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The UCAT ® situational judgement subtest contains more questions than any other sections of the exam. You’ll need to be fast, but also accurate. This guide aims to provide you with an overview of what to expect from UCAT ® situational judgement questions along with some useful tips to help you prepare.
The situational judgement test is the final subtest of the UCAT ® examination. It is designed to measure the capacity of a candidate to understand real world situations and to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviours in dealing with them. In the UCAT ® situational judgement section, a candidate may be presented with a variety of scenarios with which they should be relatively familiar (i.e. high school examination or medical student scenarios).
There are many situations that medical professionals will be placed in that will challenge their character beyond any problem solving, reasoning, or academic skills throughout their career. Such situations relate to professionalism, ethics, and more, as described in the Good Medical Practice guidelines supplied by AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency). These skills are integral to being a medical professional and are difficult to assess through examinations of academic merit or reasoning ability. Such examinations not only occur at the UCAT ® level, but also during medical school and beyond. Along with the entry interview, the situational judgement UCAT ® subtest may be the only glimpse into a candidate’s character a university may have, and thus is highly important for medicine and the candidate selection process.
UCAT ® Situational Judgement questions are designed with a stem that describes a situation in which a character needs to make one or more decisions. These situations are often familiar to a candidate (i.e. high school or medical school) and the issue should be easily identified.
Following this stem, there will be 4 to 6 questions that assess the candidate’s ability to respond to such a situation. These may involve judging the appropriateness of various suggested plans of action; judging the importance of various aspects to consider; or selecting the best and worst plans of action out of a given list.
Each candidate is given 26 minutes of test time following 1 minute for the instruction section. This comes to around 23 seconds per question.
|Subtest||Test Time||Number of Questions||Average Time per Question|
|UCAT Situational Judgement||26 minutes||69 questions||23 seconds|
There are 3 types of UCAT ® situational judgement questions:
Each UCAT ® situational judgement question type is explained in more detail below, along with some example questions.
The first and predominant type of appropriateness UCAT ® situational judgement question provides the candidate with a person in a scenario and a number of questions, each of which being a separate response to the scenario. The scenarios are only a few lines long and should be easy to grasp. They may describe familiar situations or those that the candidates may encounter in the early years of their training. Each subsequent question would describe a different response by the person described in the scenario, and the candidate is required to assess the responses on a scale of appropriateness, as shown below:
Explain to Harry the reasons why his surgery will not happen today
Mr. Tan is a 66 year old man who has come into the hospital with worsening shortness of breath and exercise tolerance. He has not seen his physician in well over a year. After some investigations, he is diagnosed with end stage pulmonary fibrosis for which the treatments are quite limited and the median survival for his condition is 2 years. Yusuf is a junior medical officer who has just been notified of these results and arrives at Mr. Tan’s bedside to inform him of the diagnosis and prognosis. Mr. Tan’s wife is present at bedside and both of them are visibly anxious. Mr. Tan does not speak English but his wife is fluent, and so Mr. Tan’s wife is the first to ask Yusuf what the results of the scan were.
How appropriate are each of the following responses by Yusuf in this situation?Question 1
Ask Mr. Tan and his wife what they understand about Mr. Tan’s prognosis at this point in time.
Ask Mr. Tan’s wife to leave the room before informing Mr. Tan of the results with the use of an interpreter.
Speak to Mr. Tan about his results and prognosis with the help of translation by his wife.
Use an interpreter to ask if Mr. Tan would like his wife present as they discuss the results of the scan.
The second type of appropriateness UCAT ® situational judgement question provides the candidate with a person in a scenario and a single question with various responses to the scenario. The scenarios are only a few lines long and should be easy to grasp. They may describe familiar situations or those that the candidates may encounter in the early years of their training. The ensuing question asks the candidate to identify the most and least appropriate plans of action out of three suggested responses. The question format is shown below:
Choose both the one most appropriate action and the one least appropriate action that Caryn should take in response to this situation.
You will not receive any marks for this question unless you select both the most and least appropriate actions.
Michael is a year 12 student leading a group project with three other team members. One of his group members has not completed their part or responded to their group chat in a week and the project deadline is approaching next week.
Choose both the one most appropriate action and the one least appropriate action that Michael should take in response to this situation.
You will not receive any marks for this question unless you select both the most and least appropriate actions.
Importance type UCAT ® situational judgement questions provide the candidate with a person in a scenario and a number of questions. Each question is a factor to be considered in the said situation. The scenarios are only a few lines long and should be easy to grasp. They may describe familiar situations or those that the candidates may encounter in the early years of their training. The subsequent questions describe factors that may be important to consider or should not be considered at all by the candidate in the scenario. The candidate needs to make this judgement on the following scale:
The potential risk of infection that the liquid presents to patients in the hospital
Axon is a third year medical student who is on placement with his classmate Maxwell. Axon notices Maxwell has been posting a lot of pictures on social media lately whilst on placement. The photos usually consist of him on placement, being in uniform, as well as containing patient names and identifiable information in the background. This has been going on for a few months.
How important to take into account are the following considerations for Axon when deciding how to respond to the situation?Question 1
Maxwell didn’t have the intent of leaking patient information in his photos.
Maxwell’s social media account is private and can only be seen by close family and friends.
The hospital policy states that no photos are to be taken whilst in uniform.
Maxwell was posting about controversial topics whilst wearing the hospital’s uniform.
That most of the patients gave consent to have their photos taken.
Each set of UCAT ® Situational Judgement questions is reviewed by a panel of experts who have experience in the field and an agreement is reached on a particular correct answer. Answers however, rarely reach a level of consensus, even within a panel of experts. Therefore, for the appropriateness (Type 1) and importance questions, each question attracts partial marking , with more marks scored the closer a candidate gets to the answer the expert panel has agreed upon.
For example, if the correct answer were “A very appropriate thing to do” , that answer would attract full marks for that question. An answer of “Appropriate, but not ideal” would attract partial marks, and answers of “Inappropriate, but not awful” , or “A very inappropriate thing to do” would attract no marks.
The second type of appropriateness question, where a candidate is required to identify the most and least appropriate plans of action within a given set, does not have partial marking. In these questions, both plans of action must be selected correctly for the marks for that question to be scored.
Similarly to the other four sections of UCAT ® exam, the situational judgement section is measured on a scale score range of 300 to 900. The total scale score range from 1200 to 3600 takes into account only the first four sections of UCAT ® exam (Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning). The situational judgement score is reported separately and is visible to the Universities assessing your application. Therefore, it is important that a candidate’s situational judgement score does not fall too low.
In contrast to the first four sections of UCAT ® , it is relatively hard to score over 700 in situational judgement. This is due to the fact that there are no distinct correct answers that every expert agrees on and that every judgement varies amongst individuals even if professionalism and ethics are followed.
In 2022, the score needed to be in 9th decile (i.e. 90th percentile) was 663 out of 900. In 2019, the maximum score for situational judgement achieved was 759. Hence, the hurdle for the highest decile is comparably lower than other sections but this also means that this section is challenging and requires a perceptive thinking and decision making skills.
For the UCAT ® situational judgement subtest, a rough guide for where you would want to score to be competitive would be:
UCAT ® Situational Judgement
|90th Percentile Estimate||670|
In 2022, the median UCAT ® Situational Judgement Test score was 581 out of the available 900 points. The 2022 statistics are as follows:
|Verbal Reasoning||Decision Making||Quantitative Reasoning||Abstract Reasoning||Total Cognitive Scaled Score||SJT|
UCAT ® Situational Judgement
Prior to 2019, situational judgement scores were released as bands ranging from 1 to 4, 1 being the highest rank.
A score of 500 will not rule a candidate out of being considered for a place in a medical school, but it should not be considered an ideal score. Typically over the 7th decile or greater than 630 are seen as “good” scores and thus candidates scoring within these bands will be prioritised over candidates scoring within 500s.
The best way to prepare for UCAT ® situational judgement is to tackle practice questions. For the purposes of the UCAT ® examination, practice is perhaps even more important than real life experience in the given scenarios as the answers that examiners look for are the “ideal” responses, which may sometimes not exactly match true responses individuals would give in various situations.
There are 4 ways to get better at UCAT ® situational judgement:
The best way to familiarise oneself with the types of scenarios, types of questions, and types of answers that examiners want is to practise. Engaging yourself in a wider range of scenarios on ethics and professionalism and also get you to think deeply about what is right and wrong in certain situations.
The ethical and moral values of a medical professional tested in the UCAT ® situational judgement stem from AHPRA (Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency) and their Good Medical Practice . It is recommended that candidates of the UCAT ® exam have read this document.
Common ethical issues and principles dealt with in scenarios include confidentiality, cheating, alcohol and drug misuse, dealing with priorities and pressure and patient safety. Linking these issues to each scenario will allow you to choose the most distinct answer. For example, posting a story of a patient on social media is an inappropriate action as it is a breach of confidentiality.
Again best done through UCAT ® situational judgement practice questions, it is important to be able to recognise what various characters are able to do and what they should not be doing. For example, it is important to recognise that a medical student should keep a keen eye for hazards on hospital wards, but it is also important to recognise that a medical student should not be charting medications for patients.
When practising, pay attention to reviewing your incorrect answers. Think about why the examiners are assessing this question differently to how you are. Try and put yourself into their shoes.
With sufficient practice, the UCAT ® situational judgement subtest should not be stressful or tight for time. Once you are familiar with the types of scenarios, questions, and answers that they want, it will be difficult to perform poorly on this section. Our tutors have collated various tips below that will help you on exam day:
It may seem that 69 questions in 26 minutes is tight but each scenario is short and each question should not take long to answer. As there is partial marking, candidates are encouraged not to dwell on questions on which they cannot decide between two answers. If you need to come back to the question with a fresh mind, make an initial guess then simply flag the question to come back in the remaining time.
Situations where moral or ethical conflict arise are given purposefully to test a candidate’s ability to respond aptly. Make sure you choose what the ideal answer would be, even if this is not what you may have seen happen in real life.
Hard and fast rules include knowing boundaries of what a medical student is allowed to do, maintaining confidentiality, avoiding dishonesty, etc. If any of these hard and fast rules are broken, the answer should be clear.
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