Expert advice on passing your nursing or health course selection day tests

Top tips to get prepared for your selection day

Working in the healthcare sector can be extremely rewarding. From midwifery and nursing, to mental health care, radiography, or speech and language therapy, the opportunities are varied and well-trained staff are in constant demand. But to get there, you first must pick the right course. 

This is a highly regulated industry and the most common route in is with a degree, accredited by the relevant healthcare body. Often these courses run slightly differently to the majority of university courses. The timetables can be different, the terms often start earlier, and the entry requirements are often highly specific, not just in the qualifications, but also in the administration involved. These things become particularly relevant if you are applying through Clearing, when the whole process speeds up and there is no time to wait for under-prepared applicants. 

Most universities will hold assessment or selection days, where they will be testing everything from your compassion to your insight into the NHS and its core values. This may sound intimidating, but there are some simple preparatory steps you can take to make sure everything runs smoothly. We spoke to Kim Ball, the senior admissions officer for the School of Health Sciences at City, University of London, to get some insider knowledge

“The most important thing that you can do is to read up about the course that you’re applying for, check the university’s website and follow the advice they give,” says Kim.

“Have a look, see if you have the right qualifications – either already, or they can be pending - and if your qualifications aren’t listed, then give the university a call and talk to them, it’s always worth investigating.”

At City, University of London, if your initial application is approved you will be invited in for a selection day. This is the same at almost all institutions, though the style of assessment involved may vary. Some institutions will still require applicants to take a numeracy and literacy test, while others, like City, will accept GCSE or equivalent qualifications in the subjects. 

“It’s not just a matter of telling us that you have them though,” adds Kim. “We need to physically see the certificates and if you don’t bring them with you to your selection day, that can really slow things down.”

As well as certificates, there are likely to be several other administrative documents you’ll need, like DBS checks, passports and academic character references. “We work closely with the nursing and midwifery council and they require all the correct paperwork like this. Health courses across the board are pretty strict with their requirements. Throughout your course you will go on clinical placements and work with real patients. There are a lot of guidelines in place and that starts right at the beginning of your training.” Kim adds that this is particularly relevant during Clearing, when they are unable to hold places so any delay might mean that you miss out on your space altogether.

The selection day is also likely to be an opportunity to show how you work as a team, individually and in pairs. Admissions staff will be looking for evidence of how you might communicate with patients, and whether you have a genuine interest in the course.

“For the majority of our courses there are group exercises,” adds Kim. “Each person will have a chance to speak and show they have an insight into the field that they’ve applied for. We will be looking to see if they show compassion, what their body language is like and how they are with other people. Do they talk over people? Do they listen?” 

Interviews are another likely part of the selection process. City provide advice for their main selection days on their website, and most other institutions will do the same. This vlog by a Speech and Language Therapy student Sophie Carmichael also gives great advice to boost confidence, pointing out that questions aren’t designed to trip you up, but rather give you the chance to show off. “If you’ve been invited for an interview it means that they already do really like you. Try and go with the mindset that they do really want you to do well,” she says.

Some institutions might also have written tests. Again, these are unlikely to be a surprise as all the information should be on the university’s website or on your interview documents. Often these are scenario based, and a way of measuring your understanding of the industry and your ability to empathise.

Applying through Clearing should mean you follow the same general process, but it all goes a lot faster – which is why you need to be organised with your documentation. “Sometimes the entry requirements change slightly during Clearing,” says Kim. “These will be on our website a few days before. If you meet the requirements you can call us on A-level results day when our Clearing hotline will open, you will speak with one of our admissions officers and if you pass that part then you will be invited in for a selection day. That’s when it’s really crucial to come with everything required.”

If you’d like more information about studying at City, you can head to their website for more information