UCAT Situational Judgement Overview

The Situational Judgement section of the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) uses scenarios to test your ability to understand real world situations and assess appropriate behaviour when making decisions. The concepts that are presented by these sorts of questions may seem a bit alien at this point, for example, involving discussions on due diligence or patient confidentiality. However, with practice and appropriate preparation during year 12, 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 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 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 (e.g. an ethical dilemma), so when preparing for this section of the UCAT exam, I would recommend that you pay attention because this could help you out in the real world too!

In this blog post, I will cover:

  • The types of questions you will see in the Situational Judgement subtest
  • How to think about your timings for the this section
  • How the scoring for this section differs from other sections in the UCAT
Try to pay close attention, as you may even spot some of my favourite hints and tips for doing well in this section.

Situational Judgement question types

So, let’s consider the different question types used in the Situational Judgement section of the UCAT. 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. 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. 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

With these 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’.

Question type 3: most and least appropriate questions

The third type of question you might encounter 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 judgement timings

Now that we have considered the type of questions that you will see, let’s consider timing. After one minute to read the instructions, you will have a total of 26 minutes to answer all questions. In this time, you will be presented with 22 scenarios, each followed by between two and five questions. In total, there will be 69 questions, 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 unanswered questions. So, a top tip that I give students who are preparing for the UCAT is to make sure that you answer every question as you go along, even if you are unsure. What some students don’t know is that, in this section of the UCAT, you don’t need to get the question fully right to get some marks!
Unlike the other sections, 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 have some spare time later.


UCAT Situational Judgement Test scoring

The scoring of this section is also slightly different to the other UCAT parts. Instead of getting a numerical score, you will receive a band between one and four. Band 1 is the highest band and indicates that you showed similar judgement in most cases to the UCAT’s panel of medical experts. Band 4 is the lowest and is 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 UCAT Consortium’s 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.
Note how these bands relate back to a panel of experts. This is how the test makers decide on the correct answers. When you are assessing the possible responses, remember that you are looking for essentially what a team involvement of medical experts has said 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 theSJT section of the UCAT. The key points to remember from this blog post for your UCAT prep are:

  • To always pick an answer on your first pass through the questions
  • Identify the critical factor in the scenario - is the decision largely positive or negative
  • If you’re unsure from there, the stronger answer choices appear to be correct more often than the middle answers
  • 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 confidence for tackling Situational Judgement. I appreciate that it may seem difficult to start but by preparing wisely and using the GMC Guidance of Good Medical Practice, you will be in a strong position for your test and your future career as a doctor or dentist.

Good luck with your UCAT preparation and if you have any further questions, don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@theMSAG.com. 

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