How To Rank Your Foundation School Options
It’s difficult to know how to rank your foundation school shortlist, as we touched on in our previous article which you can find here.
Excitement, dread, and the common, "I’m just done" are some of the most frequent emotions experienced by final-year medical students weighing up their options. And this is even more challenging when it comes to ranking the foundation schools as part of your UK Foundation Programme application. But don’t worry, we've got you covered.
In this article, you’ll learn how to estimate your Foundation Programme Application System (FPAS) score, and how this will affect your likelihood of being accepted into your first-choice foundation school. We’ll also teach you a few different strategies you may want to use when finalising your rankings.
Explaining Your FPAS score
Your FPAS score will ultimately decide whether you'll get into your first-choice foundation school or not. It has a maximum score of 100 points and is made up of three parts, as follows:
1️⃣ Education Performance Measure (EPM) – Scored out of 43
The EPM is determined by your medical school decile, for which 10 points are available. First decile applicants will score 43, whilst tenth decile applicants will score 34 points. There’s little you can do to change this, other than performing at your very best in your exams to improve your decile.
2️⃣ Educational Achievement (EA) – Scored out of 7
Your EA is based on any publications or additional degrees that you have. These must be completed prior to 03/11/2021 to be included. Here’s a breakdown from the UKFP 2022 Applicants’ Handbook:
3️⃣ Situational Judgement Test (SJT) – Scored out of 50
You can read our guide for the SJT here.
How Your FPAS Score is Used
Higher scoring applicants are given priority when being matched to a foundation school. This is used in two ways:
👉 Allocating doctors to foundation schools
👉 Allocating specific rotations within each foundation school
This applies regardless of the ranking of your preferences, so if you score well as an applicant but don't get into your first preference, you'll be given priority over anyone with a lower score even if the others marked it as their first choice.
This method of allocating the highest scoring applicants continues until a foundation school has filled all its posts. In the event of a tie for posts, applicants will then be ranked in the following order: university decile, SJT score, random number generator (RNG).
Higher scoring applicants who are allocated to a foundation school post will be given priority when it comes to selecting hospitals and rotations.
This number shows you the ratio of applicants to posts for a foundation school.
A ratio of less than one means there are less applicants than posts, so all applicants who apply will be allocated a post. A ratio greater than one means there are more applicants than posts, and so a proportion of applicants will not be allocated a post.
It’s worth knowing that this ratio is based on an applicant's first preference only, so an applicant who doesn't get into their first choice but does get their second will not be calculated into the second school's competition ratio.
Read our guide to the most competitive foundation schools here, which breaks down the competition ratios for all of the foundation schools for the last three years.
Lowest Allocated Score (LAS)
This number shows you the FPAS score of the lowest scoring applicant who was allocated a post in a foundation school in a given year. It's determined by how competitive a foundation school is, so the more high scoring applicants apply, the higher this number is likely to be.
It's useful to be aware that if your own score is above the historical data then you’ll know you have a good chance of getting in, but the converse is also true.
If you have personal or special circumstances, some guidance can be found in the 'Pre-allocation based on Personal Circumstances’ documents on the UKFP website.
If you're thinking of linking your applications, be sure to read the relevant section in the UKFP Handbook, linked above. You should also be aware that linked applicants must rank their preferences in the exact order, and that the lowest FPAS score of the two will be used during the matching process.
Calculating Your Estimated FPAS Score
To determine where you might apply, calculating an estimate of your FPAS score is a really useful exercise. Your EPM score will be viewable on Oriel shortly after registering, whilst your SJT score won't be published for a while. So if you're eager to calculate your FPAS score earlier, you’ll need to estimate both your EPM and SJT scores.
Medical schools agree with their students which assessments will count towards their EPM. Check this with them and use your results here to estimate your decile, and subsequently calculate your estimated EPM score.
To estimate your SJT score, you can either use the national or your medical school’s average, which can be found in the UKFP: 2020 FP Stats and Facts Report. You could also use your practice test averages if you’ve done a few already. Add these scores together to predict roughly what your FPAS score will be.
Please note that the SJT can be very unpredictable, so we’d recommend that you use the lowest estimate for yourself just to be cautious.
Strategies and Tools
Now you understand the importance of your FPAS score and the matching process, let's discuss strategies for ranking your shortlisted foundation schools.
Strategy 1: Ranking Based on Location
If working in, or near to, a specific location is your only goal, you can rank them by their location. For instance, if you want to stay in London you might rank your top five choices as:
📍 North West London
📍 North Central and East London
📍 South Thames
There's no penalty for preferencing a foundation school with a higher historical LAS than your own. All it will mean is that, if you do not make it into your first choice, you'll be matched, in order of your preferences, to a school that you eventually meet or surpass the current year's LAS. Who knows, you may even get lucky by seeing the current year's competition ratio and LAS fall.
Strategy 2: Ranking Based on Competition Ratio
If a certain location isn’t your most important criteria, and instead you’re considering a number of regions, hospitals, or rotations, then you may want to consider being more strategic with your preferences.
That could mean considering preferencing deaneries with lower competition ratios where your score will be considerably higher than the LAS. This will stop you from ranking into a foundation school where you have one of the lowest FPAS scores, and consequently having last picks of hospitals and rotations. If this works out for you, you could be certain you’ll get most, if not all, of your dream rotations and hospital picks.
This process obviously favours those who do well in medical school. However, we want to stress the importance of the SJT here, which is often referred to by medical students as a random number generator due to the perception of an equal chance of doing very well or very poorly.
Whilst the SJT official website states you can’t directly prepare for the test, there are some things you can revise, familiarise yourself with, and practice to ensure you do your best. You can read our guide on the SJT here.
Changing the ranking order of your Foundation School ranking order is possible until the deadline of 17/02/22. Linked applicants should be aware that using this function, even if the end order is the same, will break their link.
No matter what strategy you use, we highly recommend checking out this tool that Jeremy Chui has created. It makes calculating your estimated FPAS score far easier, and helps you understand your chances of getting into each foundation school based on historical data.
Here’s a quick guide to using it:
1. Select your expected medical school decile at the top, click save and continue
2. Follow the instructions to add your EA, and whether you have any personal circumstances
3. Select your estimated SJT score based on national or university averages
4. Presto! Your likelihood of being allocated a post at each foundation school will be revealed
This article is part of a wider series, supporting doctors by helping you choose the best foundation school for you and to have the best experience possible. Click here to visit our Foundation Programme Resources Centre to explore the full list of guides and articles.
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