27 UCAT ANZ Decision Making Tips: Save Time and Boost Your Score

Thinking about UCAT revision? In this article, our UCAT experts explain how to boost your score in the Decision Making (DM) section. 

There's a wide variety of questions in Decision Making, and the section can be tricky to master. Get into good habits early to give yourself the best chance of success.

Before you read on, make sure you've had a look at our UCAT FAQ, UCAT top preparation tips and free UCAT practice questions
Medify's top UCAT Decision Making tips infographic

1. Understand the question types

Take time to familiarise yourself with the style of questions. There are different conventions associated with each question type and as you practise, you’ll notice patterns emerging.

Question types in UCAT Decision Making: Logical Puzzles, Syllogisms, Interpreting Information, Venn Diagrams, Probabilistic Reasoning, Recognising Assumptions

2. Understand the timing 

You have 31 minutes to answer 29 questions.

  • Work out how you want to use this time relative to your skills. There's more flexibility to do this in the DM section due to the time per question and an even distribution of question types. 
  • Aim for an average of one minute per question in order to have time to go back and review flagged questions. 
  • Learn your averages for different types of questions as DM questions vary greatly in difficulty. For example, a question which is just looking for a number should probably take under 15 seconds, others will take a full minute. 

Find out more about UCAT timing.

3. Work simple first

While you are ruling out options, start simple and work up to more complex relationships.

This means you are less likely to get entangled in complicated situations, which lead to mistakes.

4. Read the question carefully

The question guides you to the piece of information you need to extract from the text. Its phrasing can be tricky and you can easily miss key words, such as ‘not’, ‘must’ and ‘or’.

Speed reading questions to save time is not advisable.

UCAT Decision Making (DM) Example Question - do not miss key words such as 'must'

5. Don’t dive straight into the data/diagram

The data/diagrams are likely to contain lots of information, most of which won’t be relevant. 

Until you know what is being asked, there is no point analysing this information (this is the same in the UCAT QR section).

6. The aim is the answer, not the diagram

Perfectionists beware: The aim is to get marks by choosing the correct answer, not to answer the question fully. 

Just as it's not important to fully solve the puzzle in Logical Puzzles, it's not important to find the perfect diagram if you have ruled out all the other answer options.

7. Don’t forget the details in the text 

When looking at diagrams, tiny textual details can be very important.

They can change the entire meaning of the information presented (this is especially so when the diagram does not have a legend).

Read the text: a diagram comparing numbers of various butterfly species at different altitudes

8. Use your laminated notebook

Use your brainpower to think, not to remember. If you need to remember something, note it down to avoid confusing yourself. 

Careful notes assure you remember numbers correctly and remind you which answer options you’ve ruled out.

9. Organise the information you have logically and clearly

We all make strange choices when we rush our notes, and this is one area where a little care is needed.

For example, in a question that presents six individuals with six different coloured bedrooms, all horizontally arranged, it would be confusing to draw the information vertically. This could create that split second of confusion that leads to a mistake or causes you to lose your train of thought.

The same applies if you're unable to read your writing, or understand what your shorthand or symbols mean. Students commonly slip up when using initials for names. This is recommended and can save time, but don’t use the same initial, such as a ‘C’ for Charlie and Claire. This can mean redoing your working. It is better to use ‘Ch’ and ‘Cl’, for instance.

Keep refining your notes as you practise.

A sketch of a tidy UCAT whiteboard

10. Keep a diary 

When practising, note down the question type whenever you make a mistake. Review this regularly and study areas of weakness as you discover them. Did you know that Medify’s UCAT ANZ Online Course provides averages for each section to automate this process?

You can also note down why you got the question wrong to see if you can establish further patterns.

Decision Making is the section with the biggest variety of question types, so your diary is especially important.

In the UCAT zone: a Venn diagram with UCAT practice, UCAT diary and targeted learning

11. Flag it

If you think you're going to spend too long and get nowhere, flag and move on. 

Some questions are enticing and trap you into trying to solve them. It’s a bit like the tip-of-the-tongue sensation. Ultimately, this can prevent you from finishing, so keep to your time limit!

12. Watch out for qualifiers 

Qualifiers, such as 'must' or 'might', sometimes appear in your answer options and are crucial indications of the amount of evidence required to prove something. 

An answer option with a soft qualifier, such as 'might' or 'could be', is more likely to be correct than a strongly-worded answer.

13. Remember, perspective is relative

Some puzzles are based on houses/rooms or the direction objects are facing relative to your perspective. 

Keep in mind that a line of houses is in a different order if you view it from the street facing the front or the back of the house. UCAT practice questions can help you get the hang of this.

A drawing of two people looking in different directions to illustrate the importance of perspective in the UCAT DM section

14. Follow the logic in the question

For syllogisms and interpreting-information questions, only put yes if the statement logically follows. If you're making assumptions that don't logically follow then the answer is ‘no’. 

‘No’ means you can’t definitively draw that conclusion. 

Remember your GCSE science: correlation doesn’t mean causation, so be careful about how firmly you draw conclusions on the basis of the evidence given.

Infographic to show importance of following the logic of the question in UCAT Decision Making

15. Don’t delete your workings

If you make progress on a puzzle but don’t get to the answer, do not rub out your workings. This could save you valuable time when you come back to it. 

There is space to save the workings for several questions as you will be provided with a laminated notebook (and can request a replacement if needed).

16. Don’t miss any questions 

There is no negative marking in the UCAT, so make sure you answer every question. It can be tempting to regularly flag and move on, but you need to practise until you get a sixth sense for when it’s really time to flag. 

It doesn't make sense to leave questions that can be guessed.

17. Before you start the test, try this timing trick

  • Note down the time you have available
  • Then roughly halve the questions (14) and halve the time (16 mins)
  • Finally, halve the questions again (7), and halve the time again (8 mins)
  • Put this in a corner of your notebook

As the timer counts downwards, it can be difficult to keep track of where you should be. If you have these timings, you can quickly work out how behind or ahead of schedule you are without getting flustered. 

This trick can really pay off. If you’re aware that you have a few spare minutes in hand and are close to answering a tricky question, you’ll know it’s worth spending the extra time to crack it!

18. Be prepared to use the calculator

Some students like to use the calculator for Venn Diagram questions to add up the various sections immediately, rather than writing them down in the notebook.

You can use the memory shortcuts to save multi-step calculations.

19. Familiarise yourself with keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts can be used in all sections. Here’s a few examples:

  • Alt+P = return to a previous question
  • Alt+N = move on to the next question
  • Alt+F = flag a question for later

20. Look for the words ‘before’ and ‘after’

Some puzzles involve houses in a row, days of the week, or other lists with a specific order. These can have clues like ‘The brick house comes after the wooden house’, which can appear to be useless if you don’t know where the wooden house is located, but look closer:

The wooden house comes before the brick house, so it can't be the last in the row. The brick house comes after the wooden house, so it isn’t the first in the row.

21. Start puzzle questions by writing down the information you're provided with

The key to puzzle questions is understanding how to get the information you need from the information you have. 

This is much harder for anyone to do in their head and can create a mental word soup which slows you down.

Don’t be put off by the length of time it takes to make decent notes, as it will enable you to arrive at the answer more accurately, and probably more quickly.

22. Come up with your own method for solving puzzles 

This is where practice really comes in. With experience, you can develop your own unique methods.

Everyone differs slightly in their approach to complex working, and knowing what works for you is invaluable. Some tools to use are:

Grids – a clear way to represent complex information quickly is in grid form

An example of using grids to organise information in the UCAT exam

Neat sketches of the problem – helps to establish order and to visualise

Example of neat sketches

23. Recognising Assumption questions are not about the opinion you agree with most

You need to choose the argument that is most objectively valid, rather the one that most aligns with your point of view. 

The most objective argument is usually associated with evidence and/or qualified language, and not with assumptions or opinions.

An example question for the UCAT Decision Making section
Which of these answers presents evidence and/or more qualified (less totalising) language?

24. Don’t miss the Recognising Assumption questions 

Just like True/False/Can’t Tell questions in the VR section, these questions are often the fastest to complete.

If you have little time to spare and are wondering which question to answer, it’s a good idea to concentrate on these to maximise your marks.

A UCAT practice question for the DM section

25. You can use Venn diagrams for syllogisms

Syllogisms can seem like a complete jumble of words. By drawing a Venn diagram, you turn a random sentence into a clear and easy-to-follow diagram. 

You can use this to confidently select the correct answer.


Company A produces energy drinks. All energy drinks contain at least 500 mg of caffeine, but company A adds 100 mg of taurine to all their energy drinks. In order for an energy drink to reach the US market, it must pass safety tests by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

A Venn diagram representing the number of energy drinks sold compared to drinks with more than 500mg caffeine

26. Adapt Decision Making’s spatial equations

Spatial equations can be turned into algebraic equations to make your working easier.

Assign a letter to every shape, as below, then complete the equation.

A tip for UCAT DM section - assign a letter to each shape to make your working easier

27. Use Medify's UCAT question bank 

The only way to become truly comfortable with Venn diagrams and probabilities is through consistent practice and exposure. These question types are very common in the DM section, so they are key to increasing your score.

Decision Making question types are more predictable than other sections, so you really can get ahead of the game with a targeted UCAT preparation course such as our UCAT ANZ Online Course.

It provides 24 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams and 50+ hours of video tutorials. We've also upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your preparation journey.

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 spiral bound laminated sheets 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 emailed to you shortly (usually between 30 minutes and one hour). 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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