UKCAT situational judgement overview

The final section of the UKCAT is Situational Judgement. This section of the UKCAT uses real-life scenarios to test your ability to assess appropriate behaviour and what you think is important to consider when making decisions. The concepts that are presented by these sorts of questions may seem a bit alien. For example, discussions on due diligence or patient confidentiality, but with practise and appropriate preparation, you’ll soon feel more and more comfortable with making the right decisions, just like professional doctors and dentists.

This is probably very different from anything you will have done before, however, situational judgement is a commonly used test format within medicine and dentistry. All medical students have to sit a situational judgement test (or SJT) at the end of medical school and some medical specialities also use these tests as part of the selection process for their post-graduate training. The scenarios are all based on real-life situations that doctors and medical students may face, so when preparing for this section of the test, I would recommend that you pay attention because this could help you out in the real world too!

In this blog post, I plan on covering:

  • The types of questions you will see in the Situational Judgement subtest
  • How to think about your timings for the Situational Judgement section in the UKCAT
  • How the scoring for this subtest differs from other subtests in the UKCAT

Try to pay close attention as much as possible because you may even spot some of my favourite hints and tips for doing well in this section.

Situational judegment question types

So, let’s consider the different question types used in the Situational Judgement section of the UKCAT. Every question will be based on a scenario. These will usually involve either a student or clinician in an educational or clinical setting. Each scenario often has 2 to 5 questions following on from it.

Question type 1: appropriateness questions

The first type of question is an appropriateness question. You can see an example of one above. This question type, which has so far been the most frequent, will ask you to assess how appropriate suggested actions are by one of the characters in the scenario. For example, this scenario might be followed by a question. There will be four answer options ranging from ‘A - a very appropriate thing to do’ to ‘D - a very inappropriate thing to do’.

Question type 2: importance questions

So, with the importance questions, your job is to assess how important each of these factors are when considering how the character in the scenario should respond. The answer options range from ‘A - very important’ to ‘D - not important at all’. Take a look at the example above; the possible things that the test might ask whether Amy should consider are:

That the train is full of commuters”

“That the patient already knows his scan results”

“That Amy wants to make a good impression with the doctors as she needs one of them to sign off her logbook at the end of the placement"

Question type 3: most and least appropriate questions

The third type of question you might see will list three possible actions and ask you to choose the most and least appropriate. Although the format is slightly different, the principles needed to assess the responses are the same as for question type 1 – the “appropriateness” style of questions.

Situational judegment timings

Now that we have considered the type of questions that you will see, let’s think about timing. After your one minute to read the instructions, you will have a total of 26 minutes to answer questions. In this time, you will be presented with 22 scenarios, each followed by between two and five questions. In total, you will have 69 questions to answer, which works out at just under 23 seconds per question. This is a lot of questions to answer and it’s unlikely that you will have much time left at the end to return to any answered questions. So, a top tip that I tell students who are preparing for the UKCAT is to make sure that you answer every question as you go along, even if you are not sure. What some students don’t know is that, in this section of the UKCAT, you don’t need to get the question fully right to get some marks!

Unlike the other subtests, where there is only one correct answer, in Situational Judgement you get full marks for getting the correct answer and partial marks if your response is close! So, even if you’re not sure, don’t worry about it too much. It’s likely that you will have an overall impression of whether a response is positive or negative, so pick an answer that matches your impression and move on. It seems to be that the strong answer choices, A and D, are correct more often than the middle answer choices, B and C. Therefore, if you can’t decide how appropriate or important something is, it’s probably safest to pick the strong answer choice. You can also flag these answers to come back to in case you do have some spare time later.

UKCAT SJT scoring

The scoring of this section is also slightly different to the other subtests of the UKCAT. Instead of getting a numerical score, you will receive a band between one and four. Band one is the highest band and indicates that you showed similar judgement in most cases to the UKCAT’s panel of medical experts. Band four is the lowest and given to candidates whose judgement differed substantially from what was judged to be the ideal response. For further details on the criteria between Band 1 and 4, see the table below and also, the UKCAT website.

Band 1: Those in Band 1 demonstrated an excellent level of performance, showing similar judgement in most cases to the panel of experts.

Band 2: Those in Band 2 demonstrated a good, solid level of performance, showing appropriate judgement frequently, with many responses matching model answers.

Band 3: Those in Band 3 demonstrated a modest level of performance, with appropriate judgement shown for some questions and substantial differences from ideal responses for others.

Band 4: The performance of those in Band 4 was low, with judgement tending to differ substantially from ideal responses in many cases.

So, note how these bands relate back to a panel of experts. This is how the test makers decide on the correct answers. So, when you are assessing the possible responses, remember that you are looking for what a panel of medical experts would say is the right answer, not necessarily what you would do in that situation – although hopefully they will be similar!

That brings us to the end of this blog post on the SJT section of the UKCAT. The key points to remember from this blog post are:

    • To always pick an answer on your first pass through the questions.
    • That if you are not sure, the stronger answer choices (A and D) appear to be correct more often than the middle answers.
    • To think about what a panel of medical experts would do, not necessarily what you would do.
I hope that this post has given you some initial confidence for tackling situation judgement. I appreciate that it may seem difficult to start but by preparing wisely and using the guidance of Good Medical Practice from the General Medical Council (GMC), you will be in a strong position for your test and your future career as a doctor or dentist! If you would like to practice these questions more, our new Online Question Bank is coming soon where you can sign up for access to over 1000 UKCAT questions. To learn more about how to prepare for the UKCAT exam email us here and speak with a UKCAT expert today!

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