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A Crash Guide to the DF1 Application

in Final year of dental school

A Crash Guide to the DF1 Application

Reshma Ratansi is a Final Year dental student at King's College London, starting foundation training in London from September. This article provides a guide to applying students regarding what to expect and when, as a timeline. It breaks down the key components of the process and how to prepare, to make the entire application process less stressful.


As you reach the start of final year, you might feel that you should probably do something productive towards applying for your foundation year: The problem is, how, when you have no clue what to research? This is a timeline to breakdown what you need to do, and when.

The DFT Interview:

  • 1 x 10 minute Communication Station: You will play the DENTAL FOUNDATION YEAR 1 dentist and you will be put in a situation that may arise in practice. [25% of the mark]
  • 1 x 10 minute Professionalism, Leadership and Management Station: A discussion regarding current guidelines/GDC standards and how you would manage a tricky situation from a DENTAL FOUNDATION YEAR 1 perspective. Depending on your examiner, this may be in the format of questions that you answer, or a monologue. [25% of the mark]
  • 105 minutes for a Situational Judgement Test: A test where you rank options about probable foundation year situations. [50% of the mark]



Nothing needs to be done. Enjoy your elective and your last few weeks of freedom before final year.
If however, you want to do something, start memorising the GDC Standards.


Apply to be considered for interview; these will be open for 3 weeks in September. Fill out an online form, the details of which your university will provide you with.
Initially you need to sign up to the COPDEND website. Use a personal (not university) email address.

TIP 1 – Please find someone to check your form! It should take you approximately 30-60 minutes to do properly, but it's crucial it is to get someone to check it for you.

Under the stress of filling out the form, it's easy to make a few mistakes, especially with drop-down menu options. It's a simple form, but it's not that simple - it will require more than your basic personal details.

You have a few weeks to fill the form out. Finishing it earlier rather than later won't put you at an advantage to other dental students, though it's probably better not to leave it until the night before the deadline.

TIP 2 - If you miss the deadline, speak to the Head of Year five ASAP. Scotland applications may still be possible.


Mid-October time, you will receive, (if your application in September was successful), an email inviting you to an interview with dates/times/venues/documents required. You have 48 hours to click "attending" following a link on the email, so apply with an email address you check daily.

Arrange for special leave for the day of your interview early.

Prepare for the interview! You will need:

  • possible communications/PML scenarios
  • a thorough knowledge of the guidelines/GDC standards
  • a timer
  • friends (or acquaintances) to practise with

Work through each scenario with friends or colleagues. Download the mark schemes from the COPDEND website and work using these. Work with different people rather than your usual friendship group, and work with people you don't know well, who will be critical. There is no benefit to working with individuals who will say your responses are brilliant, when they're not. It will not help you and will put you at a disadvantage, so avoid it. And time yourself!

TIP 3 - Go to some practise courses. Courses tend to be expensive, so choose well. Opt for courses that are in October/early November - before this, you may not feel adequately prepared for them to be much use (except to cause stress), but courses nearer to the interview may adversely affect your confidence for the big day.

Currently, only medical SJT questions exist, so you have to adapt these for dentistry. ("You are a FY1 doctor..." becomes "You are a DENTAL FOUNDATION YEAR 1 dentist...") It isn't perfect to practise with, but it is the closest you can get. The SJT is closely linked to the PML stations, so a thorough knowledge of guidelines is essential.

  • Plan your route in advance. It may even be in a different city to your dental school. Consider staying overnight in that city the night before your interview, so you aren't overly transport dependent.
  • Photocopy all the documents you need (approximately a week in advance - multiple photocopies will help). Double-check with colleagues what documents they are taking.
  • Take an attractive passport-style/size photo.
  • Prepare your outfit in advance.
  • Sleep well, eat well and get there early.

TIP 4 - If there's a training course at the venue, then go. I went to a course run by the Dental Training Consultants (DTC), which was at my interview venue, and ran in the same format - they interviewed us to time, and you had to do a ranked SJT. It was nerve-wracking, but it really helped - especially because my actual interview was the first one, on the Monday morning of the interview week. If you know the location, and the format to expect on the day, it helps immensely, compared to everything being completely new.

If you can't attend a mock simulation at the venue, try to visit the venue in advance. It takes a huge burden off directionally-challenged students on the day.

Do your interview, and then relax. For the most of your last 6-8 weeks, interviews will become your sole focus, until you're sleep talking GDC standards (ideally). It is exhausting and stressful and not fun - But when it's done, it's done. You cannot change how you performed, you can only hope for the best. Regardless of how you think you performed, you won't actually know for sure. The SJT is very unpredictable, and is 50% of your ranking, so you may do a lot better than you think!


Scheme preferencing: You'll get a list of all the different scheme locations, and you have to rank them according to where you most want to be. Think about if you want to live at home/move out; big cities/small towns; transport links and so on.

You have a week to rank and submit. Don't leave it until the last minute - for my year, the website had crashed on the deadline date and the helplines were closed! (Thankfully they extended the deadline by a day)

Don't rank schemes that you definitely would not consider, and don't choose schemes you think are less popular because you think you have a higher chance of getting your first choice. Most people get within their top ten: be optimistic.

The scheme you are allocated depends on cross-linking your rank in the interview and the rank you send.


This is when you receive your ranking and scheme. You have 48 hours to accept. Again, checking your email daily is so important.

Try not to arrange anything too taxing clinic-wise on the day; you're due to get your results, just in case it affects your mood.

If results don't go to plan/you don't get a place, speak to your Year five Coordinator as soon as you can.

At the end of January, there's a second allocation - when people reject a place, or don't confirm in time, places in schemes become available. You may be upgraded from a current scheme to one you placed higher, or if you did not get a place in the first round, you potentially could be allocated somewhere now.

February - July
The "Meet and Greet": Meeting the scheme trainers. You'll get a list of practices in your scheme and most people rank them beforehand, according to location, practice size and what treatments they offer.

I drew up a table of pros and cons for each of my practices from their online information - This helped to target questions towards specific practices.

Some deaneries will want you to prepare a CV or references in advance. Some will just want you to turn up. Make sure you discuss it with other people in your scheme, in case there is anything you might have missed.

Your provisional ranking on the day might change completely depending on how you interact with the different trainers: keep an open mind.

Take notes - it is an intense day and it's easy to confuse practices.

Rank your schemes before the deadline given. For some deaneries, the trainers rank you as well, whereas for others, the allocation depends on your DENTAL FOUNDATION YEAR 1 interview ranking. Make sure you know which case it is for you.

Remember, it's just for a year, so don't be disheartened if you don't get your top choice.

Focus on finals revision then: It's useless getting the practice of your dreams if you don't qualify.

The DENTAL FOUNDATION YEAR 1 application feels like walking on a tightrope: Looking at everything at once can make you feel panicked, especially teamed with all the other final year pressures: Quotas, deadlines, finals exams, case presentations and planning your future job for the next year? reshma_2.jpg
TIP 5 - Take each stage of the application as it comes and everything else will fall into place.

Good luck

Reshma Ratansi       


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