Public Health Specialty Training Scheme

Prepare for your place: Public Health Specialty Training Scheme

If you are applying for Public Health Specialty training, you know how important passing each assessment stage is.  That's why it's so important to prepare. We have put together a guide to help navigate through the recruitment process.

The Faculty for Public Health is the standard-setting body for specialists in this field. Recruitment for the Public Health specialty training is done through the Public Health National Recruitment Office or the PHNRO.

There are several eligibility requirements you must meet before you can even start the Public Health recruitment process. Additionally, receiving a place on the programme, you must provide a high-quality Public Health application at each stage of the process.

There are Public Health training programmes available across the country and two main routes—clinical routes for medical professionals and an alternative route for Public Health professionals. The two courses are the same once you are in the programme.

The Public Health Registrar (ST1) hiring process consists of several stages:

1. Public Health online application

2. Public Health assessment tests

3. Public Health selection centre

Online Application Form

Applications for the programme open in November. The NHS application form asks for your qualifications, experience, and evidence of how you fit the criteria in the person specification for the programme. You should be familiar with Public Health concepts and issues and the Public Health policy arena.

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 challenging to understand the concerns of a patient or caregiver.

- 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?

Public Health Assessment Tests

If your application form meets the necessary requirements, you will be invited by PHNRO to sit three tests at a Pearson VUE assessment centre. This usually takes place in January.

Assessment centres are available across the UK and in five European cities. The tests conducted at a Public Health assessment centre aim to measure your numerical reasoning, critical thinking, and situational judgement abilities.

Below are the three NHS tests you may need to take:

Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal

RANRA - Rust Advanced Numerical Reasoning Appraisal

Situational Judgement Test - public health specific SJT

Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal‍

The NHS Watson-Glaser Critical Thinking Appraisal assesses your ability to think critically about given information, which involves interpreting data thoroughly and carefully and 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 – the 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 helps you sharpen your skills, improve your answering techniques, and increase your confidence.

Public Health’s RANRA - Rust Advanced Numerical Reasoning Appraisal

The Public Health RANRA test aims to measure numerical reasoning skills, and this exam is usually found in conjunction with the Watson-Glaser test. 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. This exam takes 40 minutes to complete.

There are two parts to the RANRA test:

The first section: This section is a comparison of quantities, where you are given two quantities, a statement, and four possible answers.

The second section: This section is a sufficiency of information test, in which you are given two statements followed by a question. You will then have to pick one of five possible solutions based on the available information.

Public Health Situational Judgement Test

The NHS SJT was designed especially for Public Health Specialty Training to assess candidates to determine whether they possess the required personal and professional skills. This test is mainly 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:

Part 1: Ranking Questions: Each scenario is followed by five possible response options. You will need to rank the responses to these given scenarios according to their order of appropriateness, 1 being the ‘most appropriate’ and 5 being the ‘least’.

Practise for this section of the test – JobTestPrep offers 2 practice Graduate ranking tests, each consisting of 10 questions.

Part 2: In this section, you will receive the same scenarios; however, this time, you will be asked to choose 3 options (from a list of 9) 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 recruitment office is looking for to participate in the programme.

Public Health Selection Centre

The NHS assessment centre is a half-day session consisting of several exercises. These exercises test you against all the requirements listed in the person specification. This selection centre is held in Loughborough for all candidates (covid-19 dependent).

There are three main exercises held at this Public Health assessment centre:

Written test

Group exercise


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 Public Health Written Test

The NHS written test assesses your qualitative and quantitative analytic skills. This written test may follow several formats, including analysing a list of situations to rank them based on the 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 and other forms of a written exercise using JobTestPrep’s written exercises preparation pack.

The Public Health Group Exercise

This exercise aims 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.

The Public Health Interview (virtual for 2022)

The NHS interview is a set of short interviews, usually in a 'steeplechase format', in which you will move from one short interview to another in a row. However, this time round it is virtual, so the format may change. Usually you will be interviewed by six panels overall, as each interview will be on a different topic. Every interview will last around 10 minutes.

All stations follow a certain structure, in which interviewers will ask 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 NHS interview 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 and 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.  

Prepare for Success

Competition for spots is challenging, 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 performance on tests day. The excellent customer support team at JobTestPrep and high-quality practice materials can help you reach your goals

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