• The Aspiring Medics

8 Top Tips for Situational Judgement

In this series of articles, we take you through the medicine application process for UK universities. Through this series of comprehensive blogs, you will know absolutely everything you need to stand out from the crowd during the application process.

 

The Situational Judgement section is the only one to be scored differently from the rest of the UCAT exam - from Band 1 (best) to Band 4 (worst). This section aims to test your ability to make ethical decisions in line with the code of conduct expected of all professionals working within the NHS. The expected code of conduct has been listed in several guidelines released by the NHS, GMC and NICE and it is important to follow them as a medical student and doctor. This is one of the better-timed sections, however, is a bit tricky to answer since all the answer choices seem to be similar.


This article is written by one of our top tutors, Arisma, who scores 3080 in the 2019 UCAT, putting her in the top 1% of the world. She scored Band 2 in the Situational Judgement section.


In this article, we take you through our Top 8 Tips to score high in the Situational Judgement section.


 

This section tests your ability to make correct and ethical decisions as a medical student and doctor. The great thing is that the NHS, GMC and NICE have all laid down specific and detailed guidelines on how to act as a fair and ethical doctor. Reading 'Good Medical Practice' and familiarizing yourself with NHS values will help you figure out how to act in the situations presented in the SJ section.

'Good Medical Practice' is the GMC’s guidance on how doctors should behave, and provides detailed guidance which will help hugely with the SJT. Although it will not provide answers for each individual scenario, it will give you the base theory which can be applied to all scenarios. There is also a version for medical students called ‘Achieving Good Medical Practise’. It does not make for very exciting reading, so when you are going through, instead of just reading, make notes and summarise your findings to keep you more engaged, and also provide a great revision resource, not just for the UCAT but interviews too. Keep these themes, along with the qualities of a good doctor, in your head at all times when revising and taking the test.

Each question presents a different situation and you might have to take on different roles - a medical student, junior doctor, consultant, patient or even just a bystander in a hospital. Each of these 'characters' will rank things differently in terms of appropriateness and importance - so it is important to keep that in mind.

The appropriateness and importance of actions often relies heavily on your role within the scenario. A medical student cannot do some actions that a doctor can (revealing news etc.), and sometimes calling for a doctor is unnecessary nervousness. This intuition develops with time, but when you are first practising, keep that in mind, be confident but not reckless with your decision making.

Also, sometimes an individual within the scenario does something very inappropriate. This can sometimes bias your mind to put that as your answer, however it is best to ignore those actions after reading them, and focus on the question. For example, an apology for something inappropriate is a very appropriate action.

Make sure to read the situation carefully and identify the key issue. Then figure out what the question is truly asking you, whose shoes you're in and what would be most appropriate or important. This is one of the better-timed sections of the exam, so it's completely fine for you to take time out to understand the situation and question.

Remember that multiple questions in the same set (same scenario) can have the same answer. There can be multiple 'Very Appropriate' responses to a particular scenario and you should be able to identify all of them.

Often, we know that something should be done in a situation, for example, an apology. However, if the question isn’t about an apology, and hasn’t been a previous question, it doesn’t mean that action hasn’t been taken. Some people have a tendency to rank down responses in the ‘appropriateness’ questions because it isn’t everything they would’ve done, however you must isolate the question, and decide whether that individual action is a good or bad thing, ignoring what else you think should be done.

It is completely fine if you can't finish attempting all questions. If you're spending more than 30 seconds on a question - it may be useful to simply flag it and move on. Remember that all questions in the UCAT are equally weighted.

Make sure to come back to these unanswered questions in the last minute and guess answers!

A major and common issue that lots of students face is that the answer choices in the UCAT exam are very similar to each other and it may be difficult to differentiate between them. Our guide below can help you with that!


The UCAT website provides explanations for the correct answers in their practice tests and mocks. Go through these explanations while practising since you may identify some key values that the UCAT test board prioritizes in the Situational Judgement Test. Use this as an additional resource to 'Good Medical Practice'.

Practice is key to performing well in the UCAT. Practice your speed and decision making abilities.

 

Other Key Concepts to Remember:


The 7 C's are an easy way to keep key NHS values in mind while making any decisions during the Situational Judgement or even during placement!

  • Care – It is high quality, effective, and wanted by the patient.

  • Compassion – Care is delivered with compassion for the patient’s condition.

  • Competence – Professionals know what they can and cannot do, and should act accordingly.

  • Communication – Being clear and concise with colleagues, patients, and their relatives; explaining things in simple terms they understand while getting your message across

  • Courage – Speak up if you have concerns regarding the quality of care or effectiveness, or with regards to unprofessional or illegal activity among colleagues.

  • Commitment – Giving it your best to provide the best care possible every single time for every single patient.

  • Consistency – Aim to maintain (and if anything, improve on) the high standards of care patients should rightly expect.