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About the Public Health Specialists Application Process

The Faculty for Public Health is the standard-setting body for specialists in public health. Recruitment for the Public Health Speciality Training is done through the Public Health National Recruitment Office, or PHNRO. There are several eligibility requirements you must meet before you can even start your application. In addition, to receive a place on the programme, you must provide a high quality application at each stage of the process.

There are training programmes available across the country and two main routes in—a clinical route for medical professionals and an alternative route for public health professionals. The two courses are the same once you are in the programme. Elements of person specification are tested at each stage of the application process. Applicants should be familiar with public health concepts and issues and the public health policy arena.

Online Application Form

Applications for the programme open in November for the following August. The application form asks for your qualifications, experience, and evidence of how you fit the criteria in the person specification for the programme.

Questions on the application form may include:

  • How do your skills and attributes demonstrate you as a suitable candidate for a higher career in this field?
  • What efforts have you made recently to further your knowledge of this specialty. What have you learned from this and how do you feel it has developed your suitability for this particular specialty?
  • Give an example of a time you found it difficult to understand the concerns of a patient or carer. What impact did this have and what feedback did you receive as a result?
  • Describe a time when you needed to communicate with people who had differing levels of understanding about the situation. What strategies did you use to adapt and how did you know your approach was successful or not?
  • Describe a recent experience of working in a multi-disciplinary team where a challenging clinical situation was apparent. What approach did you take in this situation and how did your behaviour enable the team to overcome the situation?


Assessment Tests

If your application form meets the requirements, you are next invited by PHNRO to sit three tests at a Pearson VUE assessment centre. Assessment centres are available across the UK and in five European cities. These tests are aimed at measuring your numerical reasoning, critical thinking, and situational judgement abilities.

Below are the three tests you must take:

Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal

The Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal assesses your ability to think critically about information placed before you. The process of critical thinking involves interpreting information thoroughly and carefully, as well as thinking about its application to reach justifiable conclusions. This test takes 30 minutes to complete.

The Watson-Glaser test specifically measures five abilities:

  • Drawing inferences – how you draw conclusions from facts.
  • Recognising assumptions – the ability to assess whether a statement is justifiable based on an assumption given.
  • Deductive reasoning – how you weigh information to decide whether conclusions are correct.
  • Logical interpretation – how you understand the weighing of different arguments given a particular question or issue.
  • Argument evaluation – ability to distinguish between strong and weak arguments.

The Watson-Glaser test is complicated and significantly different from other tests you may have taken in the past. Practising for it it helps you sharpen your skills, improve your answering techniques, and increase your confidence.

RANRA - Rust Advanced Numerical Reasoning Appraisal

The RANRA test aims to measure numerical reasoning skills. This test is usually found in conjunction with the Watson-Glaser test. The RANRA is not a typical maths test—it examines your deduction, analysis, and interpretation skills. Assessing how you make decisions based on analysis of numerical data, the RANRA asks you to identify the most important information from numerical facts and apply quick mathematical shortcuts to reach a solution.

There are two parts to the RANRA test. The first section is a comparison of quantities, where you are given two quantities, a statement, and four possible answers. The second is a sufficiency of information test. You are given two statements followed by a question. You then have to pick one of five possible solutions based on the information available to you. You are given 40 minutes to complete the test. 

Public Health Situational Judgement Test

The public health SJT was designed especially for Public Health Speciality Training to assess the personal and professional skills candidates requires. The test is particularly focused on the non-academic, personal, and professional competencies needed in public health. The SJT measures your judgement in response to situations that you may come across in the workplace. You are given a set of hypothetical scenarios and asked to make judgements against possible responses. The SJT contains a total of 50 questions that must be answered in 100 minutes.

There are two parts to the test. In part 1, each scenario is followed by five possible response options. You need to rank the responses according to their appropriateness with regard to the circumstances described in the scenario. In part 2, you are presented with scenarios and a list of possible options. For each scenario, you must choose the three options that together represent the most appropriate response to the given scenario.

Your score is a tally of all correct answers, so you will get a better score by answering as many questions as possible. You can prepare for the test by reviewing the person specification of the types of people the receuitment office is looking for to take part in the programme.

Selection Centre

The selection centre is a half-day session consisting of several exercises. These exercises test you against all the requirements listed in the person specification. The selection centre is held in Loughborough for all candidates. There are three main exercises held at this assessment centre:

The NHS advises that you be aware of the following at the start of your application. These may also be useful for the selection centre:

  • What are your top six skills?
  • What are your work values?
  • What type of work do you prefer?
  • What sort of environment do you want to work in?
  • What is your career plan now and for the next five years?


The interview is really a set of short interviews in 'steeplechase format'. You move from one short interview to another in a row. All in all, you are interviewed by six panels, each interview lasting around 10 minutes. Each interview is on a different topic, and you are moved around by a timed buzzer. All stations follow a certain structure: interviewers asks you a specific set of questions and may also demand more information through supplementary questions.

Questions during the interviews can be situational-based, experience-based, or questions about other tasks at the assessment centre. Example questions include:

  • What would you do in such a situation?
  • What are your thoughts on audit and research?

The interviewers are looking for evidence that you understand public health and the current issues, as well as that you have demonstrated the key competencies in the past. Don’t forget to provide this evidence in each of your answers. You may benefit from preparing examples ahead of the selection centre and organising your answers using the STAR method. For more information about the STAR method, see here. Taking part in a mock interview ahead of the selection day can also help prepare you for the real thing. 

Written Test

The written test assesses your qualitative and quantitative analytic skills. This written test may follow a number of formats, including analysing a list of situations in order to rank them based on order of importance. You may also be asked to provide reasons for your choices on the list. You can prepare for an exercise like this, as well as other forms of written exercise, using JobTestPrep’s written exercises preparation pack.

Group Exercise

The aim of this exercise is to test how you interact in a team. The group may be asked to discuss a challenging or contentious situation. You are given written instructions setting out what the assessors are looking for you to achieve as a group. You may be given an individual task or perspective to convey to the group, which you will be assessed on. You are also being examined on your ability to engage and relate with others, communicate, problem solve, organise, and plan. How you talk to the group, the quality of your input, and how you engage others within the group are also being assessed. Thinking about these points in advance and rehearsing your strategies will help you during the actual assessment. JobTestPrep offer group exercise training to help you prepare.


Prepare for Success

Competition for spots is tough, with 400-500 eligible applicants competing for 60-80 spaces a year. As a result, it is important that you do all you can to improve your application. Practising tests and preparing for the assessment centre will help you improve your performances on tests day. Prepare with JobTestPrep to ensure your success. 

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