UCAT: Situational Judgement Test

The situational judgement test is the last of the 5 UCAT sections. It is very different from the other sections in terms of the types of questions you get and how it is scored. This guide will help clarify the ins and outs of the SJT and provide some top tips on how to score in the higher bands. 

What is the SJT?

The situational judgement test is the section of the UCAT designed to assess how you would respond to real-life scenarios whilst looking at different personal skills, such as perception, integrity and resilience. It has a big emphasis on ethics and does not test any academic skills. The questions are created to be suitable for the standard novice population and do not require any medical knowledge to answer. 

The SJT consists of 69 questions over 26 minutes. The questions are split up over a collection of 20 scenarios, each having up to 6 questions attached to it. This means each question is allocated 22.6 seconds. 

This section of the UCAT is likely very different to any test you have taken before, so may take some getting used to. However, don’t be discouraged if you don’t quite understand it the first time around – keep practising and you will get there!

Question types

There are two types of questions in the SJT. These are “How important” questions and “How appropriate” questions. Both are self-explanatory; Importance questions ask you to decide how important a certain action is within the scenario and appropriateness questions ask you to decide how appropriate a certain action would be. There are normally more appropriateness questions than importance questions. These are mostly in a multiple-choice format and then there are a couple of questions in a ranking format. This is a ‘drag and drop’ style question where you rank a group of actions from most to least appropriate. 

Importance questions will have four multiple-choice options: 

  1. Very important (it MUST be considered)
  2. Important (it isn’t vital but should be considered)
  3. Of minor importance (it can be considered but it doesn’t really matter either way)
  4. Not important at all (it should NOT be considered)

Appropriateness questions will have four multiple-choice options:

  1. A very appropriate thing to do (it will address at least one aspect of the scenario)
  2. Appropriate but not ideal (it could be done but is not the most ideal)
  3. Inappropriate but not awful (it shouldn’t really be done but it wouldn’t be awful)
  4. A very Inappropriate thing to do (it absolutely should NOT be done)

SJT scoring

The SJT is scored in bands, not numbers like the other sections. There are bands 1-4, with band 1 being the highest and band 4 being the lowest. A lot of universities will look at your SJT band during the application process and some reject your application if you have a band 4, so it is an important section to focus on. The majority of applicants score either a band 2 or 3.

  • Band 1: candidate showed an excellent level of performance and showed a similar level of judgement to the panel of experts in most cases
  • Band 2: candidate showed a good level of performance with appropriate judgement 
  • Band 3: candidate showed a modest level of performance with substantial differences from ideal responses
  • Band 4: candidate showed a low level of performance with judgement tending to differ greatly from ideal responses

For each question, you can be awarded full marks, partial marks, or no marks. You receive full marks if your answer is the correct option or partial marks if your answer was close. For example, if you said the answer was ‘A very appropriate thing to do’ but it was actually ‘appropriate but not ideal’. You then receive no marks if your answer was at the wrong end of the scale. For example, if you said the answer was ‘A very appropriate thing to do’ but it was actually an ‘inappropriate but not awful’ thing to do.

How to approach the SJT

Start by reading the scenario carefully. Identify who you are in this scenario, what the problem is and whose perspective is being discussed. Look for keywords and make sure you fully understand the scenario before trying to answer the questions. However, keep referring back to the scenario whilst answering the questions as you may see things from a new perspective or pick up on things you didn’t notice before.

The most important thing to figure out for each question is which ‘half’ of the answers is correct (i.e. is it important/appropriate or not important/appropriate) as you can still achieve partial marks for being in the correct ‘half’. The next step after that is then deciding between the two options you’ve narrowed it down to. Try to think if this is the absolute best option in the context of the scenario or if there’s something better. The easiest way to do this is through practice and by trying to identify what quality that particular question is trying to test. If you aren’t sure, flag the question and come back to it.

The key to the SJT is to remember your role – the question will either tell you that you’re a medical student or a junior doctor etc so the answer they are looking for will be an option that is within your competency. For example, you cannot perform surgery if you are only a medical student. Also, the context of the questions is within a professional medical environment so you must consider the 🔗 ‘GMC Good Medical Practice for each question and have those principles guide your answer. Do not use your personal opinions to answer the questions, try to think like a professional.

Top Tips

  1. Practise, Practise, Practise. The format of the SJT is likely new and different to most applicants. The best thing you can do is expose yourself to as many questions as possible before the day of your test. There are practise tests available on the UCAT website for free and 🔗 PassMedicine also has many free UCAT questions you can use! I also found YouTube videos made by medical students about the UCAT helpful. Additionally, there are many good UCAT question books available to buy from Amazon (remember you don’t need to pay to prepare well!). Start by doing questions untimed and move on to timing yourself when you get more confident.
  1. Read the 🔗 GMC Good Medical Practice Guidelines. This document details what it means to be a good doctor and contains a lot of the principles that doctors use to navigate ethical dilemmas in real life. These are the things that the SJT is testing you on! Try and read the whole document a couple of times to really familiarise yourself with the concepts.  
  1. Research the 🔗 four pillars of medical ethics. Like number 2, these are principles that underpin all medical practise and will help you identify the key aspects of each question. (They are also important to understand for your interviews!) Also, read about confidentiality rules and informed consent as these are key concepts that are tested a lot.
  1. Go with your instinct. The SJT is all about having good morals and approaching situations ethically. It’s fundamentally about being a good person, so go with your gut! Have faith in your abilities and try not to second guess yourself.
  2. Answer every question. There is no negative marking in the SJT so you do not get marked down for getting something incorrect. Therefore, make sure you answer every question! If you’re running out of time, don’t panic, just remember you have a 25% chance of getting a question correct, even if it’s a pure guess.

Written by Beth Neall

Hi, my name is Beth and I’m going into my fourth year at Southampton Medical School. Next year, I am the new InsideUni lead for the Widening Access to Medicine Society so I am excited to continue to provide advice to aspiring medical students! In a degree that’s so full on, it’s important to keep up with your hobbies, so I spend my spare time in the gym and relaxing with my friends. Surrounding yourself with a good group of supportive people is key!