginning of Feb each year.

What Does This Mean For Core Surgery?

We are still awaiting confirmation from the JCST as to what this means in terms of the interview format and scoring for core surgical interviews in 2023. And we may have to wait until the job listing is posted on Oriel in November along with the official interview guidance documentation.

For other specialties the MSRA is used for shortlisting. However the weighting different specialties give to the MSRA score is variable.

In anaesthetics the MSRA score contributes 15% towards the total selection score and there is no self-assessment score with the CT1 anaesthetics interview consisting of portfolio questions and clinical across a 30-minute online interview. Other specialties just use it for shortlisting and the MSRA score doesn't contribute to the final specialty score.

Until we receive confirmation nothing is for certain. However it's important to note that all candidates are in the same boat and it seems like online interviews are here to stay for 2023.

We suspect that self assessment will remain as there needs to be a way to score your portfolio as per the person specification. Things like audits need to be validated which can't be done remotely. Alternatively they may go in a similar direction to anaesthetics and bring back portfolio-based questions in the interview itself. Either way we here at core surgery interview have your back.

What's Our Opinion On The Change?

Often senior doctors and policy makers forget that even the basic interview information can be confusing and the process very stressful for foundation doctors many of whom have not sat a competitive interview since medical school applications.

The fact this was shared succinctly in a tweet without any confirmation of specifics leads to uncertainty and stress.

Our advice to candidates sitting core surgery interviews in 2023 is not to panic and worry about things out of your control. Having provided interview preparation for the past 7 years the team at core surgery interview have seen multiple changes to scoring and formats.

We suggest focusing on what you can control. That is to treat the interview like an exam. The MSRA is sat at the end of January and you will be invited to book after submitting your application through Oriel.

While this isn't a huge amount of time to prepare as the MSRA is a mutliple-choice based test your preparation should consist of two parts:

  1. Understanding the MSRA, how it is scored and how to answer the questions
    • This is especially true of the problem-solving questions where technique is key and overthinking can lead to incorrect answers even if you are convinced you have chosen correctly
  2. Practising as many questions as possible
    • Online question banks are you friend here and statistically if you do around 2000 questions you will likely become familiar with the style and content that appears at the real MSRA. Remember the questions they use come from a question bank of questions so there are a limited number and doing as many questions as possible increases the chance that you will already have seen similar questions and answers during your preparation.
    • We'll be including MSRA preparation in our core surgery interview online prep for 2023 :)