What is Decision Making?
As its name suggests, Decision Making tests your ability to make logical decisions or reach a conclusion, often requiring you to analyse numerical data and evaluate arguments. The questions also include tricky language, distracting information, and technical jargon to confuse you. However, despite all this, Decision Making is incredibly generous on, granting you around 65 seconds per question. Read on so we can help you ace it like the winner you are! 😉
Each question is related to a passage of text or set of data, with questions that will present arguments to you. You will be tested on various types of questions such as arguments, graphs, pie charts, diagrams. Your job here is to assess the information given and decide whether the statements given are valid and logical conclusions or not.
Our Top 30 Decision Making Tips 🥳
✅ Answer every single question
There’s no negative marking; you won’t lose points for incorrect answers so, even if you don’t have time to answer properly, choose an option, even if it is a guess. Make sure you don’t leave any question blank!
❌ Eliminate, eliminate, eliminate!
This is an excellent strategy to save time is to eliminate options that are obviously wrong first, and then deciding from the remaining choices. However, make sure that the answer you have eliminated is wrong- the best way you can hone this skill is by applying this strategy while practicing UCAT questions before the exam!
⏰ Manage your time
Decision Making is very generous on time, giving you 31 questions for 29 minutes- you have a minute per question! However, some questions are lengthy and confusing and can cost you time. Aim for an average of a minute per question in order to have time to go back and review flagged questions.
⏰ Don’t spend too long on any one question
All questions are worth the same mark so it’s not worth obsessing on a hard question, when you can proceed and gain marks from answering easier questions. Instead use the UCAT’s “flag” function to come back to the end if you have time.
Also, don’t double check every single answer- especially if the question is hard- your goal is to answer as many questions correctly in the time you have. If you spend even 10 seconds more obsessing on a single question, that is time you could’ve spent answering another question! Instead, flag it for the last. While answering, keep a cap of 60 seconds for each question. Time is money here and every second counts!
🎃 Trick o’ treat
This is a good trick to figure out how much time you have and manage it. Your whiteboard comes handy here!
Note down the time you have left.
Halve the no. of questions (for example- 18), and halve the time (for example- 16 mins).
Then halve the no. of questions again (7), and halve the time again (8 mins).
As you progress through the test, it can be difficult to keep track of time, especially when you’re focused on answering the questions. Not knowing how much time you have left in such situations can sometimes fluster you This is an easy way to quickly work out how behind or ahead of schedule you are, without taking too much time. This can help you get those extra marks- if you know you’re behind schedule, you can quickly guess and flag the questions for the last. On the other hand, if you know you have a few spare minutes, you can use it to answer the tricky questions!
😬 Don’t jump to conclusions
Focus only on the information provided– don’t make assumptions from your prior knowledge. This is especially relevant for specific questions such as syllogisms and “interpreting information” questions.
For example, for syllogisms, you’ll get a paragraph of text with up to five possible conclusions. You’ll have to decide, based on the information in the text, which of these conclusions are true or false by selecting ‘yes’ or ‘no’. In this case, you should never arrive to a conclusion based on your own opinions- you should only go by what is explicitly stated in the passage.
💕 Don’t get your feelings involved
The UCAT will often include inaccurate or illogical information to trip you up- this will especially confuse you if you try to answer based your prior knowledge. Don’t fall prey to this trap! Only use the information provided and don’t let your personal sentiments influence your answer. You need to realise, especially while assessing arguments for “assumption questions”, that you shouldn’t answer based on which option matches your opinion the most.
You need to objectively choose the argument that is the most valid, not one that fits your point of view. Objective arguments are associated with evidence and/or qualified language, not assumptions or opinions. Here are a few questions you should ask yourself to decide on the right answer:
1. Does the argument directly link to the question?
2. Is the argument objective or unbiased?
3. Does the argument cite evidence?
4. Can you find any loopholes in the argument?
🛣️ Change your perspective
Some puzzles are based on houses, rooms or the direction objects facing relative to your perspective. To help you answer such questions, you can change your perspective; for example- you can look at a line of houses in different orders street facing the back rather than the front. Trying out a different order can help
🚶Take baby steps
While you are eliminating options, start simple and then work up to more complex relationships. This reduces your chances of unnecessarily complicating the question, which can waste you time and cost you mistakes.
⚡ Ace note taking
The key to cracking “puzzle questions” is understanding how to extract the information you need from the information provided.
It is harder to solve these questions in your head; while you may be trying to save time, this method will actually confuse and fluster you, slowing you down. Our advice would be to start by writing down/ drawing out the information you are provided with. Writing notes of the key information quickly and concisely will help you solve the questions much more quickly, easily and accurately. The best way you can learn this skill is by practicing questions.
🖋 Use the Drawing Board
The whiteboard you are provided with will be especially useful for this section. Make sure you are comfortable using it- we’d suggest you practice with it too! These are a few ways you can use your whiteboard:
Use it to keep track of your progress- we’ve taught you a trick on how to manage your time!
Sometimes, drawing a diagram/ writing something in your own words will help you better understand the question and answer it quickly and correctly. The whiteboard is especially useful for “deduction” questions.
If you need to remember something, note it down. Leave your brain power for understanding and solving the questions, use the whiteboard to note down details.
For questions that are taking you long, note down the details and write down the options you have left after eliminating others. Don’t rub out your working- keeping it could save you valuable time when you come back to it later.
🗒️ Make sure your notes are organised
Whilst you should make sure you make notes fast, you must also make them clear and organized. Rushing through them means you might miss important details, write something wrong by mistake, or read the question wrong in a hurry and copy down wrong information. For example; a question tells you five individuals have five rooms, horizontally arranged; if you draw the row vertically, this would be confusing and completely change how you interpret the information This could cost you marks.
Another instance is when you can’t read your writing, can't understand your shorthand abbreviations, or write in such a manner you confuse letters/ digits with each other. A common example is using initials for names. Sometimes, candidates put “B” for both Bob and Blaire. This can be very confusing when you read your notes. Using “Bo” and “Bl” would be better in this case. Such mistakes can especially cost you when you flag a question and return to it when you have time later- you will waste precious time understanding what you’ve written instead of answering the question. To prevent this, refine your note taking skills through practice.
⏳Consider your operational time
Sometimes candidates develop their own techniques; for example- you write down every keyword you think you need on the keyboard. While doing what works best for you is great, you have to remember you do not always need to do this- each added action costs you seconds which add up to cost you precious time! Consider the example given; writing one keyword per question would cost you an added 5 seconds for every question; this would cost you 220 seconds in total! This is a lot of time!
We are not trying to discourage you from using your own techniques- we are asking you to use your time wisely. If timing is something you really struggle with, you should try to cut unnecessary actions to maximize your time.
💨Take a blast to your past
Revising common GCSE maths topics such as probability (especially using the AND and OR rule), percentages, and Venn diagrams would help you with a lot of questions. This would especially help you for the “logical puzzle questions”- practicing how to draw out the information given on your whiteboard will help you.
And don’t forget statistics- you will be asked to analyse a lot of data! You should also revise how to analyze different graphs- pie charts, bar graphs etc.
🤓 Know the different types of questions
In this section, you will come across a wide range of questions, from assessing arguments, to solving logical puzzles to analysing bar graphs. As such, you will need a different strategy for each question type and will quickly need to switch from one mindset to another as you answer each question. Take some of these examples-
Grids are a clear, quick way of representing complex information; this is the most basic way you can sort information, which helps you answer the question faster.
Sketching out a problem to help you visualise the situation better. This helps you explain the situation in your own words, or more appropriately, your own drawings. This will help you understand the questions better and reach the answer faster and more accurately. This technique is especially helpful for syllogisms (“drag-drop questions”)
Venn diagrams can be drawn to turn a confusing sentence into a clear diagram. They can help you sort data into overlap groups, which makes it easier to compare the information at hand.
Practicing different types of questions in advance and preparing your strategies for them is the best way of easing your experience while sitting the actual test. To learn different strategies, GCSE maths and BMAT section 1 papers are a great asset!
📚 Take your time to read the question
Decision Making questions often have tricky language so take your time to read the question properly. You must understand these questions and take your time to think them through to reach an answer. The question hints to the relevant information you need to extract from the text. If you read the tricky phasing quickly, you can miss keywords such as “not”, “might”, “definitely” and “or”. Also, there is no point analysing the data in a graph or a diagram if you do not know what you are being asked to do. You’ll waste a lot of time analysing unnecessary data that you otherwise don’t need.
⁉️ You need to answer the question, not the diagram
For the perfectionists reading this article, please don’t obsess over the diagram trying to figure out every aspect of it. The aim is to choose the answer to the question being asked. To avoid falling into this trap, you should read the question before so you know which part of the diagram you should focus on.
🙋🏻♀️ Read the fine print
Here are some of our tips as to what you should look out for while answering different types of questions.
Look for keywords (dates, jargon) in the answers to help you choose the right one.
When looking at diagrams, small details are very important; they can completely change how you interpret the information given, especially when the diagram doesn’t have a legend.
Consider the example of qualifiers- the term “might”, a soft qualifier, is not associated with a strong argument, because it’s uncertain. The word “feel” is subjective, and suggests a weak argument. On the other hand, strong qualifiers such as “must”, “definitely”, “proven” or “shown” are absolute terms and support a strong argument. Qualifiers help you determine the most objective argument.
Some puzzles involve rooms/ houses in a row, days of the week, or other lists in a specific order. These can have clues, for example-
‘The white room comes after the black room'.
Although this may not mean much at first glance, once you draw out the information in more detail this is what you can pick up:
a) The white room comes after the brick house, so it can't be first in the row.
b) The black room comes before the white room, so it can’t be the last in the row.
💡 Organise your information logically
For syllogisms and “interpreting information” questions, only answer “yes” if the statement logically follows; if the assumptions do not logically follow then the answer is ‘no’. ‘No’ means you can’t definitely arrive to that conclusion. As you might have learnt in GCSE: correlation doesn’t mean causation. Remember this while draw conclusions based on the evidence given.
For “assessing argument” questions, you’ll be given a question starting with ‘Should…?’ with four associated arguments ‘for’ or ‘against’ the argument in the question – you have to pick the best argument. You can start by eliminating the illogical options first, and then decide on the best argument.
🏋️♀️ Understand What A Strong Argument Looks Like
Questions that ask you to assess arguments are often tricky; candidates confuse their prior knowledge or personal opinion with what the question is asking them. Don’t fall for this! Only use the information given to answer. For this type of question, you are being tested on how carefully you can deduce what the strongest support for an argument is based on the information provided. Here are some tips for differentiating a strong argument from a weak one.
Features of strong arguments:
The argument directly links to the conclusion
The argument is objective
The argument is evidenced
There are no gaps in the reasoning
Features of weak arguments:
The argument is irrelevant or indirectly linked to the conclusion
The argument is subjective
The argument has assumptions
There are gaps in the reasoning
✍️ Practice is the new perfect
Practice is the only way you can improve your performance. You need experience to figure out the different types of questions and develop strategies to answer them. This experience will also help you get used to common traps, some of which I have discussed here, and how not to fall prey to them!
If you establish a regular practiced routine, you can look at your mistakes to determine where you are going wrong- oftentimes, candidates struggle with certain types of questions and their mistakes are not random- they have a conceptual misunderstanding. Focusing on the question you get wrong will help you avoid making the same mistake when sitting the UCAT. Make sure your practice is timed as this will help you get used to answering on time without getting flustered.
👑 But targeted practice is even more perfect
It is important to address your mistakes and learn from them if you want to improve. Analyse your performance and focus on where you’re going wrong. Try to notice a pattern in the mistakes you make- more often than not- they are related to a theme rather than just being random errors. Do you continuously run out of time? Perhaps, you could work on speed reading and your skimming and scanning techniques. Or maybe it’s because you’re spending too long to answer? Is this just with all questions or are you struggling with a question type? If it is with all questions, be strict with how much time you spend and keep a cap of 60 seconds. If you struggle with a question type, especially focus on these questions to improve.
💪 Play to your strengths
If you have practiced before, you should have a general idea of what sort of questions you’re good at (here’s another reason to start practicing now!). If you're struggling with time in the exam, flag the questions you struggle with and focus on what you find easiest. However, if you start practise early enough, you can focus on the questions you find difficult so you don’t struggle with them as much in the exam! You can then develop strategies to answer different types of questions- you need experience to come up with these!
👾 Calculate like Megamind
Some candidates like using the calculator for Venn Diagram questions to add the various sections immediately, rather than solve them on the whiteboard. However, the calculator can be handy for other question types too- you have to practice and figure out what works best. We’d suggest you start practicing with the online UCAT calculator immediately so you can get a hang of it.
🏃 Jog your memory
Here are some calculator shortcuts you should memorise to save you time:
o Alt+C: Reveal the calculator
o Number pad: Make sure num lock is on
o ON/C: Backspace
M+: store a number in memory
MRC: Recalls a stored number from memory
M-: stores a negative value in memory
On/C- switch on the calculator, clear the display screen, cancel the entire equation
🏁 A few more shortcuts
You can use these for any section in the UCAT. Memorising these would be quicker than clicking from your mouse.
Alt+P = return to a previous question
Alt+N = move on to the next question
Alt+F = flag a question for later
🧠 Memorise like a Mastermind
We'd highly recommend you memorise this list of definitions; this list of terms is extremely useful in helping you figure out exactly what the question is asking you, removing any scope for confusion.
🐻 Be the next Bear Grylls
Okay, ngl, that’s a bit extreme. But try to start practicing in a range of different environments with different equipment as well- if you are writing your test at a Pearson Vue test centre, it is likely that candidates who are sitting their driving learner’s exam as well; from personal experience, it tends to get a bit noisy there so I’d suggest practicing a bit in a noisy environment- ex: your kitchen, so you can easily adjust to the situation need it arise.
💛 Old is gold
Also, if you can, try using those old computers you used in third form- yes, the ones with the clunky keyboards! The test centres can have these keyboards and it might be uncomfortable to manage if you haven’t used them in a while- I found it really slowed me down. So, I would suggest you use them to practice if you can- your college, local library might have one!
🇬🇧 Wavin’ Flag
The UCAT has a function where you can ‘flag’ questions for review- this stops you from wasting too much time on a question you find challenging; instead, you can come back to it later if you have time. Of course, whilst, you shouldn’t be guessing the majority of answers, this is a useful tool to move on after 1 minute; in such a situation, a guess and a ‘flag’ is better than no answer.