It’s interview season. Congratulations to everyone who has received an offer to interview, and good luck to all those who are aspiring to apply in coming years!
We frequently receive questions about how the portfolio upload works with the virtual interviews. As of 2019, the Royal College have moved specialty national recruitment into a fully online format. Previously, you lugged a physical portfolio with you to your interview, but mirroring the virtual interviews, portfolio upload has also become virtual.
For those who are applying next year, hopefully some of these details are especially helpful in keeping in mind. Here are 5 mistakes to avoid with your portfolio upload.
1 – Making it hard for the examiner to give you the mark.
The examiners marking your portfolios have to go through a large number of them with limited time. You want to make it as easy as possible for them to award you the marks you deserve. In the online evidence upload portal, you tag the piece of evidence (a PNG, JPG or PDF) file.
Whilst this is all pretty self-explanatory, the key here is to match as closely as possible the words and phrases used in the actual portfolio specification.
An example is instead of including:
- “A presentation titled : “Surgical preferences of trainees” at the 2019 RCOPhth Congress”
It would be much better to say:
- “National Oral Presentation, First Author: Surgical Preferences of Trainees.””
This clearly puts you in the “2 points” bracket as per the severn deanery page.
2 – Making it unclear if the evidence is legit.
Whilst the “Evidence title” gives some indication as to what they should be marking you for, examiners will be looking at the piece of evidence to satisfy themselves that you deserve the mark.
As an example, lets say you’ve got candidate A and candidate B, they both co-author and self-publish an Amazon e-book on 100 SBA’s for the Duke Elder Examination.
- Candidate A just takes a screenshot of the Amazon page for the book as evidence
- Candidate B has a signed, headed letter from their educational supervisor confirming that candidate B was involved in writing, publishing this book, and that it’s a legitimate book that exists.
My bet is that Candidate B is relying a lot less on a kind examiner to give them the benefit of the doubt!
Whilst you can never be 100% sure that evidence is accepted, there are ways to make sure your efforts count. As a principle, if you’re unsure, it’s worth considering drafting a letter for someone who can verify that you’ve done what you’ve said you’ve done. Go the extra mild to remove any doubt that you haven’t done the work. Most consultants are very helpful especially when you explain what you need a letter for.
3 – Not being clear what points you deserve.
Similar to point 1 – This is especially pertinent for the commitment to specialty section. You may for example, have done an impressive ophthalmology elective + project which was later published as non-peer reviewed research.
For the purposes of this portfolio, you should consider separating out pieces of evidence to make sure you get the points for each one.
In this case, attending a meeting where you’ve already said you’ve presented a poster needs to be separately mentioned as sections could be marked individually. This sometimes means you may repeat one piece of evidence (e.g. a letter from a supervisor saying you’ve attended and presented at a conference) in two sections, but it makes it easier to know for the marker that you deserve points for both.
4 – Leaving it to the last minute.
When the interviews were in Bristol, your portfolio only needed to be completed by the date and time of your actual interview. This is no longer the case, with uploads closing up to 3 weeks before the interview date.
This year the interview dates were the 11th of March 2022 with the closing date for portfolio upload being the 14th of February 2021. The portal opened up only 10 days before the deadline (4th of February) and so if you are only starting to get your evidence together, it’s far too late!
So our advice for anyone applying in subsequent years is don’t leave it to the last minute! it takes a surprising amount of time to get your evidence together.
5 – Not being familiar with the interface, missing documents.
Whilst we don’t know how these portfolios look like when reviewed by examiners, we do know what the upload interface looks like.
It’s all quite self explanatory, but it helps to know what the upload interface looks like.
Be very careful when reviewing what you have uploaded, we recommend creating a checklist and a “Table of contents” either in google sheets. Make sure everything you want uploaded is there, and view each piece that it’s formatted and renders correctly.
A common mistake is forgetting to upload publications proforma. We know at least 2 or 3 candidates who lost out on a number of points because they had forgotten to fill this out.
6 – Stressing out and losing sight of the bigger picture.
People forget that the portfolio only is one piece of the puzzle in your application for ophthalmology. In a way, it is good that the date cuts-off 3 weeks before the interviews. We all know many applicants who stretched themselves too thin between the portfolio, interview prep, and work, and it didn’t give them the best chance to perform well during their interviews.
Also realise that it’s probably not healthy to obsess over points you haven’t got now. The top scoring candidate in 2019 didn’t even sit the Duke Elder exam as an undergraduate. Most people do not get anywhere near full marks on the portfolio, so do your best, and put your best foot forward, but remember that there are more things in life than maxing out on your points!
A disclaimer is that this advice is based off experience of speaking to many successful trainees, and our own experience of getting in. Your mileage may vary.