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So, you want to be an Ophthalmologist?

Updated: Aug 29, 2022

By Periklis Giannakis

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If you want to become a surgeon that has nothing to do with body medicine but focuses on the eyes, then you are on the right blog. Being an ophthalmologist is more than just checking peoples’ eyes, and giving them eye drops. It is also doing super intricate eye surgeries to restore vision or at other times teach medical students or residents the craft, and create your own medical device or lead your own private practice. You will always be using cutting-edge technologies and no robots will ever be able to replace you.

So, you have decided you want to become an ophto-pod, so what is next in the UK?

Programme overview:

After around 2 weeks of ophthalmology rotations at medical school, you will graduate and enter the classic or specialised foundational programme (SFP) and then you have the choice of entering immediately into ophthalmology residency which lasts 7 years; or do an Academic Clinical Fellowship in Ophthalmology for 3 years leading another 3 years of part-time PhD, part-time ophthalmology training to become a consultant. Most graduates of ophthalmology residency, if they haven’t done a PhD, will need to do one and a fellowship in a sub-speciality of interest before they become consultants. In general, ophthalmology residency is one of the most competitive ones to get into, so preparing early is key for success. According to the 2021 recruiting data, there were only 85 ST1 ophthalmology posts in the whole of the UK. (

Application process:

The application mainly consists of two important components: Multi-Speciality Recruitment Assessment (MSRA) and the evidence folder, which is your portfolio. The former is a 170-minute exam made up of every medical student’s fear, the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) which takes up 95 minutes of the exam; the rest is general medical questions. (

If you are shortlisted based on your MSRA score, you will then be invited to attend an online interview (Online Assessment) which involves an assessment of your evidence folder and mini-OSCES. After the interview, you are given a global score based on all these three components: MSRA counting for a maximum score of 20 points, evidence folder counting for a maximum score of 50 points; and the online assessment counting for a maximum score of 30 points. ( ) The application timeline is shown in Figure 1.

Figure 1: This is the application timeline for ophthalmology match for the 2021 application cycle. (

How can you increase the odds?


From looking at the weighting of the evidence folder, the wise choice would be to capitalise and invest on that from early on to allow ample time to max it out before applications. Although, some components like FRCOPhth Part 1 can’t be done during medical school (have checked with the Royal College of Ophthalmologists, and they don’t allow medical students to sit it ). The good news is that other than that everything else can be done during medical school. In this section, we will cover the evidence folder domain by domain with ways to max it out.