This page should be read alongside the guidance on booking for and preparing for the IAPs.


All trainees are eligible to apply to exit from their programme within a 15 month window, starting 3 months prior to the fifth anniversary of their enrolment onto their programme and up to a year after that.  Time out of training for parental leave (statutory) or other circumstances, with agreed training extension via the NSHCS Extenuating Circumstances policy, should be accounted for accordingly when calculating the fifth anniversary of programme. Trainees must inform the School by email that they are ready to exit. At this point the exit application form will be assigned to trainees to complete in their e-portfolio.

The exit application will require the trainee to confirm that they have met the requirements of their HSST programme pathway. In addition, it will require the trainee’s workplace supervisor to endorse their exit application.

Purpose of the IAPS

The assessment strategy for all trainees on the Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST) programme includes the delivery of an independent review of trainees’ professional and scientific skills at Consultant Clinical Scientist (CCS) level. The assessment is independent from the workplace-based colleagues who have supervised and assessed the trainee throughout the HSST programme.

Life Sciences HSST trainees are required to gain Fellowship of the Royal College of Pathologists (FRCPath) by succeeding on Parts 1 and 2 examinations as components of their programme. These will fulfil the function of an independent check on their skills.

For trainees on the Physical Sciences, Bioinformatics and Physiological Sciences programmes, the IAPS will serve as the independent review of their skills at Consultant Clinical Scientist level, mapped against the five domains of the Standards of Proficiency (SoP) for Higher Specialist Scientists:

  1. Professional Practice
  2. Scientific Practice
  3. Clinical Practice
  4. Research, Development and Innovation
  5. Clinical Leadership

These trainees will prepare to showcase their evidence under each domain for their assessment.

Oversight for the IAPS for each specialty will be provided by the Lead Examiner who has been appointed with reference to the specialty’s professional body.

Please note: for the remainder of this page, any reference to trainees is to be understood as meaning trainees on the Physical Sciences, Bioinformatics and Physiological Sciences HSST programmes only.

IAPS Regulations and policies

The IAPS will operate under the IAPS Regulations, which set out the parameters of the assessment, and the IAPS policies outlined below. (Each of these policies are currently being finalised and will be published in full shortly.)

IAPS reasonable adjustments policy

The NSHCS is a responsible institution and keen to ensure that trainees are afforded equitable access to their assessment. Trainees can indicate, in their exit application, if they wish to request accommodation of reasonable adjustments for their assessment due to registered learning difficulties or disabilities.

IAPS mitigating circumstances policy

This policy acknowledges that circumstances can arise near the time of the trainee’s assessment that may impact on their ability to provide their best performance but which do not necessitate deferment.

IAPS exceptional arrangements policy

Having declared their intention to sit their IAPS, trainees may have need to either defer or have exceptional arrangements to be accommodated that are not covered under reasonable adjustment policy.

IAPS complaints and appeals policy

This policy provides a mechanism by which trainees may submit a complaint about an irregularity in the assessment process which impacted on their assessment on the day or appeal the outcome of their assessment due to an irregularity in the decision-making process of the examination board.

IAPS Examination Board Terms of Reference

This sets out the membership requirements and the terms under which examination board panels must operate.

IAPS conduct policy

The IAPS is a high stakes, high level professional assessment. This policy ensures that the assessment is facilitated in a professional manner by the NSHCS and is conducted in a professional manner by both the trainee and the examination panel.

IAPS late arrival policy

This policy provides the requirement for the IAPS to be conducted as timetabled and sets out the terms on which late arrivals are dealt with.

IAPS dress code policy

Trainees, examiners and administrative staff must realise that the IAPS is a professional assessment and must dress accordingly.

You are required to comply with the terms of the IAPS policies. Any digressions may put your entry to the IAPS or outcome from your IAPS at risk. Please ensure that you review the Regulations and Policies. If there is anything you are unsure of, please contact the School before booking your IAPS event.

Components of IAPS, assessment and standard questions

The methodology used for the IAPS will be the professional discussion (PD).  The IAPS will consist of three elements:

1. A pre-PD element

Review of your submitted showcase evidence by the Lead Examiner for your specialty to ensure evidence appropriately maps to the GSP domain for which it was submitted and that at least 5 separate activities have been evidenced.

The following two elements will require you to attend the assessment centre:

2. PD Element 1 – review of a specialist or service-based paper

On this element, you are being assessed on your critical reasoning, scientific integrity and vision.

Review of a previously unidentified specialist research or service-based paper (60 minutes) followed by a professional discussion with the examination panel (30 minutes).

This component will require you to respond to the following standard statement made to start your discussion:

Please discuss with us [the panel] the key points of interest to you as a Consultant Clinical Scientist that you elicited from the paper in your review.  We [the panel] would like to understand your reasoning as part of your discussion. We [the panel examiners] may come in with supplementary questions as appropriate to the discussion.

3. PD Element 2 – meeting the Higher Specialist Scientist Standards of Proficiency

On this element, you are being assessed on your development to Consultant Clinical Scientist level.

You will be expected to demonstrate your development to consultant clinical scientist level against each GSP domain via a professional discussion with the examination panel using the submitted evidence as a basis for the discussion (60 minutes).

This component will require you to address the following standard statement to start the discussion under each GSP domain:

With reference to the evidence you submitted, please tell us how this demonstrates your development to Consultant Clinical Scientist level on the [name of domain] domain.


The IAPS will be offered on two occasions each year in May and December. The number of days in each period will vary as it is dependent on the number of exit applications received. You will be informed of the provisional date and time of your IAPS on receipt of your exit application. This will be confirmed when your showcase evidence has been approved by the Lead Examiner.

The timing on the day of your IAPS will be as follows:

Activity Timing
Arrival, registration and briefing 30 minutes
PD Element 1 – specialist paper review and preparation 60 minutes
PD Element 1 – specialist paper professional discussion 30 minutes
Break (water will be available in the break room) 15 minutes
PD Element 2 – HSS Standards of Proficiency Professional Discussion 60 minutes

The assessment panel

Panel examiners are approved by the Lead Examiner for the speciality.  Selection of examiners to form the panel for any IAPS event will take into account conflicts of interest.

The assessment panel will comprise three examiners, at least two of whom will be specialists in your specialty and one additional member who may be a healthcare scientist from your speciality, from a cognate science or another healthcare professional, e.g. from medicine, dentistry or other, with expertise in your area of practice.

Each panel will have a nominated Lead Panel Examiner (LPE) with particular responsibilities to ensure that the professional discussions are conducted fairly and appropriately. (Please refer to the ‘Panel Examiner role and responsibilities’ document).

The LPE will usually be the Lead Examiner. However, where there is a need to run parallel panels, the Lead Examiner will nominate the LPE on the parallel panels.

Marking and feedback

You will be assessed on the quality of your discussion in meeting the standard for Elements 1 and 2.

Each panel examiner will assess your discussion, record their judgement and comments independently without reference to the other examiners.  Each examiner is required to provide comments for all trainees for element 1 and under each domain for element 2. These will ensure the justification for their assessment.

At the end of the event, the panel will discuss their judgements and come to a consensus about the outcome under each element which, together, will provide the overall outcome from the IAPS. The panel will also agree on the comments to be submitted alongside the outcome for element 1 and under each domain for element 2. Examiner comments are provided for all candidates in the individual ‘IAPS candidate report’ irrespective of whether they have achieved the standard for passing the IAPS.

The LPE will record the overall outcome and agreed comments as well as the agreed elemental outcomes and comments on a candidate’s report template. This will be the panel’s recommendation from your IAPS to initially forward to the Examination Board to review.

The examination board

The Examination Board shall operate under the IAPS Examination Board Terms of Reference. The Board will be chaired by the senior member of the School on duty on the day.  The Board shall consist of the Lead Examiners present on the day, any nominated Lead Panel Examiners, plus co-opted specialists.  The aim of the Examination Board will be to review the agreed outcomes and comments to ensure that there is consistency in the decision-making process applied by each assessment panel.

The recommended outcomes will then be forwarded to the Head of School for ratification.

Release of outcomes from the IAPS

The outcome from your IAPS will be released within three weeks of your IAPS event.

You will receive, by email, copied to your workplace supervisor, a report detailing your outcome, together with examiner comments for each element. The report will also indicate the next steps.

Outcomes from the IAPS

There are five possible outcomes from the IAPS, each with different consequences and next steps. These are detailed below.


You have demonstrated practice at Consultant Clinical Scientist level.

Your results have been recorded for processing and you will duly receive your Certificate of Completion of the Higher Specialist Scientist Training Programme signed by the NSHCS Head of School: Professor Berne Ferry.

Referred with a failure on the specialist paper

Reassessment is required against a different specialist paper to the original one.

You are required to book for a further Professional Discussion at the next available IAPS event. An email will be sent to you to arrange this.

Referred with a Single SoP Domain failure

You will need to undergo a Skype interview with the lead examiner concerning this specific domain. An email to arrange this will be sent to you.

Referred with Multiple SoP Domain Failures

You are required to resubmit Showcase evidence for each SoP Domain failure and attend for a further Professional Discussion against all failed domains at the next available IAPS event.

You are required to rebook for a further Professional Discussion.

Referred with Specialist Paper and SoP domain/s failure

You are required to retake the full IAPS at the next available opportunity.