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UCAT Decision Making: How to Prepare in 2023

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The UCAT ® Decision Making subtest is designed to test your reasoning ability and logical thinking. It’s no surprise then that UCAT ® Decision Making questions can be tricky, especially when you’re under the immense time pressure of the UCAT ® exam. However, with the appropriate level of preparation, there’s no reason why you can’t excel on this subtest. This guide aims to provide you with an overview of what to expect from the UCAT ® Decision Making subtest along with some useful tips on how to best prepare.

  1. What is UCAT ® Decision Making?
  2. UCAT ® Decision Making Question Types
  3. How to Prepare for UCAT ® Decision Making
  4. UCAT ® Decision Making Tips
  5. What is a Good Decision Making Score for UCAT ® ?
  6. Approaching UCAT ® Decision Making Questions on Exam Day
  7. Further Preparation Materials

What is UCAT Decision Making?

The Decision Making test is the second subtest of the UCAT ® exam. UCAT ® Decision Making is designed to assess a candidate’s reasoning ability in a variety of ways. You’ll be presented with information in text, image, tabular, or graphical form, and the questions will relate to manipulating the given information to reach specific conclusions.

Why is Decision Making Important for Medicine?

UCAT ® Decision Making questions assess a multitude of problem solving and reasoning strategies. Whilst the specific style of questions are unlikely to appear later on the course of your medical training, the skills that are assessed are crucial in the day-to-day tasks of a healthcare professional, and are essential for your continued medical training and career progression. For instance, syllogistic reasoning and logical thinking are important for medical professionals in drawing legitimate conclusions in research and to prevent cognitive biases in arriving at diagnoses. The Strongest Argument questions mirror the type of decisions medical professionals are faced with when considering two equivocal diagnoses: Which is more convincing and why? Such reasoning techniques are difficult to assess through academic merit and thus the Decision Making subtest of the UCAT ® exam is important in allowing examiners to see which candidates will be able to develop such skills throughout their careers.

UCAT Decision Making Structure

UCAT ® Decision Making questions are designed in a variety of ways. Information may be presented to you in text, chart, table, graph, or diagram form. In all instances, all the information required to solve the questions will be given and outside information should not be used. See the “UCAT ® Decision Making Question Types” section below for a more detailed breakdown.

How much time do you have on UCAT Decision Making?

Each candidate is given 31 minutes of test time and 1 minute for the instruction section. This comes to around 64 seconds per question.

UCAT Decision Making Timing

Subtest Test Time Number of Questions Average Time per Question
UCAT Decision Making 31 minutes 29 questions 64 seconds

Knowing how long the decision making subtest runs for will help you better manage the limited time that you have to tackle this section of the UCAT ® exam.

UCAT Decision Making Question Types

There are 6 types of UCAT ® decision making questions:

Each UCAT ® decision making question type is explained in further detail below, along with some example questions.

Syllogism - UCAT Decision Making Questions

Syllogism UCAT ® Decision Making questions are short questions that test strict logical conclusion drawing abilities. A candidate is presented with a set of premises where only the given statements can be assumed to be true. This information is often nonsensical to avoid candidates bringing in extra information. The candidate must identify what conclusions can be made from the given information.

Syllogism - Example Question

There are quirks, quinks and clinkers. All quirks are clinkers. Some clinkers are quinks. Not all quirks are quinks.

Place ‘Yes’ if the conclusion follows. Place ‘No’ if the conclusion does not follow.
All quinks are quirks. Yes/No
Some, but not all, quirks are clinkers. Yes/No
Quinks can be either quirks or clinkers but not both. Yes/No
Quinks that are quirks are also clinkers. Yes/No
No quirks are quinks. Yes/No

Logic Puzzles - UCAT Decision Making Questions

Logic puzzle UCAT ® Decision Making questions are similar to “IQ” questions that many candidates may have come across before. They involve a specific set up that can be presented in many ways (i.e. a row of houses, seating arrangements for friends, finishing positions for a race, appointment schedules for a doctor’s office, etc.). Clues are then given regarding positions within the set up. The candidate is expected to use these clues in conjunction with each other to either deduce the entire set up or come to a conclusion.

Logic Puzzles - Example Question

The local high school was holding a formal, and five friends – Angela, Blanche, Christy, Davina, and Emily – are attending. They turn up all with differently coloured dresses and heels. The colours of the dresses and heels are white, black, gold, silver, or blue. No two friends wore the same coloured dresses or heels. No-one wore the same colour dress as their heels.

Blanche wore a blue dress. Her heels were neither gold nor silver.
Emily wore black heels. Her dress was neither white nor silver.
Christy’s dress was the same colour as Davina’s heels.
Angela wore a black dress.

From the information given, which of the following can be concluded with certainty?
  1. Angela wore gold heels.
  2. Blanche wore a silver dress.
  3. Christy wore blue heels.
  4. Davina wore a white dress.

Strongest Argument - UCAT Decision Making Questions

In the UCAT ® Decision Making subtest Strongest Argument questions seem like very straightforward questions on commonly discussed topics. For example, you may be presented with a simple question such as “Should the Australian government have lifted the COVID-19 lockdown earlier?” The candidate is then presented with four responses to the question, two in agreement and two in opposition. Each response will have a single statement to back it up. The candidate is expected to select the strongest argument out of the four based on quality of response only, with no outside or personal influence.

Strongest Argument - Example Question

Should marijuana be offered by general practitioners as a form of pain relief for patients with a terminal illness?

Select the strongest argument from the following.
  1. Yes, marijuana targets an alternative pain pathway in the nervous system that is not affected by other painkillers.
  2. Yes, the main goal of care for the terminally ill is to achieve a pain-free and peaceful state and marijuana can help achieve this.
  3. No, restricting medications to small groups of the population is unethical.
  4. No, marijuana is an addictive substance that can lead to abuse and dependence if prescribed.

Inference - UCAT Decision Making Questions

Inference questions can come in a variety of forms, but often are in the form of a short block of text along with a type of graph, table, or chart. In the UCAT ® Decision Making subtest, you may face Inference questions which are built up of a number of elements, including verbal reasoning or quantitative reasoning, but note that arithmetic should not be the focus of such questions. Instead, the candidate is expected to understand the diagram and the message the text is conveying, from which they can then draw conclusions.

Inference - Example Question

There are many species of animals in a forest, of which the wallaby and the quokka are the closest to being driven to extinction. Wallabies live for 15 years on average, which is 50% more than a quokka’s average lifespan. The table below shows the number of quokkas and wallabies in different regions of the forest. The numbers are the average number of different wallaby and quokka individuals spotted by a researcher every morning during a period of 2 months. The areas of the forest are connected and travel between areas is unrestricted to the animals.

Areas Wallabies Quokkas
Area 1 23 21
Area 2 21 41
Area 3 14 35
Area 4 18 20
Area 5 16 21
Place ‘Yes’ if the conclusion follows. Place ‘No’ if the conclusion does not follow
There is a total of 138 quokkas in this particular forest Yes/No
Assuming that wallabies do not move across areas, on average, there are approximately 18.4 wallabies spotted in one region in one morning across a period of 2 months. Yes/No
Assuming mating does not occur and animals do not migrate into the forest, within the next 15 years, a majority of quokkas in the forest can be assumed to have died. Yes/No
In 15 years, we can expect the numbers of quokkas to be far lower than the numbers of wallabies. Yes/No
Extinction is affecting wallabies and quokkas the most out of any species in the forest Yes/No

Venn Diagrams - UCAT Decision Making Questions

Venn diagram questions come in a variety of forms, but they all revolve around the understanding and ability to construct Venn diagrams. In the UCAT ® Decision Making subtest candidates are expected to know how to interpret such diagrams, how to construct such diagrams from verbal information, and how to use Venn diagrams to solve reasoning problems where they are not explicitly given.

Venn Diagrams - Example Question

A researcher asked a group of University students which of the following common medical conditions they had had in the past. The results are diagrammed below:

UCAT Exam Calculator
Which of the following labelled spaces represents students who have had an arm fracture and appendicitis but have never fainted?
  1. A
  2. B
  3. C
  4. D

Probabilistic Reasoning UCAT Decision Making Questions

Probabilistic Reasoning questions in the UCAT ® Decision Making subtest are designed to test a candidate’s ability to understand and interpret probabilities when presented in a number of ways, from fractions to decimals and percentages. You are expected to be able to work with these probabilities and interchange them with each other. There may also be a few questions in which probabilistic calculations are required but these should be simple - understanding, rather than arithmetic, is the key concept tested here.

Probabilistic Reasoning - Example Question

There are two world champion boxers that are set to fight. In his professional career of 50 fights, WIllox Willis has a win rate of 96% with a knockout rate of 80%. Jonathan Jeremiah has won all of his 48 fights and his knockout rate is 17/20.

Considering only the number of wins in their professional career and the knockout rate, should Willox Willis win the fight?
  1. Yes, he has two more fights so he is more experienced.
  2. Yes, he has a 96% win rate, which is extremely high.
  3. No, he has a lower knockout rate.
  4. No, Jonathan Jeremiah has won all of his fights.

How to Prepare for UCAT Decision Making

The best way to prepare for UCAT ® Decision Making is to consistently tackle practice questions. There are 6 general groups of UCAT ® decision making question types and these may seem initially overwhelming until you become familiar with the question types and develop a strategy to approach each of them. Many of these question types may have more than one type of approach. One particularly useful approach is to form a study group and share your techniques to solving these Decision Making UCAT ® questions to help broaden your set of strategies.

Furthermore, it may be useful to sign up for classes, to learn and practise these techniques under the expert guidance of a tutor who has gone through the same learning process and been in your shoes.

How can I get better at UCAT Decision Making?

Our tutors have come together to compile the 3 main ways to get better at the UCAT ® Decision Making subtest:

Learn the key concepts behind each type of reasoning

Generally speaking, there are a couple of key concepts behind each type of UCAT ® Decision Making question. For example, Syllogism questions often assess your ability to recognise individual parts of a logical argument. For Venn Diagram questions it may be the ability to read and construct venn diagrams. Logic puzzles on the other hand will focus on your ability to transform the block of text into a diagram or other type of visual representation. You should practise with each of these questions to master their key ways of thinking.

Familiarise yourself with common terms

There are various terms that are used in UCAT ® Decision Making questions that refer to specific amounts or ratios. These can be confusing if you are not familiar with them. The following table can be found on the official UCAT ® website. You should familiarise yourself with these terms and practise questions that use them to get familiar with how they are used.

UCAT Decision Making Key Terms

All An unspecified number referring to the whole of it/everything
Always On all occasions, without fail
Either Exclusively A or B (not both).
Few A small number of less than 50%.
Majority A number that is more than 50% of the whole but not all.
Many An undetermined number similar to ‘some.’ A part of it, not all of it.
Most An undetermined but majority number/largest part.
None Not even a small amount/not even one.
Nothing Not a single thing. Of no value.
Not all 1-99%
Only Introduces something which must happen before something else in the sentence. Indicates there is nothing else.
Some An undetermined number being more than one but less than all. A part of it, not all of it.
Unless Introduces the only circumstance which makes the statement not true or valid.

Practise, Practise, Practise

Although there are many question types in the UCAT ® Decision Making section, the variation in thinking behind each of the types is limited and predictable. Therefore, with consistent UCAT ® Decision Making practice, candidates will be able to master each question type. Identify the types that you find the most difficult and try to develop approaches to solve them in an easier way. Furthermore, identify the types of questions that you find the easiest and try to find ways to solve in a more time-efficient manner. You only have a limited UCAT ® decision making time to answer all the questions.

UCAT Decision Making Tips

If you’re wondering how to improve on the Decision Making UCAT ® subtest, check out some of the useful tips provided by our expert tutors below:

Be wary of time spent on each question

Some UCAT ® Decision Making questions may take a long time to solve, and each candidate will likely have strengths in different types of these questions. As such, don’t forget that each single question is worth the same amount of marks! Make sure you are not wasting too much time on questions where you are weaker, which will deprive you of potential marks in other areas where you may have strengths. It is recommended to skip questions that may hinder your progress and return to them at the end if time permits.

Don’t hesitate to diagram your thoughts on paper provided

A lot of UCAT ® Decision Making questions are given in the form of text that infers a diagram or chart. For example, venn diagram or syllogism questions may refer to a venn diagram that is not explicitly given. A logic puzzle question may refer to an arrangement that is not drawn on the screen. Be alert to these questions and remember that drawing out diagrams will greatly help in your ability to quickly solve the question.

What is a Good UCAT Decision Making Score?

As with all the other subtests of the UCAT ® exam, the Decision Making section is scored between 300 and 900. The average mark for Verbal Reasoning and Decision Making questions is typically lower than that of Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning questions.

For the UCAT ® Decision Making subtest, a rough guide for where you would want to score to be competitive would be:

UCAT ® Decision Making
Average Mark 629
Competitive Mark 685
90th Percentile Estimate 747
Please note that the average mark is calculated from the average of the past six years but the competitive mark is a rough estimate. The 90th percentile estimate is given as an average of the mean mark of such candidates from 2020 onwards.

In 2022, the median UCAT ® Decision Making score was 630 out of the available 900 points. A competitive candidate usually lies in and around the 9th decile, i.e. the 90th percentile. For the 2022 exam, this corresponded to a score of 750. The first four cognitive subtests are usually summed up for a final score out of 3600. The 2022 statistics are as follows:

Verbal Reasoning Decision Making Quantitative Reasoning Abstract Reasoning Total Cognitive Scaled Score SJT
Mean 578 630 672 662 2543 568
1st decile 480 510 550 530 2130 460
2nd decile 520 550 590 570 2260 504
3rd decile 540 580 610 600 2360 535
4th decile 550 610 630 620 2450 559
5th decile 580 630 660 650 2530 581
6th decile 590 660 680 680 2610 599
7th decile 610 680 710 710 2710 618
8th decile 640 710 760 750 2830 639
9th decile 680 750 810 830 2980 663

As with any other exam, it is important to remain composed and not get flustered throughout the exam as it is possible to make up for poor marks in one section by outperforming in another.

UCAT Decision Making Average Scores

UCAT ® Decision Making
2017 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
647 624 618 635 622 630

Approaching UCAT Decision Making Questions on Exam Day

You’ve prepared as well as you can for the exam day, but approaching UCAT ® Decision Making questions on the big day can still be daunting. Below you’ll find 2 tips to help you do you do well in decision making UCAT ® :

Don’t worry about skipping difficult questions

A technique for scoring well in the UCAT ® decision making subtest is to know what questions to skip. By the time of exam day, you should know which types of questions you find easy and hard. Note down the hard ones and come back to them.

Don’t be afraid to diagram

Although it may seem like diagramming is eating into precious time, some UCAT ® Decision Making questions are made much easier with visual representation. Some candidates understand syllogisms better with diagrams and some candidates understand logic puzzle questions better with diagrams. If you know that diagrams help you in specific scenarios, don’t be afraid to do it on exam day!

Further Preparation Materials

  1. UCAT ® Abstract Reasoning

    An overview of what to expect from UCAT ® Abstract Reasoning and how to prepare.

  2. UCAT ® Quantitative Reasoning

    An overview of what to expect from UCAT ® Quantitative Reasoning and how to prepare.

  3. UCAT ® Situational Judgement

    An overview of what to expect from UCAT ® Situational Judgement and how to prepare.

  4. UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning

    An overview of what to expect from UCAT ® Verbal Reasoning and how to prepare.