What is the NHS Situational Judgement Test?
A situational judgment test is used to screen applicants in a recruitment process. It puts the candidate in a work-based scenario to see how they behave at work, and how they deal with problems.
The NHS Situational Judgement Test is sometimes referred to as the NHS Situational Strengths Test, and in it, the candidate will have to face fictional yet realistic scenarios. These can be presented as a written situation or something that is video-based. In the test the recruitment team is looking for a candidate that possesses the following key attributes:
- Patient focus
- Commitment to professionalism
- Coping with pressure
- Team working
- Effective communication
As a candidate, the situational judgment test is a way to demonstrate that you have the right personality traits and behavioral style to be successful in a role in the NHS.
Situational Judgement Test Format
The NHS Situational Judgement Test is taken as part of the recruitment process for most roles, although the question content, length of the test, and how long it takes will depend on the type of job that is applied for. For example, the test to join the scientist program has 75 questions and lasts about three hours, whereas other assessments might only last 30-50 minutes.
As with most situational judgment tests, the NHS test is untimed. The questions are presented as relevant workplace scenarios that you might come across if you got the job, and each is followed by several possible courses of action that could be taken to deal with the problem or issue that is being described.
The scenarios might include dealing with patients, speaking to families, or communicating with other employees. They might be presented as a written description or a video.
The way you will need to answer the question might vary too. In some cases, you will need to select both the best and the worst course of action to take, while in others you will be asked to rank each action based on a scale of 1-5 as below:
- 1 = A very appropriate response
- 2 = Appropriate, but not ideal
- 3 = Neither inappropriate nor appropriate
- 4 = Inappropriate but not terrible
- 5 = Very inappropriate
When you need to take the test as part of your application, you might be invited to a Pearson VUE test center, or you might be asked to take it online via a link you will receive in an email from the recruitment team.
In either case, before you get started you will have to sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) to agree that you will not share any details of the test in any way. If you do not sign, you will not be allowed to take the assessment.
There is a tutorial that is optional to take at the beginning of the assessment, which will introduce you to the way the assessment is structured, how to navigate it, and how you will need to select the responses.
Once you have completed the assessment, there is a short survey that is also optional to complete.
How to prepare for the test
As a situational judgment test is assessing you on your behavior at work, and how well you match the required personality traits and soft skills for the role, you need to be prepared.
The best way to answer the questions that are presented and choose the right responses is, to be honest - but have a good idea of what the recruiters are looking for. You can find out more about this by doing some research.
Situational judgment tests tend to be similar in structure and layout, which means that taking practice tests online can help you get familiar with these assessments. Even though the content of the NHS test cannot be shared thanks to the NDA that candidates have to sign, work situations are going to be similar, so other tests can still be useful in getting you thinking about the way you would deal with a problem.
Sample questions and answers
Sample Question One
You arrive to work at the beginning of your shift, and a patient is waiting to be sent home following successful treatment, but the doctor that was on shift before has not completed the required paperwork. What do you do?
Choose the most effective and the least effective courses of action from the following options:
1) Complain to the head of the department that the work has not been completed 1) Do your normal rounds and get to this patient afterward 1) Complete the required paperwork anyway and get the patient home 1) Explain to the patient and their family that there has been a delay and take some time out later 1) Go to the nurses’ station and complain to the nurses about the doctor.
The best course of action would be c) - to get the patient home; not only is this the best result for the patient, but it also frees up a bed that could be used for another patient. The worst course of action would be e) - complaining about a colleague to other members of staff is not professional at all.
Sample Question Two
You are working a night shift in A&E, and it is incredibly busy. There are lots of patients waiting to be seen, and one of the families is loudly complaining. How do you deal with this?
Rate the following responses from 1-5, from the most effective (1) and least effective (5).
1) Take them through to be seen as soon as possible 1) Tell them if they do not calm down they will be refused service 1) Call the police and get them escorted out of the premises 1) Put them to the bottom of the triage queue 1) Ask someone else to deal with them
1 = b) Tell them to calm down - this gives them a chance to behave to get seem.
2 = e) Ask someone else to deal with them - if another member of staff has availability this can reduce the problem
3 = a) Take them through to be seen - skipping the triage order might solve a small problem but could put other patients at risk.
4 = d) Put them to the bottom of the triage queue - this could be dangerous to the health of the patient in question.
5 = c) Call the police - this would be an overreaction based on the details given, and would not help.
Tips to help you pass the test
Tip 1 - Research the Role
When you apply for a job, there is plenty of information about the role available on the website, and a lot more in the job description.
With some research, you will be able to understand the values that the NHS is looking for in a candidate, but also the specific soft skills, personality traits, and desirable behaviors that are needed for success in the role.
When answering the questions in the situational judgment test, you can refer to this knowledge to help you choose the most appropriate answers.
Tip 2 - Practice
One of the hardest things that you will encounter when it comes to taking a pre-employment assessment is unfamiliarity.
While the practice tests that you can take online might not be directly related to NHS roles, the job situations tend to be broadly similar - there are only so many scenarios that regularly occur in the workplace.
Taking practice situational judgment tests will get you used to the typical format, and make you think about how you would behave in different workplace situations before you have to answer similar questions in the real test.
The more tests you take, the more familiar you will feel with the pre-employment assessment.
Tip 3 - Be Honest
Although you want to make the best impression when you are taking a situational judgment test - and you will have done your research so you know what the recruitment team is looking for - it is best to answer as honestly as you can.
Situational judgment tests tend to be untimed so you don’t need to feel rushed into answering, but it is always best to go with your gut instinct. Bear the soft skills and aptitudes that you want to demonstrate in mind, but be yourself.
As with other parts of the recruitment process, tests are as much about the job suiting you as it is about you suiting the job - and failing the situational judgment test might suggest that the role is not suitable for you.
Tip 4 - Read the Question
In the NHS situational judgment test, the responses you need to give for each scenario might be different - and it is important to know what you need to do.
Some scenarios will require that you need to choose both the best and the worst courses of action that are presented to solve the problem.
Other scenarios will need you to put the courses of action into an order of how appropriate they are to the situation.
Making sure that you know what you need to do in each question will help you get the answers correct.
Tip 5 - Prepare Yourself
Whether you are taking the assessment in a Pearson VUE center or online, you should look after yourself properly to have the best chance for success.
This means getting a good night’s sleep the night before and eating a good meal. You should also stay hydrated - your brain needs the right fuel to perform.
If you are traveling to a test center, make sure you leave in plenty of time and bring the required ID.
For an online test, be sure that you have a solid and reliable internet connection and be somewhere that you will not be disturbed.