ST3 Portfolio Building Essentials: Part 1 – Basic Requirements


“Never mistake a clear view for a short distance”, Paul Saffo.

“And don’t confuse a long distance with impossibility”, Kevin Kelly.

This post will give you the best tips for developing a portfolio suited to getting you accepted into surgical training at the ST3 level. This process slowly closes the gap between where you are and the outlined requirements. Focus on the smallest actions that will move you forward, and keep accumulating these small steps.

The essential requirement is that you have passed your MRCS exam and met the pre-requisite work experience for an ST3 training post. Following this, the prospect of securing an ST3 training position comes down to two critical factors: a comprehensive portfolio aligned with the role’s person specifications and an impressive showing during the interview. IMGs, however, should consider a third element: knowledge and experience within the NHS. This will be crucial to earn high marks during the ST3 interviews.

With that in mind, let’s establish three essential goals for our approach. First, we must build a portfolio that precisely matches the ST3 person specifications for the role in question. Second, we must demonstrate how we uniquely stand out by performing exceptionally well during the ST3 interview. Thirdly, to successfully achieve this as an IMG, one should aim to secure a job in the NHS at least 2-3 months before your interview. Our posts focus on these three objectives.

Building a portfolio entails aligning with the person specifications outlined for your target role. For IMGs, your ability to meet these specifications will inherently satisfy the criteria for your first NHS job in your desired field. Thus, you’re killing two birds with one stone. In addition, preparing for your first NHS job interview will serve as excellent practice for your upcoming ST3 interview, further underscoring the value of proper planning.

A comprehensive review of the person’s specification and assessment criteria is essential. Fortunately, the detailed requirements for both general ( and vascular ( surgery can be accessed through the specialty applicant handbooks. In this chapter, we’ll explore these requirements in depth, ensuring that aspiring trainees are well-equipped to meet the expectations of these programs.

Regarding the ST3 surgery portfolio assessment, there are several crucial areas to remember. It covers a wide array of aspects necessary for developing a competent surgeon. The assessment is broken down into 10 specific sections:

Area 1: The total time spent in any job in medicine after completion of 24 months of foundation experience.

Area 2: Specialty-specific experience, in months, post foundation.

Area 3: Rotations (of at least 4 months) in other surgical-related specialties post-foundation.

Area 4: A validated log of surgeries performed.

Area 5: PubMed indexed journal publications, excluding abstracts, case reports, letters or technical tips.

Area 6: Number of National or International presentations of scientific work in which you are listed as an author, excluding poster presentations.

Area 7: Number of audits or quality improvement projects which have resulted in presentations, which have participated in.

Area 8: Any UK-recognized higher degrees such as MSc, MS, ChM, MD or PhD.

Area 9: Leadership or management experience within or outside of medicine.

Area 10: Formal teaching experience and qualifications.

Let’s take a closer look at each of these sections to see what you need to score the highest in each.

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