In the period between submitting an application and offers being made, you will be asked to specify your regional and geographical preferences in Oriel.

The preferences you make will be used along with final selection rank to determine which offer, if any, you receive.

You will have several opportunities to express your preferences throughout the recruitment process, as it is recognised that personal circumstances can change between the time of application and the time that offers are released.

If you have accepted or held a post, there will also be the opportunity to change upgrade options to allow a post/programme that was originally ranked lower than the offered post to become an upgrade option.

The order offers will be made in will be determined solely on the selection score and permissions to work in the UK, not preferences made. Your preferences will only come into play when you are reached in the ranked list and an offer is due.

Preference choices should be made solely on desirability of the associated post for the individual applicant, not the perceived desirability for all applicants. Ranking a less popular preference highly will have no bearing on when an offer will be made.

Interview panels will not have access to your preferences.

Important: Important

By ranking a preference, you are stating that you would be prepared to undertake a training programme in that area. You should not preference or accept posts you are unable to commence training in. This includes programmes that are in the No preference column.

If you are made an offer and decline it, you will be withdrawn from the process and will not receive any further offers for that specialty.

During the recruitment process, the lead recruiter managing your application will contact you to seek your programme preferences. Once available, you will receive an email inviting you to log in to your account on the Oriel application system and make your preferences.

Upon doing so, you will be able to see all of the programmes for which you are in contention and two sections into which you can divide these: preferences and not wanted.


You should move all posts you wish to be considered for into the preferences section. All posts you move into this section must be put into rank order. For example, the post you want most at the top as number 1, next most at number 2.

Should you be eligible to be made an offer, you will be considered only for posts you have included in this section, and you will be offered the highest-ranked post on your preference list which remains available.

Not wanted

By default, all preferences are added to the not wanted list. It is important that you move any preferences you wish to be considered for into your Preferences list.  If you do not give any preferences, you cannot receive a post offer.

You should leave any posts which you do not wish to be considered for in the Not Wanted list.


If you receive an offer of a post and choose to accept or hold the offer, you will be given the option to be considered for offer upgrades.

If you accept/hold a post with upgrades, and at a later date one of your higher-ranked preferences becomes available, your offer will be upgraded automatically to the higher preference. It is possible to revise your preferences should your circumstances change and you now prefer another location.

Timing for selecting preferences

The timing can vary but as a guide, this usually starts around the time of interview and will need to be completed before offers can be made so this will be in advance of the first offers deadline; preferences are usually open for selection for at least a week to give you time to consider your choices.

If you are not initially made an offer, you will be able to amend your preferences. This will include reordering your list and changing whether a programme is included in your 'preferences' or 'not wanted' lists.

Choosing preferences on Oriel

Depending on what you are applying to, the number of programme preferences from which to choose can vary from just a few to 50 or more. Below are some notes to bear in mind when using Oriel to choose your preferences:

  • The drag and drop method for making your preferences on Oriel is not usually compatible with phones and tablets so please use a laptop or desktop computer for this part of the process.
  • On the screen where you select programme preferences, you can download a spreadsheet containing all the programme options. When there are a large number of options, this can be a better format for deciding on your preferences due to the presentation and sorting options this format allows. 
  • Filtering - the preference system enables you to filter by the information given for each choice. Therefore, if you only want to look at one region you can filter all others out.
  • As noted in the 'timing' section above, if you are not offered a post initially, there will be an opportunity to review your preferences after offers start so you could then consider other regions at that stage if you want to change your mind.
Only include preferences you would accept if offered

There is no benefit to including programmes which you would definitely not accept and this could even reduce your chances of being offered a programme you do want as, once an offer is declined, you can no longer be in contention for the specialty.  

If you can't be made an offer initially you will go on the reserve list and considered when declined offers are recycled. You are better to be on the reserve list than holding an offer you do not want and hoping for an upgrade. By the holding deadline you will need to decline the offer and be out of the running, whereas if you had not yet been made an offer you would remain in contention.

Meet deadlines

As all programmes default as 'not wanted', if you do not select your initial preferences by the deadline, you cannot be made an offer. Although there will be opportunity to select or revise preferences later, it may be too late to get one of your most preferred programmes.

Ensure your selection is accurate

Oriel makes offers on the basis of your rank and programme preferences, if anything is not in accordance with your wishes, you may miss out on something you did want, or be offered something you do not.

Although there will be opportunities to revise your choices during the offers process, getting them right first time will maximise your chances of being offered what you most want.

You can revise your options as much as you wish before the preference deadline and it is advisable to log back in after selecting them to check you are happy with your selection.

Programmes with zero places

If an option has zero places when you come to preference, you should include it the order in which you would wish to be offered it if there were places. Sometimes places cannot be declared at the point preferences are chosen but they may be added later on.  if you have not included it in your preferences you cannot be considered for it.

There is no penalty to including a programme with zero places, all the offers matching algorithm will do is skip this choice and move onto your next one.

Choice of preferences affecting offers

The more programmes you include in your preferences, the more likely it is you can be made an offer but the order in which you rank them will not. Whether or not you will be made an offer will be determined solely by your total score, and resulting ranking, the number of programmes available and your preferences of these.

When offers are made, candidates are considered in rank order and assigned their highest available preference. Once your rank is reached, your preferences will be considered to see which can be offered to you. If all your preferences are offered by the time it comes to your rank, you will not be offered and go on a reserve list.

Don't try to game the offers process

If you believe a certain post will be unpopular, then ranking this as your number 1 preference will not mean you are more likely to receive an offer, nor at an earlier stage, than would be the case if it were your number 20 preference.

Your preferences only come into play once it is 'your turn' to be made an offer. Therefore you will be considered for all your preferences before any candidates ranked below you. This means that you will be considered for your number 20 preference before a candidate who is lower-ranked but has your number 20 preference as their first.

Give honest preferences

Our advice is to:

  • Only preference programmes you would genuinely consider accepting if offered.
  • Do not preference programmes you would definitely not accept.
  • Rank them in the order which genuinely reflects your preference of the posts available.

The offers process is designed in such a way as to give you the best chance possible of being offered your highest-available preference without the need to second guess the process.

Changing preferences

If offers have yet to be released, or you personally have not received an offer, then you can amend your preferences in your application form at any time through enhanced preferences. Enhanced preferences allow you to amend your preferences at any time during the recruitment process, up until the upgrade deadline for the recruitment round.

Additionally, those opting in for upgrading have the option to review/revise their programme preferences. This gives you the option to revise the ordering of your preferences and change your mind about any of the available programmes; so if your circumstances change you can still compete for any programme up until the upgrading deadline. For example, you can:

  • decide to include in your preferences programmes that you did not originally want
  • move preferences to the 'not wanted' column (with the exception of the offer you are currently holding/have accepted)
  • move programmes initially ranked more highly than your current offer to a lower rank
  • move programmes initially ranked lower than your current offer to a higher rank.

Amending your preferences for a specialty when you have not been made an offer is completed in the same way as making your initial preferences.

Regardless of changes made by candidates to their preferences, a programme which is held or accepted cannot go to another candidate, regardless of how highly they are ranked, unless it is released by them.

There will be periods during offers when you will not be able to revise your preferences as the offers matching algorithm is being run so it is necessary to suspend the feature during these times. If you encounter this we recommend you try again later.

Page last reviewed: 20 May 2024
Next review due: 20 May 2025