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The Fraser's Introduction to UCAT Medical Ethics

Published on
April 15, 2024

The University Clinical Aptitude Test, or UCAT, is used for admission into undergraduate medical, dental, and clinical science programs at universities under the ANZ Consortium in Australia and New Zealand. UCAT test results are used in conjunction with your academic qualifications (ATAR, GPA or NCEA results) and a medical interview

The UCAT broadly consists of 225 multiple choice questions which must be answered over a period of 1 hour 55 minutes. These multiple choice questions are broken down into five subtests which assess various attributes and qualities that universities see as essential for prospective medical students. Of these five subtests, the Situational Judgement Test is arguably the most content-driven in terms of preparation of all the subtests. 

Click here to find out more about the UCAT.

The UCAT Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is the final of the five sections. The SJT measures applicants' understanding of real-world situations and their ability to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviours in dealing with them. Many of the scenarios and questions in the Situational Judgement Test reflect the ethical and medical principles relevant for good medical practice in Australia.

UCAT Medical Ethics

What Are Medical Ethics? 

Medical Ethics refer to a set of guidelines, or code of ethics, and values that physicians follow in their practice and medicine. The term “Medical Ethics” was first conceptualised in the 19th century, but has been practiced by physicians for thousands of years 

Medical Ethics, as a term, was first conceptualised in the 19th century, but has been practiced for thousands of years. Prior to contemporary medicine, Medical Ethics could be described as rather paternalistic, where physicians would prescribe treatments to their patients, and their patients would dutifully follow. The care and treatment of patients was solely in the hands of the physician, and necessitated little discussion or negotiation between the physician and the patient. 

Contemporary medicine, however, offers an immediate contrast to this rather archaic, one-sided approach to healthcare. Contemporary medicine has now shifted towards a patient-centered, holistic approach. This shift in medicine has necessitated the creation of new guidelines and values in healthcare, which are best encapsulated by the Four Principles of Medical Ethics.

Understanding Medical Ethics can be difficult for those who are unfamiliar with contemporary medical practice or healthcare environments

What Medical Ethics Are Used In The UCAT?

The Four Principles of Medical Ethics include autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence and justice and are covered comprehensively in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test.

What Are The Four Principles Of Medical Ethics?


“Respect Individuality”

In simplified terms, autonomy refers to a person’s ability to make their own decisions concerning. In the context of the UCAT Situational Judgement Test, autonomy is a defining principle in respecting a patient’s right to make their own informed decisions regarding their health and care, free from coercion by others. There are various constituents of autonomy that are covered in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test, such as privacy and consent. 


“Always Benefit”

Beneficence describes the obligation of a healthcare practitioner to act in the best interest of their patient. Broadly, beneficence demands that healthcare providers develop and maintain skills and knowledge, provide holistic care, and strive for a net benefit across the community in which they operate. 


“Do No Harm”

Non-maleficence can be simply described as avoiding harm. Harm in the context of medicine can extend beyond physiological status, such as the social, psychological and spiritual impacts of care. As many treatments in medicine involve a degree of harm (and thus is often unavoidable), non-maleficence should often be considered with beneficence, insofar as the benefit should, in every circumstance, outweigh harm. 


“Act With Fairness”

Justice as a principle of medicine is concerned with the obligation to act, behave or practice with fairness. Justice in medicine is distributed across three broad categories, namely: the equal and accessible distribution of resources in healthcare, respect for people’s autonomy and respect for the law in medical ethics.

How Do Medical Ethics Fit Into The UCAT Situational Judgement Test?

The UCAT Situational Judgement Test is used to assess key characteristics wanted in medical professionals, such as integrity, perspective taking, team involvement, resilience and adaptability. These characteristics are assessed across a variety of scenarios concerning Medical Ethics. As such, it would be important to consider these characteristics and the potential ethical implications of a scenario when answering a question in the UCAT Situational Judgement Test.

It is important to note that, while the UCAT Situational Judgement Test does not explicitly test an applicant’s knowledge and application of Medical Ethics, it would be useful for any prospective medical student to understand the set of guidelines and values that physicians follow in contemporary medicine. 

How Is The UCAT Situational Judgement Test Scored?

In the UCAT Situational Judgement Test, students are scaled in a banding system (Band 1 to Band 4). Where Band 1 incorporates students who demonstrate excellent performance, whilst showing a similar judgement in most cases to the panel of experts. Conversely, Band 4 indicates low performance, with judgement tending to differ substantially from ideal responses in many cases. 

Click here to read more about how the UCAT is scored.

Where To From Here?

Now that you have an understanding of the UCAT Medical Ethics, here’s more useful resources to get you started on your UCAT preparation:

  1. What is UCAT Verbal Reasoning?
  2. What is UCAT Decision Making?
  3. What is the UCAT Abstract Reasoning?
  4. What is UCAT Quantitative Reasoning?
  5. GAMSAT or UCAT: What’s the difference?