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How To Avoid Mistakes In UCAT Situational Judgement?

Published on
April 15, 2024

The Situational Judgement section is arguably the least-time-pressured subtest in the UCAT. Still, it succinctly assesses an applicant's maturity and behaviour under pressure on clinical wards. Situational Judgement is the final section in the UCAT exam. It is notably a good indicator of your interpersonal skills like perception, resilience, flexibility and integrity, which are also transferable skills that can work throughout medical practice and in your daily life.

The UCAT is a prerequisite for most undergraduate medical degrees in Australia and New Zealand, with the exception of Bond University or the University of Sydney, which have personalised entry criteria, i.e., the Bond psychometric exam and written assessments, respectively.

Likewise, some medical schools dismiss the Situational Judgement score and rank applicants for a medical interview based on the UCAT score obtained in the first four subtests of the entrance exam. In contrast, other universities, such as Monash, may put a greater emphasis on this section during admission.

So it is worthwhile to conduct research to determine which medical school acknowledges the UCAT Situational Judgement score and to what degree this section is taken into consideration.

What Are The UCAT Situational Judgement Band Scores?

One way to optimise your UCAT preparation is to comprehend how individual sections are scored and converted to fit the medical schools' entry requirements. Therefore, it could be beneficial to accustom yourself with the UCAT score schema, in order to boost your preparation and build strategic techniques to tackle the intricacies across each section. 

How Much is the SJT Out of?

Situational Judgement is scored differently compared to the other UCAT subtests. The VR, QR, DM and AR subtests are scored in the 300-900 mark range, whereas the SJT raw scores are based on a band system of 1-4.

The raw scores obtained in Situational Judgement can be converted to scaled scores that finally range between 300-900, comparable with other sections for medical schools to gauge prospective applicants. 

These bands signify your achievement in the SJT section, so Band 1 indicates - excellent, Band 2 - good, Band 3 - average, and Band 4 - poor performance. When you receive the UCAT test result, the SJT score will be excluded from the overall UCAT score, and the UCAT Consortium will display your band score in a separate column within the test result.

How Much Time Do You Get For Situational Judgement In The UCAT?

The nature of Situational Judgement is different as it tends to overlook your academic achievements, and focuses more on your thinking about ethical scenarios

Before we establish the time allocated to this section, it is important to understand the two SJT question-types and what attributes they measure:

  1. Appropriateness: You will be presented with a scenario and an 'action'. Based on the scenario's context, you need to rate the appropriateness of the action.
  2. Importance: In this question type, you will be given another real-life scenario, and you need to rate whether the scenario is very important or is of minor significance.

As you can see, the SJT measures your ability to tackle real-world scenarios. On the day of examination, you will be allotted 26 minutes to complete 66 questions containing 22 scenarios in total.

This allows about 70 seconds per scenario and approximately 22 seconds per question.

How Can You Avoid Mistakes In The Situational Judgement Test?

Don't Underestimate The Situational Judgement Test

Situational Judgement is the final section that you will attempt in the UCAT exam. Hence, it is likely that most students are mentally exhausted after solving mathematical equations in QR, interpreting abstract patterns in AR, reading passages in VR, and carefully reasoning through the Decision Making section. So, understandably by the end of the exam, students are mentally burnt out and tend to struggle to think during the SJT section altogether. 

However, it is a futile effort if you obtain a high score across the first four sections, and range between band 3-4 in the final section. On this basis, you may potentially decrease your chances of admission into your preferred medical school that considers the SJT subtest.

As alluded to earlier, Situational Judgement is the least time-pressured section. Although the UCAT assesses your time management skills, this section is mostly about how you manage to retain your mental stability to solve moral dilemmas, despite mental exhaustion from other sections. 

First off, begin your preparation by fully understanding the 'Good Medical Practice' guide. This guide has been helpful to previous students who undertook the UCAT exam as it explicitly explains what this subtest aims to achieve and the foundations of SJT

This guide can provide you with the theoretical concept of the test, such as the duties of a doctor. To better understand the realities of the question types, you should maximise your exposure to available resources like mock exams that can give you the exact essence of the exam format.

Also, it is worthwhile to start with un-timed mock exams, before gradually shifting to practice UCAT mock exams under time pressure. In this way, you will first understand the intricacies of the test and next develop strategies that can prevent you from burnout during the examination.

Avoid Overthinking In UCAT Situational Judgement

The Situational Judgement scenarios can easily make you overthink, so you need to reflect on these questions critically. Think about what 'You' would probably do in this context and refrain from making counter-arguments within yourself. Remember every action you choose to implement can seem less or more appropriate based on external factors. So trust your gut and execute what you truly feel is morally correct in a health-related crisis. 

Though one can argue that morality is subjective, medical ethics are predominantly generic and is universally applicable to all doctors.

So, how can one make sense of the provided scenarios?  When you actively practice different question types, you may notice that these scenarios measure your ability to react to the scenario, but not whether the scenario is problematic or not. The task is to rate the 'actions' based on your interpretation of the scenario, not the rating of the scenario itself.

Let us work through a quick example.

Imagine you are given a scenario in the UCAT exam wherein the senior doctor you were assisting prescribed a medication to a patient that could have severe side effects. The patient seems to be uncomfortable with this medication and wishes to seek other alternatives. So, what would you do in such a scenario?

Firstly, you have to understand what is expected of you. This question concerns patient care, professional behaviour, and an important medical ethic: Autonomy, i.e., the patient's free will to choose or omit a treatment. 

In such cases, you as the assistant, lack authority to prescribe a treatment for the patient or neglect the patient's choice, for that matter. Hence, your response should consider the above factors to correctly rate the 'importance' or ‘appropriateness’ of the scenario. 

Do Not Misinterpret Your Stated Role Within The SJT Scenario

Finally, let us discuss another common mistake in the Situational Judgement Test that has adversely affected student's performance in this section. 

Essentially, because this subtest is the final hurdle in the UCAT ANZ exam, students consider this section to be a way to blow-off-some-steam. Although it is good practice to remain calm, composed and collected during this section, it is not wise to take it for granted. The more laid-back you are in this section, the higher the possibility that you misinterpreted a scenario or, worse, overlooked your 'role' in the given specific situation. 

Remember that you will be allotted 22 scenarios, and each scenario demands a different course of action. Sometimes these scenarios will cause conflicting judgements as a result of the different roles that you may have in the given situation.

At Fraser's, we advise our students to understand what your role is in a specific scenario and then interpret the duties of the assigned role. For example, sometimes your role may be a medical student, while there is also a high chance to be cast as a 'Doctor'. Obviously, your roles and responsibilities as a doctor differ greatly compared to that of a medical student. Hence, your response depends on the role you hold. If you are a medical student gaining work experience, you are not qualified to disclose confidential information, diagnose, or prescribe medication without the doctor's approval. However, in the latter case, you will be in the driver seat, making prudent judgements based on medical ethics and professional standards. 

A rule of thumb is to read, understand, and rate your 'call to action' based on the context of the scenario.

Where To Next?

We hope that our article could provide a consolidated overview on common mistakes you can avoid in the Situational Judgement Test. Remember that this section, as the last section of the UCAT ANZ exam, measures your moral or ethical problem solving skills at times when you are at your most exhausted. In turn, simulating your thinking within medical school, clinical internships, and subsequent medical practice.

So if you are unable to interpret the scenarios appropriately, take a step back and imagine yourself in this context and best assess what you would implement to bring the crisis under control. Also, take a look at our article on ‘What is the Situational Judgement Test?’ This blog can give you all the nitty gritty details of this UCAT subtest, including the number of questions, total test time, and the foundations of the question-types.

We also have one-on-one tutoring to assist all students through their UCAT preparation and medical interview prep. Feel free to look into our Free Resources and Tools that help out students and parents who are seeking information for help to sit and succeed in the UCAT.