At some point after shortlisting, the region 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 for which you wish to be considered into the preferences section. All posts you move into this section must be put into rank order; ie the post you want most at the top as #1, next-most at #2, etc.

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

Not wanted

To begin with, all posts are included in the not wanted section. You should leave any posts for which you do not wish to be considered here.

All programmes are included in this not wanted section to begin with. So please note - if you do not give any preferences, you cannot receive a post offer.


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. Via the upgrades process, it is possible to revise your preferences should your circumstances change and you now prefer another location.

See the responding to offers page of this section for more information.

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, there will be short periods during the offering period where you will be able to reconsider your preferences. This will include reordering your list and changing whether a programme is included in your 'preferences' or 'not wanted' lists. You will be emailed at the time when preferences are available to revise.

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.

In addition to these notes, it is recommended to review the 'preferences guidance' tab in this section of the website. This has further notes to take into account when deciding upon your programme preferences.

Preferences guidance

In each recruitment round, we receive a large number of queries from candidates regarding preferences and offers. The guidance in this section covers the most common areas where issues arise.

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.

Will my choice of preferences affect whether I will receive an offer?

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 gaming the offers process

If you believe a certain post will be unpopular, then ranking this as your #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 #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 #20 preference before a candidate who is lower-ranked but has your #20 preference as their first.

Give honest preferences

Our overall 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 that to give you the best chance possible of being offered your highest-available preference without the need to second guess the process.