20 Tips to Change the Way You Think About the UCAT ANZ SJT

The Situational Judgement Test (SJT) is unique. It stands apart from the other academic sections of the UCAT as it tests your emotional intelligence.

The questions are a little daunting at first, but there are some fundamentals to getting ready for this section, which we explain below. 

Find out more about empathy and take an emotional intelligence quiz in our article Do you have the empathy to become a doctor?, and get a comprehensive overview of the UCAT
Top 5 UCAT Situational Judgement Test (SJT) tips infographic.

1. Start with the Good medical practice

The UCAT is all about assessing your potential to be a competent doctor. A large part of that is critical thinking and academic skills, but there are other, more human qualities that are important for a doctor to embody.

If you haven’t yet heard of the Medical Board of Australia, they are the body which regulates the medical profession. One of their key aims is to maintain a high standard of professionalism for medical practitioners, and this forms the basis for much of the SJT.

The Medical Board of Australia published the ‘Good medical practice’ which outlines what they expect from medical professionals. Read this document as part of your SJT preparation.

UCAT Situational Judgement illustration: ethics, privacy and teamwork

2. Learn the structure of the SJT

Time: 26 minutes

Questions: 69

To cover the SJT in depth, check out our UCAT ANZ Online Course, but here's a general overview of the structure:

The most common question requirement is to scale or rank statements, gauging the ‘appropriateness’ or the ‘importance’ of an action. For these questions, you are asked to select from four possible options with varying degrees of appropriateness or importance.

There are also a small number of 'drag and drop' style questions, where you will be given three options and must decide which two of these are the most and least appropriate respectively:

An example of the most/least drag-and-drop question type in the SJT section of the UCAT
An example drag-and-drop style question

More recently, two option ‘Appropriate' or 'Inappropriate’ questions have been added – these are the simplest to understand:

New SJT question type that involves choosing from two answer options: Appropriate or Inappropriate
SJT question type that involves choosing between two answer options: Appropriate or Inappropriate

These questions may seem unusual at first, but with focus and effort, they become more natural as you start to recognise patterns. While you'll come across ranking questions most often, don’t disregard the others as getting good at these can mean easy marks from the exam.

Our free UCAT practice questions cover the SJT, so you can start to learn the format and presentation of the section. Don’t worry if you get things wrong at first, just treat it as exploration.

3. Understand medical ethics

The world of medicine is deeply integrated with ethics, and rightly so. 

Not all SJT questions are ethics-based, but the topic is likely to come up often. It’s worth keeping in mind that medical ethics is an enormous topic, worthy of an entire career. Fortunately, premeds aren’t expected to get into this level of detail. 

What you need to know are the  pillars of medical ethics:

  • Autonomy the duty to respect a patient’s right to self-determination
  • Beneficence – the well-being of the patient is a doctor’s top priority 
  • Non-Maleficence – the duty to avoid harm to the patient, if possible
  • Justice the duty to treat all patients with equity and equality

The other key point to know is the importance of confidentiality. Doctor-patient relationships are strictly confidential, apart from in severe circumstances.

If an answer asks you to breach confidentiality, think carefully about whether it’s appropriate.

Graphic showing the Rod of Asclepius (symbol of medicine)

An SJT practice question

Jeremy is a medical student on placement in a paediatric ward. A junior doctor, Dr Edmund, has been observing. Dr Edmund arrives looking very unkempt and smelling strongly of alcohol. He is due to visit a young patient to conduct a blood test in one hour. Jeremy is concerned that Dr Edmund is not in a fit state to see patients. He asks him if he has been drinking, but Dr Edmund immediately dismisses his concerns without explanation. 

Choose the one most appropriate action and the one least appropriate action that Jeremy should take in response to this situation.

  1. Ask other team members if Dr Edmund is in a fit state to carry out the blood test
  2. Trust that Dr Edmund can carry out the blood test, as it is only a routine task
  3. Inform the consultant of the situation

Key things to note in the stem:

  • You are a medical student
  • You believe that a doctor may be under the influence of alcohol
  • You have attempted to talk to the doctor about this and been rebuffed
  • The doctor is about to engage with patients
Example UCAT Situational Judgement Test section question (most/least appropriate)

Clearly, this is a patient safety question. 

Even as a medical student, you are bound by the code of ethics, in this case 'non-maleficence'. 

We must attempt to avoid harm to patients, which may occur if we let a drunk doctor perform blood tests. 

In these scenarios, it is usually best to go up the hierarchy (see our later tip on ‘knowing your role’). As the consultant is both in charge of the junior doctor and responsible for the patients on this ward, we must bring up our concern with him. 

Even if Dr Edwards is not drunk, when we have concerns we must always make them known. For this reason, trusting him to carry out the blood test is the least appropriate option.

4. Learn how SJT answers work 

The appropriateness of a statement is sometimes hard to determine.

Whilst there are four possible answers, they consist of only two ‘sets’ of answers – either appropriate or inappropriate, important or unimportant. 

Once you have determined this, you can narrow down the correct answer. And if all else fails, it’s 50/50! Choosing the correct ‘half’ of responses will still get you a partial mark. 

For example, picking ‘Important’ instead of ‘Very important’ will still net you some credit, as opposed to marking something as ‘Not important at all’ when it should have been ‘Very important’.

5. You won't just be tested on medical scenarios 

In addition to medical scenarios, you may also be tested on general scenarios and dental scenarios.

Here’s an example dental scenario:

A 24-year-old patient, Sarah, presents to have a bridge put in. After the procedure, Sarah looks in the mirror and is clearly distressed. She complains that her mouth is ‘ruined’ and begins to cry.

Decide if the following actions are appropriate or inappropriate:

A: Explain to Sarah the importance of her procedure regardless of cosmetic appearance

Inappropriate

B: Allow time for Sarah to calm herself before discussing her feelings and options

Appropriate

C: Tell Sarah that she will get used to the bridge in time

Inappropriate

D: Seek advice from your educational supervisor 

Appropriate

E: Tell Sarah she should have gone to a different dentist

Inappropriate

As you can see, despite the dental setting, this question actually wanted to assess your level of empathy. Don’t be afraid of unfamiliar concepts asthe SJT will never expect you to know anything above the level of a student. Work out what the question wants from you and focus on that. 

Additionally, this question is quite an extreme example. Many questions will have broader and more familiar settings with situations that are easily comparable, such as references to the GMC (General Medical Council) and GDC (General Dental Council).

6. Answer every question

Some questions in the SJT are harder than others. 

Should you miss questions if you’re short of time? Absolutely not.

As with any of the UCAT sections, there is no negative marking, so guess away. 

7. Dealing with burnout

The SJT comes after all other sections. Many students might be wiped out at this point, especially after the focus and effort needed for the rest of the UCAT. Don’t allow fatigue to affect your performance, as your SJT score is an important criterion for some universities.

Practise maintaining your focus throughout the UCAT. Medify has full UCAT mocks available which will let you get used to the timeframe. Once you’ve done 10+ mocks out of the 24 we have, you will be used to getting over the finish line at full speed and with your grey matter still firing on all cylinders.

Get our top tips on UCAT preparation (good preparation = less stress!).

8. Practise SJT timing

You need to average ~22 seconds per question to complete all 69 questions.

The best way to practise SJT timing is to start with untimed practice to get familiar with the style, before trying timed practice, then mini-mocks and finally full mocks.

We’ve updated all of our mocks and mini-mocks to reflect the latest changes to the UCAT ANZ Situational Judgment section.

Learn about UCAT timing (the hardest part of the exam).

9. Know your role

Whilst many questions in the SJT are universal, some scenarios put you in a role. 

This is often the role of a student, but it could also be a junior doctor, or an even higher position. You need to adapt to the unique perspective of the role, so it’s worth having a basic knowledge of medical hierarchies, as well as the responsibilities of everyone involved. 

Students, for example, would not be expected to deliver patient results, let alone prescribe medicine or perform procedures. Even for a Foundation Year 1 doctor (FY1), it would be rare to prescribe complicated or potentially dangerous medicines without a senior’s input, so think carefully if the question seems to expect a unilateral decision. 

Explore medical roles.

10. Don’t rush to answer

Read the question carefully. Scenarios can be several sentences long, and it can be easy to skim read and miss some potentially key points. 

Be methodical. Once you’ve practised enough, you’ll understand how to move through at pace, while paying attention to the details. Don’t let the clock intimidate you into speed.

11.Understand the purpose of the question

Be sure to go through each question and figure out what exactly it is saying and what the answers represent. 

Is this a breach of privacy question? Does it require an ethical decision? 

Sometimes, the scenario will be ‘witnessing a colleague’s inappropriate behaviour’ and deciding how to respond. Don’t jump on your first thought, think about the feelings of everyone involved and be circumspect.

Graphic of student thinking about the purpose of a UCAT question

Let’s look at an example

Adam is an FY1 (Foundation Year 1) doctor working in a busy hospital. The doctor in charge has asked Adam to complete a blood test for a patient, Mrs Jones, and send it to the lab that morning as it is very urgent. Adam has been rushed off his feet all day and has had many other urgent tasks to complete. Further, his best friend has invited him out for dinner that evening and has stressed that it is very important that Adam is not late. He is about to go home at the end of his shift when he realises that he has forgotten to do Mrs Jones’s blood test. 

How appropriate are each of the following responses by Adam in this situation?

Key points in the stem:

  • Adam is a FY1 doctor
  • Adam has failed to complete an urgent task and thus risk harm coming to a patient
  • Adam is expected to attend a dinner party later that day

This question concerns patient safety and taking responsibility for our mistakes. 

By reading the stem carefully, we already have an idea about what the questions will be like and what our response should be. 

In medicine, patient safety comes above all else. It is now Adam’s responsibility to attempt to assuage the potential harm caused by missing Mrs Jones’s blood test, regardless of personal commitments, like dinner parties. This should guide all your answers to the shown responses. 

12. Be objective

Sometimes, questions might touch on some complicated subjects. 

For example, tourists are technically expected to pay for their treatment, but in reality, the scenario may be completely different. Remember, don’t answer based on what you believe to be morally right, or your existing knowledge, experience or assumptions. Answer based on what a doctor should do. 

In most situations, this will mean getting help from a senior or involving a team. If in doubt during practice, go back to the GMC’s guidelines or use Medify’s feedback.

13. Avoid dithering

Sometimes, the choice between ‘important’ and ‘very important’ can be agonisingly difficult to pick. 

Remember, the SJT answers are selected based on what a group of ‘Subject Matter Experts’ pick, and they may value completely different things to you. 

You may be able to pick up a feel for this, but in many cases, it simply isn’t worth the time spent thinking about it. 

You may get half marks for a guess, or simply flag the question to return to at the end of the section.

14. Understand the difference between appropriate and inappropriate actions

Appropriate actions get to the source of the problem, they don’t deal with it at face value or ignore it. 

If a colleague was acting in a way you perceived as unprofessional, for example, the first step would be to open communication with them to understand the root of the problem. If that failed, you could communicate with someone higher up. 

You might find that the colleague had some extenuating circumstances, and your first reaction would have been too harsh. This can only be discovered through thoughtfulness and communication.

Inappropriate actions are often apparently obvious at first and don’t take much thought – they are knee-jerk reactions. Despite the time limit, train yourself to look beyond the obvious and deal with issues by finding the root cause.

15. Don’t stress

Even with all the preparation in the world, the UCAT is still a stressful experience. 

By the time you reach the SJT, you will have completed all other sections. Even if you think they didn’t go so well, don’t panic. Focus on completing this section to the best of your abilities. The exam may not have gone as badly as you fear. 

Preparing for the UCAT can be just as stressful as doing it, but remember, the key to successful working is a good state of mind. 

Reduce exam stress with mindfulness.

16. Understand the role of social media

Nowadays, everybody has some level of social media presence, and this can be useful when used in the right context. However, the NHS and individual hospitals have strict policies when it comes to using social media. 

It is now acceptable to identify yourself as a medical professional on a personal account, but there are constraints to how you behave online.

You should never post something that would be deemed unacceptable by a hospital’s policy. For example, many hospitals do not look kindly on posts involving drinking or any unprofessional behaviour if you have identified yourself as working with them. 

This sort of scenario may very well come up in the SJT. Look through the Medical Board of Australia's guidance to determine if an action would be appropriate or inappropriate.

A few key points:

  • Comply with privacy and confidentiality obligations
  • Maintain professional boundaries
  • Do not present untrue, deceptive or misleading information
Graphic of a phone with social media icons to show appropriate use of social media in medical settings.

17. Learn about confidentiality

A confidentiality question from the Situational Judgement Test

Dr Ross is a consultant in orthopaedics at a General Hospital. Whilst on a ward round, he delivers good news to a patient he has recently treated. As he is leaving the patient’s room, Dr Ross is approached by the patient’s sister, another consultant at the hospital. She is keen to hear from Dr Ross about how her brother is recovering.

How appropriate are each of the following responses by Dr Ross in this situation?

  • Tell his colleague that he cannot disclose any information without the patient’s permission
  • Encourage his colleague to research her brother and his medical records on the hospital system

Key points in the stem:

  • You are a consultant
  • You have just spoken to a patient about their treatment
  • You are being asked to disclose information to another medical professional that is not part of this patient’s management team

Remember, it is never appropriate to disclose information about a patient to someone who is not involved in their care. It does not matter that they are also a consultant, or that they are related to the patient. We do not know about the patient’s personal life – it’s easy to assume they are happy to share this information, but possibly they would prefer to keep it private. In any case, they can make that decision themselves, thus we should tell our colleague nothing.

By contrast, the second question asks how appropriate it would be to ‘encourage our colleague to look up the patient themselves on the hospital network’. This is highly inappropriate, and medical professionals have been struck off for such an offence. It is never acceptable to look up a patient's information without good medical reason (or at least their permission).

18. Understand the importance of communication, transparency and teamwork 

Any time spent in medicine will show you the value of teamwork and this is reflected in the SJT. 

Keep these four tenets in mind:

  • Involve all members of a team (without discrimination)
  • Value everyone’s input and contribution
  • Work with others and adapt plans (if this does not compromise patient safety)
  • Delegate fairly and balance the workload

This remains important despite your personal feelings about a colleague. Remember, patient safety comes above all else, regardless of if those feelings are positive or negative.

As we touched on earlier, trust is vital to the entire medical system. A key to this is the principle of ‘transparency’; doctors should aim to be as open and honest with patients as possible, keeping them informed about their care. It is extremely unlikely you will ever be in a scenario where it would be appropriate to lie to a patient.

19. Understand ‘informed consent’

In medicine, every action that affects a patient is supposed to have their informed consent. 

This means two things: 

  • A patient should have access to all relevant information (e.g. side effects of a medication, common risks of surgery etc)
  • They must also be able to understand what is presented to them

A patient with late-stage Alzheimer’s, for example, may not be able to understand the necessary information to consent to their treatment.

As a medical student, you wouldn’t be expected to make the decision that a patient couldn’t provide informed consent, but understanding what this means is highly important. 

A common feature of the SJT will be patients who may not be able to consent themselves or who are under a relative’s guardianship. In these cases, whilst the ‘guardian’ does have a large say in treatment plans, it is not final. Remember that you must always prioritise the patient’s best interests. 

There are complex ethical issues regarding consent – some even leading to legal action – but it is highly unlikely this will come up in the SJT. In most cases, it will be enough to make sure the patient has as much agency and ability to consent as possible.

20. Learn to deal with patients

Most medical scenarios in the UCAT involve patients in some way, as patient safety should always be a consideration.

Doctors are meant to be respectful and considerate, build up trust with patients and do their best to help, providing they recognise their limits of competence and work within them.

Doctor-patient guidelines are well described in the Good medical practice.

How doctors should deal with patients infographic

What’s next?

If you want to learn about any section in the UCAT ANZ in detail, we go into far more depth in our UCAT ANZ Online Course. It's used by 1 in 2 UCAT students as it provides 20,000+ questions, 24 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams, 50+ hours of video tutorials, and performance feedback.

Our team of experts have also just upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your preparation journey.

Make sure you're following Medify on Instagram for tips on all the sections, as well as advice on wider reading, podcasts and much more.

Best of luck with your preparation!

What should I do one month before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one month left

Keep practising! A month sounds like a long time, but time will quickly vanish. Set SMART  (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals such as reaching a certain score by a certain date or time. 

Niche down even further on your weaknesses – by this stage you should just be focusing on what you find hardest. Make sure you factor in breaks and days off into your schedule, as well as any important events which you need to attend.

Read the 'Good medical practice' by the Medical Board of Australia if you haven’t already. It will inform you about the different duties of healthcare professionals and how they should respond to different scenarios, which is essential for the Situational Judgement Test section of the UCAT.

Try Medify's Skills Trainers, such as inference scanning for Verbal Reasoning, to maximise your score (these are included in our UCAT ANZ Online Course). Make sure you've also completed plenty of UCAT practice tests.

The UCAT exam is two hours with no breaks in between, so practise at least two hours each time to build your mental stamina. You should also simulate the exam environment as closely as possible – this means treating every mock test as if it were a real one. 

For instance, you should sit mock exams at the same time of the day as your actual UCAT exam and ensure there are no distractions. By mirroring the test conditions, not only will it prepare you for what to expect on test day, it should also help to decrease any anxiety leading up to the exam. Otherwise, your brain has to process the ‘new’ way of completing the test.

What should I do one week before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one week left

At this point, you'll know the format of the exam inside out and will have practised the questions enough times to get used to UCAT timings. Don’t give up – keep preparing in an environment where you cannot be interrupted.

Remember, a lot of your preparation will have been done in the weeks and months before this final week, so be careful not to overdo it and become too fatigued. Your motivation may drop or you might ‘peak’ before the test. Your body needs rest too. 

Now is a great time to introduce or increase self-care in your regime. Whether it’s watching Netflix, gaming, or just running a bath, it’s important to detach yourself from UCAT revision from time to time to avoid the risk of burnout.

In this week you should also prioritise your nutrition and sleep. Eat well, do not miss meals and keep hydrated. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep in the days before the test by avoiding late night cramming or staying awake into the early hours.

If it puts your mind at rest, you can check last year’s UCAT scores, but remember that this is all about your personal journey and performance, so don't get hung up on that information!

What should I do one day before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one day left

We do not advise doing a mock this close to the exam. Revision won't help you much at this stage and can actually leave you worse off. Instead, use this time to wind down and get yourself into a relaxed state. This will enable you to perform at your best on test day.

Try to get to bed early and avoid things that can affect sleep, such as looking at your phone before bed. If you think that you will struggle to sleep on time, you could try doing some exercise during the day to tire yourself out. 

Exercise can boost your brainpower by oxygenating your brain, helping you learn and aid sleep. Plus, activity makes your body release endorphins, which can reduce anxiety and stress levels.

Make sure you double check your UCAT test centre information, the travel route to the test centre, the time of your UCAT exam, and so on, so you’re well prepared for test day. If someone else is giving you a ride to the test centre, it’s worth reminding them.

What should I do on the day of my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar circling today's date

You should start the day off with a nutritious breakfast and give yourself enough time to arrive early to the test centre to avoid feeling flustered, rushed or stressed.

Remember that buses and trains can be late and that traffic may be heavier than you had hoped, so allow extra time whichever way you are travelling. Find out how to choose a UCAT test centre.

Make sure you know how to get to the test centre – for instance you could consider taking a map with you. If you’re using your phone for directions, make sure it’s sufficiently charged and that you have spare data (otherwise you can download the map ahead of time to use offline).

On test day you will be expected to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled test time to complete the check-in process.

You need to bring:

  • Your test confirmation email
  • Photographic ID from the approved list

When you arrive at the test centre, it’s likely that you’ll be experiencing a heightened sense of adrenaline. This is completely normal, but it could be helpful to learn some mindfulness tricks to reduce your stress levels. For instance, you could focus on your breathing to help you relax.

Don’t forget, during your test there are one minute introductions between each subtest. You can skip these, but we recommend using the time to mentally refresh yourself.

If you’ve stuck to your revision plan, and followed our advice above, the best thing you can do on test day is to try and keep as calm as possible. Take solace in the fact that you have prepared for weeks/months to get to this point, and channel any nervous energy into doing the best you can during your UCAT test. 

What should I eat and drink leading up to the UCAT?

You should think about your diet well ahead of UCAT test day. Focus on foods that release energy slowly (that is, which have a low glycaemic index, or GI) which will stop you from feeling hungry. These are ideal for UCAT preparation, as well as on test day itself.

Try eating protein and low-GI carbohydrates, such as meat or baked beans, brown (whole grain) rice or pasta, or wholegrain breakfast cereals or muesli. However, do not stray far from your usual diet on the day of the test in case you feel sick. You may want to try these foods out at the same time of day a few weeks in advance.

Be wary of energy drinks and coffee. If you’re not used to them then don’t drink them, especially in large quantities. Caffeine can acutely increase anxiety, and the sugar rush of an energy drink is soon followed by insulin slamming on the brakes, leaving you feeling worse than before. These products are no substitute for a good night’s sleep, eating properly and exercising.

No food or drink is allowed in the test room so eat a healthy meal before your UCAT test and ensure you’re hydrated. While you should make sure you’re drinking enough water, do not overdo it, otherwise you might need the toilet while the timer is ticking.

Please note, access arrangements are available if you have a disability, learning difficulty or long-term medical condition. You may be entitled to extra time and/or rest breaks, and allowed certain items, such as water, at your test centre workstation. 

What happens at the UCAT test centre?

  1. At the registration desk, you will be asked to show a valid photographic ID and a printed/electronic copy of your confirmation email from Pearson VUE. 
  2. You will be asked to sign a signature pad and take a photograph.
  3. You will be given a laminated notebook and a black marker pen. You may also request earplugs.
  4. Do not take anything other than your ID into the examination room. A locker or a coat hanger will be available.
  5. Go to the bathroom if you need to.
  6. Once the staff have prepared your exam, you may enter the exam room. You may be asked to undergo a body check (e.g. turning up your pockets and rolling your sleeves).
  7. The staff will guide you to the seat, or you may be able to choose your desk. Take some time to prepare yourself and relax. Your two hours have not yet started.

What is the UCAT test environment like?

This image shows a typical UCAT test environment:

Taking the UCAT at a test centre

There is no audio element to the test, but you can request earplugs to block out any noise that might disrupt your concentration. 

You will have access to a basic onscreen calculator which may be useful for the Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Making sections.

You will be given a laminated notebook and marker pen. Consider using these for:

If you require an additional notebook and pen, you can raise your hand and ask the invigilator. Although the invigilator will check that your pen is working before the test, we advise double-checking this to avoid seeking assistance during the test.

What happens during my UCAT test?

  1. Once you are ready, follow the on-screen instructions.
  2. Your exam will be in the following order:
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Decision Making
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Situational Judgement
  1. You will have one minute before each section to read the instructions. You can skip it, but this will not give you an extra minute to answer the questions. Use this time to give your mind a quick break.
  2. If you have any issues, such as requiring a toilet break, you can quietly raise your hand. However, your time will continue running.
  3. After your exam, there may be an opportunity to answer a short optional survey on UCAT ANZ preparation and the quality of the venue.
  4. Raise your hand when you've finished and the examiner will guide you out of the exam room. You need to return your laminated board and marker pen.
  5. Collect your belongings and leave the test centre.
  6. Your UCAT ANZ results will be available in your Pearson VUE account within 24 hours. You will receive an email with instructions to access your score report through your account. All results will be delivered to UCAT ANZ Consortium universities automatically.
  7. If you’ve achieved the scores that you desire, well done.
  8. Even if you haven’t achieved the scores you wanted, congratulate yourself for getting through a really tough process. You've done exceptionally well just to get to this point. Plus, you can always take the UCAT again next year or consider graduate entry to medicine – do not give up on your dream!

Do you need help preparing for the UCAT ANZ? Head over to our UCAT ANZ Online Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through the whole process.

We provide a huge bank of 20,000+ questions, 24 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams, 50+ hours of video tutorials, and performance feedback. We've also upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your preparation journey.

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