This article is the first in a series of articles in which we ask ten people about a Pharmacy related topic at random. In this article we asked final year students from across England to share their thoughts on the ORIEL recruitment system, as well as their advice.
ORIEL is the name of the portal for the recruitment of medical, dental, public health, healthcare science and Pharmacy pre-registration training portal, it is however routinely used to describe the application process as a whole. The system was developed to enable students in England and Wales to complete only one application form for their pre-registration training. The application process consists of a multiple-mini interview, a situational judgement test and a numerical reasoning test. More information about the system can be found here: https://www.lasepharmacy.hee.nhs.uk/national-recruitment/
"The process of Oriel seemed terrifying to me initially - the thought of having a bad day and messing everything up! However I found the process overall to be really fair; the MMIs were based on how you'd approach real-life situations and communication skills, rather than testing clinical knowledge like in exams. The SJTs and numeracy test were both appropriate to the level of study we were at too.
My advice to anyone going through Oriel is to have confidence in yourself and take advantage of every bit of support offered through your School of Pharmacy. We had so much help with interview techniques etc. that I felt extremely well prepared. When it comes to preferencing, make sure you do what you feel is right for you – rank what YOU want and don’t let anyone else influence you, as you’re the one who will be living with that decision for an important year."
Claire, 4th Year, University of Lincoln
“The Oriel system was really helpful for me in finding my desired pre- registration placement. The preference format is the main reason for this as it helped me to evaluate my options carefully in terms of both the training offered within the programme and geographical location. Moreover, the process for booking assessment centres was simple and efficient. I felt that the style of assessment used to rank applicants was appropriate however, I would have benefited more in terms of assessment preparation if a written document containing useful tips, advice and additional practice questions was provided. Oriel is currently new territory for pharmacy students, however by giving a clearer sense of direction for assessments, the process will become much more intuitive.”
Amir, 4 th Year, University of Nottingham
Oriel for me had its advantages and disadvantages. It was nice to only have to go through an interview and a test once, but this meant it felt like there was a lot more pressure to do well that one time. For people who easily stress about their work and university this can lead to quite an anxious time as the interview day approaches. My only regret is that I didn’t attempt to relax and enjoy the MMIs to try to make it easier for myself. I’m normally confident in my abilities so I feel if I had been a bit more comfortable I may have found it a less stressful process.
Serena, 4th Year, University of East Anglia
I went into my Oriel interview feeling fairly confident, having sat the Scottish interview prior to it. I feel my speaking skills probably stemmed more from my years in customer service jobs than any pharmacy experience, and they were definitely beneficial for receiving a higher score in the MMI. Practice SJT tests went well for me, but I feel that on the day, scores could easily swing either way with impulsive answers or slight changes.
I feel that with so many students receiving the same or similar scores, it is unfair to rank students on the MMI and SJT alone. Even though it is structured to avoid bias, if an interviewer happens to give one less point in the MMI than they should have, a student’s entire future could be changed.
Lauren, 4th Year, Keele University
After a long and anxious wait whilst going through the Oriel process, I was very lucky to secure my pre-reg at one of my top choices at a hospital in Surrey! My advice for anyone going through Oriel is to cover the basics first by reading the handbook carefully and thoroughly, it's a comprehensive source of information and a great place to start. In preparation for the MMIs, I simply wrote down as many experiences as I could remember from my work placements, extracurricular activities or part time work that were relevant to the competencies that are assessed. In doing so, I was able to recall events easily when questioned during interviews. Of course, for the maths assessment you can try practice questions with answers (the type of questions you may be asked can be found in the handbook). For the SJTs I would honestly say the best thing you can do is try your best on the day. You'll have spent 3 years training to be a pharmacist before you sit the SJTs so think of that as your practice! The SJTs are almost like a personality test and you simply have to trust yourself and keep calm and clear-headed whilst completing them. Oriel may seem daunting and stressful but even in the worst case scenario, it is only a year so make the most of it and if you want to move elsewhere or cross-sector after pre-reg then there are plenty of opportunities to do so.
Lucy, 4th Year, Bath University
Initially, I was apprehensive about the ORIEL system. I’d heard bad stories about the year before; many participants being thrown out of the process or receiving no offers. Additionally, unlike other application processes, ORIEL puts no weight on the usual (and largely irrelevant) factors; it can leave those who have prepped for that sort of process unprepared (good grades won’t help you here). Luckily the process has been improved by those before us and many universities like mine give you lots of support; however, my advice is be prepared for something different. ORIEL is mostly focused on assessing how you would behave as a pharmacist, not on what you know. This is why pharmacy placements and work can be so useful to you being successful in the process. Good Luck.
Olamide, 4th Year, UCL
Driving to a football ground for an interview felt slightly surreal and the nerves set in from the moment the postcode was entered into the satnav. In an unknown area Twitter proved very helpful as facilitators had tweeted information regarding parking options and the stadium’s location. The interview process was well organised, although lengthy, and I was glad the SJTs and maths test had been separated to a later date. At the venue all bags had to be locked away, which disallowed any last minute preparation so do not rely on this. Instead, thoroughly prepare for the interview, know the Professional Attributes Framework, and be able to cite the behaviours for each one. In doing so you will be able to recognise the behaviours the questions are encompassing and formulate an answer confidently.
Emma, 4th Year, University of East Anglia
From my personal experience, I believe the majority of the ORIEL process was unfair as it did not reflect an individual's achievements, grades or their university. The ranking system was unjustified as all candidates should have received a rank number prior to ranking their placement options as this would've given a better idea of where they stand in comparison to all applicants. The actual process of ranking should be made known to all candidates as it creates confusion. Insufficient material was provided to prepare for the SJT and MMI and therefore the marks allocated could have been based on pure luck, depending on the questions asked on the day. However, ORIEL allows a pre-reg application to be made to all the UK pharmacy programmes via one portal system, which proves to be an efficient process but I believe pre-reg places should be allocated via an interview directly from the selected programmes (ideally the top 5-10 ranked).
Henal, 4th Year, King’s College London
I would summarise by oriel experience as firstly daunting, then, nerve racking and ending with a huge smile on my face! Oriel is a well organised application process and my experience was positive. I was firstly daunted by it all, as it was a new system and didn’t really know what to expect, especially with the MMI. I remember being quite nervous on the day of the MMI, as I arrived an hour early to my time slot, but just used this time as mini networking event, talking to other students about their courses and summer placements. The MMI and SJT were not as bad as I expected, the facilitators at both venues were really helpful and understanding. The advice I would give to prospective students is to GO FOR IT! Don’t be daunted by it all, the process is a really good learning curve and you might find out you did better than expected.
Ausaf, 4th Year, Newcastle University
The Oriel process was quite straightforward, the application form was simple to fill out. I found that the SJTs were less stressful compared to the MMIs. I also think that the preferencing system was simple to use, although it was difficult to find information about some of the employers.
Practise for the MMI, it helps, when you’re under stress in the interview room, to have something in your memory to fall back on.
Having previous placement experience not only helps when you need examples for the MMI, but you also learn how to react in common situations that might come up on the SJT.
Anonymous, 4th Year, Birmingham University Student
Please note that the above views are not that of the association.
Information concerning the ORIEL system can be found here: https://www.lasepharmacy.hee.nhs.uk/national-recruitment/
Oriel applications will open in June 2019.
The association advises all applicants to read through the ORIEL handbook in line with guidance provided by HEE.