UCAT
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How To Study For UCAT Situational Judgement?

Published on
May 13, 2024
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What Is UCAT Situational Judgement?

The Situational Judgement Test (SJT) in the UCAT 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 SJT reflect the ethical and medical principles relevant for good medical practice in Australia.

Candidates will have 26 minutes to complete 66 questions, at an average of 22 seconds per question. This section has fewer time constraints, most students should read and understand the whole scenario, rather than skim reading, and skipping information.

Why Is The Situational Judgement Test Important? 

Situational Judgement Tests are used widely in medical and dental selection, including a selection of Foundation Doctors and Dentists, GPs and other medical specialities. This UCAT subtest assesses key character traits wanted in the ideal medical professional such as integrity, perspective taking, team involvement, resilience and adaptability. 

While the SJT does not explicitly test an applicant’s knowledge and application of medical ethics, it would be useful for the candidate to bear in mind the moral and ethical values a medical practitioner should possess and practice medicine with.

How Is The Situational Judgement Marked?

The marking in this part of the UCAT is different to the other sections as the SJT is a slightly subjective test. This is handled with a unique SJT marking scheme. Full marks are awarded for a question if your response matches the correct answer and partial marks are awarded if your response is close to the correct answer.

Each scenario is approximately 50- 200 words and will consist of between 2 and 5 responses. 

The candidate will read the scenario with consideration of the actions, ethics and morals presented. Most questions will require the candidate to rate each response from four possible options, while in others you may be required to choose one of three actions or answer through a ‘drag and drop system.

For example, when an answer may be ‘A very appropriate thing to do’, UCAT may choose to award a candidate partial marks if they had chosen ‘Appropriate, but not ideal’. The correct answers are determined by a select group of doctors and medical experts within the UCAT consortium. 

Overall in Situational Judgement, 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.

Based on the last 3 years of the UKCAT (UK version of the UCAT) there is generally between 21- 28% of students in the upper Band 1. 

 

2018

2017

2016

Number of Candidates

27,466

24,844

23,359

Band 1 (Excellent)

21%

28%

26%

Band 2 (Good)

34%

42%

44%

Band 3 (Average)

32%

21%

22%

Band 4 (Poor)

13%

9%

9%

Some universities may set a cut-off, for the SJT component, ie: students in Band 4 would be excluded for failing to demonstrate the necessary emotional and ethical insights for the medical school. This makes the UCAT Situational Judgement a critical section for a student’s application.

What Are The Question Types And Topics In Situational Judgement? 

The test consists of a series of scenarios for which you will need to consider either the appropriateness of possible actions or the importance of possible considerations. The majority of the questions will require you to choose from four different responses or considerations as shown in the table below:  

Question Type

Response/ Consideration

Appropriateness

A very appropriate thing to do

Appropriate, but not ideal

Inappropriate, but not awful

A very inappropriate thing to do

Importance

Very important

Important

Of minor importance

Not important at all

Within the Situational Judgement Test, scenarios cover a broad range of topics that involve situations that may arise in medical practice, assess key attributes for a successful medical professional or reflect the ethical and medical complexities of medical practice. 

At Fraser’s UCAT we divide these broad topics as shown below, have a read and see how they are relevant to the medical profession: 

Broad Topics

 

1. Confidentiality

Medical professionals are expected to maintain complete confidentiality- this means protecting and keeping patient information private and only sharing this information with the patient’s consent.

 

Without a patient’s consent, we cannot reveal a patient’s information to relatives or the press and we need to be careful with where we leave patient files and discussing patients in public areas.

2. Professionalism

Doctors must beholden to a level of professional expected of the medical profession. This means doctors must be: competent, organised, honest, respectful, work well in teams, care about patient safety and maintain the trust of their patients.

3. Team-work

Medicine is a multidisciplinary profession and doctors must work well in a team. There are many hurdles that can prevent good teamwork that frequent include: miscommunication, tension/poor relationships, poor leadership and a lack of organisation.

4. Non-compliance

Patients have the right to make their own decisions about their healthcare. This includes the right to refuse advice and treatment, as well as to be free from coercion. In the UCAT, we should always consider options that respect a patient’s right to self-determination and explore their feelings. While we should also be cautious of options that appear forceful or deceptive.

5. Distressed patients

Hospitals and healthcare environments are frequently high-stakes. Encountering distressed patients is common, and having the ability to be able to reassure patients and discuss what is affecting them is a desirable quality in an ideal doctor.

6. Miscommunication

Communication skills are a crucial part of good medical professionals and medical practice. It most circumstances it is always appropriate to: resolve issues leading to miscommunication, avoid causing conflict and attempt to start new lines of communication with the aim of solving a problem.

7. Coping with pressure

Pressure and stress are frequently experienced in the medical profession- whether this arises due to personal problems, situations out of one’s control or an emergency event. Remember that solving the problem is key, asking for help when necessary is a good thing and keeping calm is vitally important.

How To Prepare For Situational Judgement? 

There are many ways to prepare for UCAT Situational Judgement subsection. This section differs from the previous five as it does not test our cognitive skills, but rather, our non-cognitive skills especially one’s emotional intelligence, empathy and understanding. Here are a few tips to get started:  

  1. Familiarise yourself with the format and structure of the SJT, including the scenarios, questions, option types and ‘drop & drag’ features.
  2. Understand what each of the four response options really means in regards to the scenario. For example ‘A very appropriate thing to do’ would be the most optimal thing to do in that situation.
  3. Familiarise yourself with the capabilities and responsibilities of non-medical students or individuals, medical students, allied health professionals (eg. a nurse), junior doctors and senior doctors (eg. a consultant or clinician) in a healthcare environment.
  4. Start engaging with the medical world and profession. For example, start to read and think about what doctors actually do, how they do it, and why the way they do it is important. (Check out the broad topics above for somewhere to start).
  5. Introduce yourself to the attributes and character traits wanted in the ideal medical professional and the medical ethical principles that underlie good medical practice- for this, see the read list and resources below.

UCAT Situational Judgement Tips

Read the scenario carefully and in full before answering: Scenarios can be large paragraphs of text and address many complex situations. Try to identify the key issues and distractors within each scenario. While there is less time pressure in this section, it is important to try reading scenarios in full rather than flagging or returning to too many scenarios.

Questions can be subjective:
At times it can be difficult to distinguish between two response types, for example, ‘A very appropriate thing to do’ and ‘Appropriate, but not ideal’. Try to narrow your answer to at least options A & B or C & D.

Independent Responses: 
Do not judge a response as if it is the only response that will occur. In each scenario there may be a series of between 2 and 5 responses- do not consider the other responses when you are answering how to react to a response. This is because, for example, there may be multiple very appropriate things to do in any situation, therefore considering a response in isolation or comparing it to other responses will not be helpful.

Use the information provided in the scenario
: when selecting a response, try not to bring in any personal bias or opinions. In medical practice, a doctor needs to be free of judgement and act in the patients best interests.

Practice:
 use mini-mocks or full exams to practice skills and situational exam techniques. If you are struggling with a question and cannot understand why you got the answer wrong, seek advice from seniors or someone in the medical field.

Introduce yourself to the ethical principles relevant to medicine: The basis to good medical practice and to answering many of the Situational Judgements scenarios can be found in the understanding of medical ethics and in the Good Medical Practice: A Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia from the Australian Medical Council.  

UCAT Situational Judgement Reading List & Other Resources 

1. Good Medical Practice

Code of Conduct for Doctors in Australia

This code describes what is expected of all doctors registered to practice medicine in Australia. It sets out the principles that characterise good medical practice and makes explicit the standards of ethical and professional conduct for doctors.

Read the Good Medical Practice Guide

2. Australian Medical Association: Code of Ethics

The AMA Code of Ethics articulates and promotes a body of ethical principles to guide doctors conduct in their relationship with patients, colleagues, and society

Read the AMA’s Code of Ethics

3. World Medical Association: Code of Medical Ethics

Outlines the duties of a medical practitioner in general, to patients and to colleagues

Read the WMA’s Code of Medical Ethics

What To Read Next?

1. UCAT Verbal Reasoning

2. UCAT Decision Making

3. UCAT Abstract Reasoning

4. UCAT Quantitative Reasoning