What strategies can I use to answer UCAT Decision Making questions?
Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists
Decision Making is the second scored section on the UCAT and is designed to test the student’s ability to apply their logic and make correct conclusions and deduction from the information given to them.
This is important in Medicine and Dentistry, as you will have many scenarios where you will have to problem solve and come to conclusions using your intellect under a time pressure.
You will have 29 questions, with 1 minute to read the questions. You have 31 minutes for the questions to be answered giving you approximately 1 minute per question, making Decision Making arguably the most lenient times section of the UCAT.
Understanding the question types
All the six question types require you to use logic and unpack data. Let’s have a look at the question types by dividing them into 2 sections.
- Syllogisms – find out whether the statements follow from the information given.
- Maths – probabilities and percentages.
- Logic puzzles – apply rules to a sequence or match information to the truth.
- Venn diagrams – understand a diagram and apply your mathematical knowledge.
- Strongest arguments – select answer that correctly complements the terms of the question
- Inference – what statements are true based on data.
These questions can often be lengthy and feel as though you need to spend more than 1 minute on them however, it is important to time yourself and ensure you do NOT spend more than the allocated time.
Know your mistakes
As outlined before there are 6 types of Decision-Making questions. It is so important to understand that each question is marked equally regardless of their difficulty. To ensure you get the highest number of marks, ensure that while you are practising decision making questions that you are under a timed environment so that you are used to the time pressure you are under.
As well as this, make a clear note of the mistakes you have made and what type of decision-making question it was. You can do this easily using a Google Sheets, Excel or pen and paper by making a simple tally chart. You will then be able to visualise where you make the most mistakes and focus on these questions by practising them even more. Do not neglect these, even if you find them hard, I know it is tempting!
Five-part questions – syllogisms
Approximately one third of the Decision-Making questions will be in the five-part question format so it is important that you get comfortable with these.
Before you have a look at the statements, you need to read through the initial information and maybe make some annotations to your whiteboard.
A good rule to apply to syllogism question is that you should ONLY answer ‘Yes’ if a statement must explicitly be true based on the information given and answer ‘No’ if it is probably but not a guarantee for the answer to be true – this will help you avoid mistakes.
Must be true = ‘Yes’
Could be true or could be false = ‘No’
Must be false – ‘No’
You may notice that five-part questions are more time consuming to answer therefore you might want to flag these questions attempting them. This may feel odd or unsettling, but do not worry – you are saving time and ensuring you can get the highest marks by focusing your time on these questions and also increasing your score on the ‘easier’ and less time-consuming questions in the section.
Diagrams and Maths
A large part of the decision-making section is understanding Venn Diagrams. The best way to familiarise yourself is to have a look at some GCSE questions from a website such as BBC Bitesize.
They may not be classic Venn Diagram questions where there are circles, there can be questions of different sizes and shapes but the key thing to look out for is where these shapes overlap with one or more parts of other shapes.
Ensure that you are able convert the words into shapes. For example, if there is a star representing painting and a circle representing walking, a question asking, ‘How many people like painting and walking?’, you can automatically convert this to ‘Star + Circle’. This will help you avoid making mistakes and missing vital information.
Most of the maths questions will be involving percentages and probability, so again – ensure that you are familiar with these by refreshing your memory with some GCSE knowledge of these topics.
To keep it simple, use fractions for your probability questions as this will often be enough for you to eliminate or calculate the correct answer, and saves time.
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