Research & Evaluation

Research & Evaluation of the GP Selection System

This section is a resource for accessing key research evidence regarding the GP selection process which has successfully completed several years of national recruitment since 2006. Whilst not exhaustive, the research evidence presented below outlines the development of the GP selection system and indicates how it follows best practice.

The History of the National GP Selection System

Prior to the development of the national GP selection system, research showed that various selection methods were applied across different deaneries which lacked standardisation. Directors of Postgraduate GP Education were therefore given responsibility for developing a selection and training system that ensured the process of recruitment demonstrates fair and open competition, and observes best practice in providing equal opportunities for all applicants1.

Subsequently, a collective commitment was made to work towards standardisation of recruitment methods across deaneries which resulted in the national process.

The National GP Selection System

In keeping with best practice selection from other occupations, a multi method job analysis was conducted by Professor Fiona Patterson (Work Psychology Group) and colleagues in 2000. A thorough job analysis determines the relevant knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes associated with competent performance in a job role and informs the design of selection methods which are accurate (reliable), relevant (valid), objective and standardised. 

Currently, the GP selection process uses national machine markable (MMT) short-listing tests, together with selection centre methodology, which has been developed incrementally. The development and successful implementation of the MMTs, with clinical problem-solving and situational judgement components, has been a significant innovation in postgraduate specialty selection.

1 NHS Executive (2000) Enhanced Management Arrangements for General Practice Vocational Training, 1999/230 Ed.

The Importance of Validation Studies

All selection processes face unprecedented scrutiny over the next few years in the UK and general practice has undertaken a long-term validation of its selection methods to ensure accuracy, fairness and cost effectiveness. 

The following research provides a summary of evidence that shows the national GP selection system is reliable, valid and fair. 

Evaluation from the candidate’s perspective consistently demonstrates that applicants have confidence in the relevance and fairness of the process. 


The process started by conducting a thorough job analysis of the relevant knowledge, skills, abilities and attitudes associated with good performance in General Practice.

The following section presents a summary of the research activities undertaken whilst developing the GP selection criteria:

Job analysis of GP role involving key stakeholders & expert consultation
Revalidation of the selection criteria for General Practice


Having completed the job analysis, this information was then used to inform which selection instruments and methods could be designed to evaluate the candidate’s capabilities against the relevant attributes.

The following section presents a summary of the research activities undertaken whilst designing the selection methods for the GP selection process:

Design of a Selection Centre for General Practice registrars
Exploring the impact of Lay People involvement in GP selection
Developing a National Clinical Selection test for General Practice
Evaluating three short-listing methodologies for selection into postgraduate GP training


Finally, the process has been validated by assessing the extent to which the selection methods provide valid predictors of progress in training and/or job performance.

The following section presents a summary of the research activities undertaken whilst evaluating the GP selection process:

Validation study to examine effectiveness of the GP selection system
Validation study to evaluate the GP selection system across 3 LETBs/Deaneries
Validation study to evaluate the GP selection system in the West Midlands LETB/Deanery
Evaluating candidate reactions to selection process

Articles on Related Specialty Selection


Using job analyses to identify core and specific competencies for 3 secondary care specialties: Implications for selection and recruitment. Medical Education, 42, 1195-1204.
- Patterson F., Ferguson, E., & Thomas, S. (2008)


Predictive validity of a selection centre testing non-technical skills for recruitment to training in anaesthesia. British Journal of Anaesthesiology
- Gale, T.C.E., Roberts, M.J., Sice, P.J., Langton, J.A., Patterson, F.C., Carr, A.S., Anderson, I.R., Lam, W.H., & Davies, P.R.F. (2010).
The right choice: A pilot selection centre to improve selection of future surgeons. Surgeons News, 10, 31-33
- Rowley, D., & Patterson, F. (2007)
Selecting doctors for postgraduate training in paediatrics using a competency-based assessment centre. Archives of Disease in Childhood, 91, 444-448. BMJ publishing.
- Davies H., Randall, R., & Patterson, F., & Farrell, K. (2006)
Assessment Centres Explained. Surgeons News. 4, 86-87
- Patterson, F. (2006)
Using an assessment centre to select doctors for postgraduate training in obstetrics and gynaecology. Obstetrician and Gynaecologist, 8, 257-262.
- Randall, R., Stewart, P., Farrell, K., & Patterson, F. (2006)


Contemporary issues in selecting doctors: the research evidence. ENT & Audiology, 18, 46-48
- Patterson, F. (2009)
New machine-marked tests for selection into core medical training: Evidence from two validation studies. Clinical Medicine, 9, 1-4.
- Patterson, F., Carr, V., Zibarras, L., Burr, B., Berkin, L., Plint, S., Irish, B., & Gregory, S. (2009)

Conference Paper Abstracts


Evaluation of situational judgement tests to select postgraduate trainees: validation studies in two specialties Association of Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) Conference Malaga.
- Carr V, Patterson F, Burr W, Plint S, Gregory S (2009)
Developing selection methodology for entry into postgraduate training; Validity, utility & candidate reactions. ASME, Leicester, September.
- Patterson F, Gregory S, Irish B and Plint, S (2008)
Validation of a Machine Marked Test to select trainees into UK General Practice; A model for the future. AMEE, Prague, September.
- Patterson F, Irish B, Plint S, Gregory S (2008)


Equalities impact of selection decisions: an evaluation of UK national recruitment for general practice. Association of Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) Conference Malaga.
- Plint S, Patterson F, Jackson N, Gregory S (2009)
Evaluating candidate reactions in selection; validation of new psychometric measures. Association of Medical Education in Europe (AMEE) Conference Malaga.
- Patterson F, Carr, V, Zibarras L, Irish B, Gregory S. (2009)

Further Reading


Identifying Critical Success Factors for Designing Selection Processes into Postgraduate Specialty Training
- Simon Plint and Fiona Patterson