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Importance of English for UCAT

Published on
April 15, 2024

In recent years, the ANZ’s UCAT exam has been acknowledged as a suitable assessment to measure the medical potential in prospective students. As a fresh school leaver, when you plan on entering an undergraduate medical degree, most of you in Australia and New Zealand will need to surpass the UCAT obstacle. During the UCAT, you will be questioned on applied mathematics, reading comprehension, and interpreting visual information - each requiring you to demonstrate a specific cognitive level skill. 

Therefore, as a year 12 student you have to be proactive in refining your basic understanding of the subject matter alongside problem-solving and critical thinking skills to succeed in the UCAT. 

As we established earlier, the UCAT is one of the primary entry requirements, besides an ATAR and medical interview, to enter an undergraduate medical degree in Australia. However, out of the many subjects you pursued in your high school, proficiency in the English language is seen as an important subject prerequisite across most undergraduate medical schools’ entry requirements. But how is English relevant to the medical field, and importantly to an aptitude exam, like the UCAT?

Let’s find out.

Why is English Important for Medicine?

A good doctor has a strong work ethic and is focused on providing the best patient care. Besides professionalism, sound communication skills are essential to functioning within the ever-evolving medical profession, as you will constantly be interacting with your peers and patients. 

The English language has gained prominence in the communication field and is spoken globally. Therefore, as future doctors, high-quality language skills are essential to coordinate research with colleagues on the international stage. Furthermore, in order to keep up to date, your English vocabulary should be strong enough to comprehend the advanced information presented within research journals and peer-reviewed articles to apply into your clinical practice. 

Apart from providing quality patient-care, a good doctor is also recognised for their communication skills amongst peers and at times of emergencies at a hospital. To secure a career in the healthcare industry across Australia, it is essential that you demonstrate certain core skills desired in a doctor from a premed stage, like in the UCAT and medical interviews

Besides, some Australian medical schools are affiliated with overseas healthcare facilities that will broaden your medical practice to work under other ethnicities and nationalities. If your English speaking skills are under par, it may lead to confusion in the medical environment and disrupt patient-care. 

Be mindful that medicine is a profession that requires knowledge and trust from your patients and colleagues. Building a connection with your peers and patients through a common language can make you an asset within the medical profession.

English for UCAT

As previously stated, the UCAT is an aptitude test that assesses a range of cognitive abilities. If you have prior UCAT experience, then it should be of no surprise to you that UCAT’s Verbal Reasoning is loaded with reading comprehension while Decision Making and the Situational Judgment Test have convoluted real-life scenarios which requires command of the English language to hone your deductive skills. 

Abstract Reasoning and Quantitative Reasoning are the UCAT sections that comparatively require the least amount of English, instead testing your ability to compute numerical data under timed conditions.

H3 - Verbal Reasoning and the importance of English

Verbal Reasoning is the first UCAT section you will attempt on test day. There are 44 questions in 21 minutes of test time with 1 minute of instruction time assessing your ability to find keywords and the real essence behind the given reading comprehension. This basically means your speed reading game should be shaped throughout your UCAT study to easily identify the necessary elements within the paragraphs to answer questions. 

Reading comprehension is not limited to determining whether a statement is true or false, instead, it analyses the extent of your reading skills and critical thinking to find out the meaning behind the passage. This brings us back to why the UCAT and English have a strong relationship. For example, you lack basic English grammar knowledge, punctuation, or syntactic construction. In that case, you cannot get to the bottom of the passage’s narrative, which will hinder your progress in the Verbal Reasoning subsection.

During your UCAT study, be mindful to read a range of literary materials, fictional and non-fictional, short and long, novels or even classic poems to attune your interpretative skills. Besides, the more you read, the better your understanding of the author's point-of-view, which will help you to decipher the meaning. Therefore, the first step to improving your vocabulary is learning to read regularly. Furthermore, reading can significantly boost your performance in this section and refine your English skills for the future.

Why is English required in Decision Making?

In Decision Making, an applicant’s interpretative skills are challenged through complex puzzles, inferences, syllogisms, venn diagrams and statistical data. During medical practice, you will face complex scenarios that demand higher-level problem solving skills in order to make the final decision. This decision should consider possible uncertainties and be logically driven. 

One of the reasons behind including statistics and venn diagrams that are detail-oriented and confusing in appearance is to really gauge your ability to manage risk when you decide on a potential diagnosis. Besides, in real-life scenarios, the decision needs to be communicated to your patients through the right choice of words that reassures them about your diagnosis and management. 

Therefore, it is crucial that the review, analyse and deliver information coherently, which also includes how you choose to respond to the questions you receive from your future patients. These are some of the day-to-day encounters you will likely come across in a medical setting and your English vocabulary needs to be sound enough to build trust and a good patient-doctor rapport.

English in the Situational Judgement Test

Situational Judgement is the final UCAT subsection that is unlike its other counterparts. This section has unique question sets that test your ability to rate the ‘appropriateness of an action’ if you were to tackle the presented issue in a real-world situation. The SJT gauges your ‘code of conduct’ in the medical environment and whether or not you maintain professionalism and the pillars of medical ethics despite the nature of the circumstances.

Each applicant has to answer 66 questions under a timeframe of 26 minutes. The scenario-based questions will be in a passage format and each scenario will have more than two questions connected to it. These questions judge your understanding of integrity as a future doctor, flexibility in thinking, and teamwork involvement. You will be given four options to choose from based on your interpretation of the situation: Very appropriate, Appropriate and Inappropriate or Very important, Minor importance and Not at all important.

Bear in mind that the questions are not merely medical scenarios but can also be generic in nature, like, ‘How would you respond to a friend plagiarising the assignment of another student?’ Even such situations can be used to determine your perception of morality and empathy. 

In order to succinctly deduce the meaning behind the situation, the basic requirement is good command of the English language. Only with strong language skills will you understand the nuance and context of the scenario presented to give the most appropriate response. IN addition to being able to understand the language, you need to concentrate and practice speed reading to quickly identify ‘keywords’ in the scenario and understand yourself from the passage’s point of view. 

We hope our article has been helpful to you and has shed light upon various factors that connect English language and its importance to the UCAT exam. You can always reach out to us on our website and use our freely available articles to dive deeper into the concepts of the UCAT. 

And remember, if you have more questions you can always book a 30-minute free consultation with one of our experienced mentors to gain knowledge about the UCAT , GAMSAT and medical interviews!