Mastering the Art of Situational Judgement: Your Ticket to Medical School Success in 2024

Mastering the Art of Situational Judgement: Your Ticket to Medical School Success in 2024

Situational Judgement is an increasingly important part of assessment for medical schools. Here, we will consider what situational judgement tests are, how to approach them – and focus in particular on the SJT part of the UCAT test. 

What is a Situational Judgement Test?

A Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is a type of psychometric test that is used to assess an individual’s ability to make decisions and judgments in a variety of common real-life situations. SJTs are used in various recruitment or admissions processes, particularly in fields where strong interpersonal skills and the ability to make sound decisions are crucial, such as healthcare, law enforcement, and customer service.

Situational Judgement Tests typically consist of a series of hypothetical scenarios that the test taker is presented with, followed by a series of multiple-choice questions. Each scenario is designed to simulate a specific workplace situation, such as dealing with a difficult customer, resolving a conflict between team members, or responding to a crisis situation. The questions that follow each scenario typically ask the test taker to rate or rank various courses of action based on their perceived effectiveness, appropriateness, or ethical implications. One of the key benefits of SJTs is that they provide a more realistic and practical assessment of an individual’s decision-making ability than traditional psychometric tests, which often rely on abstract reasoning and logic puzzles.

What is a Situational Judgement Test?

Another benefit of SJTs is that they can be designed to assess a wide range of competencies and skills, depending on the specific needs of the organisation. For example, an SJT designed for a healthcare organisation – or for medical school – might focus on patient communication and empathy, while an SJT designed for a law enforcement agency might focus on conflict resolution and decision making under pressure. We must also note that SJTs are not without their limitations.

One potential drawback is that they may be influenced by the cultural and social biases of the test designer, particularly if the scenarios are drawn from a specific cultural or regional context. Additionally, one can prepare for SJTs – they are not therefore a true test of an individual’s decision-making, but also the extent to which they have familiarised themselves with the test. 

What is the UCAT Situational Judgement Section?

The Situational Judgement section of the UCAT consists of 69 multiple-choice questions that are presented in two different formats: most-appropriate scenarios and ranking tasks. The scenarios present a hypothetical situation and then ask the candidate to select the most appropriate response from a list of options. The ranking tasks require the candidate to evaluate a series of options and then rank them in order of their effectiveness. As outlined above, the Situational Judgement section of the UCAT is designed to assess the candidate’s ability to make good judgments in a range of different scenarios.

The scenarios are typically drawn from real-life situations that the candidate might encounter in their role as a medical or dental professional. The marking of the Situational Judgement section of the UCAT is slightly different from the other sections of the test. Unlike the other sections of the UCAT, the Situational Judgement section is not marked on a scale of 300-900; rather, it is marked on a scale of Band 1 to Band 4. The Band system is designed to assess the candidate’s performance relative to other candidates who have taken the test. Candidates who score in Band 1 are considered to have performed exceptionally well, while those who score in Band 4 are considered to have performed poorly.

You should note that different universities will make use of the SJT component of the UCAT in different ways – whilst the Situational Judgement section of the UCAT is an important part of the test, as it assesses skills that are essential for success, some universities will not use it in their decision making process. However, others will not interview any students who fail to make a certain threshold in the SJT component – normally Band 2, at a minimum. In order to perform well in the Situational Judgement section of the UCAT, candidates should familiarise themselves with the question format and the criteria that are used to evaluate responses.

Medical School Situational Judgement: UCAT SJT Preparation

In order to prepare effectively, you should first establish the foundational knowledge that you need. Familiarising yourself with the GMC’s publication entitled “Tomorrow’s doctors” or reading around GMC guidance will equip you with the right knowledge to answer the SJT questions. However, don’t spend an excessive amount of time reading documentation – rather, focus on tackling core principles and on answering past questions.

The first core element of your preparation should be the four pillars of Medical ethics, which are beneficence (having compassion and good intentions), non-maleficence (not wanting to do harm), autonomy (respecting patients’ wishes) and justice (equal treatment for all). Next, you should practise using either a question bank – like that offered on our site – or free practice questions available on the UCAT site.

As you prepare, make sure you read the scenario carefully and understand the different roles of the people involved. Who is the main player in the scenario? Are they a doctor or medical student? Is the action putting a patient at potential harm? Next, diagnose the main problem in the scenario and how serious it is. Think about what the central issue is specifically and decide what element needs addressing. For example, is it a question of conflict, confidentiality, patient safety, unprofessional behaviour?

UCAT SJT: Scenarios

You must also make sure to imagine that you are in the scenario and in character as you prepare – you will need to pay careful attention to the role that you have been given in each scenario, so it’s best to get used to doing this from the start. You should have at the forefront of your mind the fact that any decision that affects patient care should be made to benefit the patient and as such, work colleagues’ feelings are only of secondary importance.

Patient safety should always be at the centre. If you always bear in mind the key principles of professional conduct, then you will find it easier to choose the right answer. Remember that there can be multiple optimal responses to the same scenario – so try not to compare responses for the same scenario, and rather to consider each response on its own merits.

In particular, focus on the following themes:
– Dealing with conflict: Always aim to address this with the person involved directly, in private and preferably in a non-judgemental manner. Tackle the situation in a polite and sensitive way, as it is always appropriate to be honest and polite.
– Addressing concerns: you should take a stepwise approach starting with the involved parties, escalate to immediate supervisors if necessary and then others. It is always a good idea to raise concerns directly with the person involved, rather than going through other people if possible. If patients’ safety is put at risk this is always very important to raise as a concern. Seeking advice is also an appropriate thing to do.
– Confidentiality: hospital policies should always be adhered to and permission should always be obtained.
– Autonomy: patients should be provided with sufficient information so they can make their own informed decision.

– Reporting unprofessional behaviour: in some cases, it may be appropriate to speak to the person directly but if you feel that this may aggravate matters or put patients at risk, then it is more appropriate to liaise with more senior colleagues. 

Best Online UCAT Course

When looking for an online UCAT course, you should look for an offering that is up-to-date, written by an experienced team, and has a significant amount of tried-and-tested content for each section. At BlackStone Tutors, our online UCAT course is the result of years of experience, iteration, and feedback, and combines the following:
Our content has been updated to align with the latest test updates for 2023.
– You have the flexibility to practise at your own pace with access to over 40 prep videos, UCAT practice exams, specific UCAT techniques, and more than 10 hours of preparation content.
– Our UCAT techniques have been developed over the course of a decade of experience, making them tried and tested across multiple student cohorts.

– While there are numerous online UCAT courses available, the best preparation course is one that provides an accurate replica of the test. At BlackStone Tutors, our course includes a vast range of questions, and an exact replica of the front-end of the real UCAT exam. This means that the format, colour scheme, button placement, calculator, and flagging system are all identical.

– Our UCAT course has received positive reviews and testimonials from past students worldwide. These reviews attest to the quality of our course and the level of support provided by our experienced instructors.

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