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
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.
The questions make more sense when you can try them yourself, so don't forget to take our free UCAT practice test
You have 31 minutes to answer 29 questions.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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!
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.
Keyboard shortcuts can be used in all sections. Here’s a few examples:
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.
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.
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
Neat sketches of the problem – helps to establish order and to visualise
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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:
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.
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.
This image shows a typical UCAT test environment:
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.
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.