UCAT Situational Strategies

The UCAT Situational Judgement (SJ) subtest assesses your ability to understand real-world situations and identify appropriate responses. Here are key strategies for approaching this section effectively:

1. Understand the Format:

    • The SJ subtest presents scenarios followed by a series of responses to those scenarios.
    • You will need to rate the appropriateness or importance of each response on a scale from 1 (Very Appropriate/Important) to 4 (Very Inappropriate/Unimportant).
  1. Familiarize Yourself with Common Themes:

    • Scenarios often revolve around ethical dilemmas, professional behavior, patient care, teamwork, and communication.
    • Review guidelines from medical ethical bodies, like the GMC’s Good Medical Practice, to understand the standards expected in medical settings.
  2. Learn the Rating System:

    • Very Appropriate/Important: Ideal response, correct and beneficial.
    • Appropriate but not Ideal/Important but not Essential: Good response but not the best possible one.
    • Inappropriate/Of Minor Importance: Not the best choice but not harmful.
    • Very Inappropriate/Unimportant: Incorrect response, potentially harmful or unethical.
  3. Develop a Systematic Approach:

    • Read each scenario carefully to understand the context fully.
    • Consider the perspectives of all parties involved (e.g., patients, colleagues).
    • Think about the principles of medical ethics: autonomy, beneficence, non-maleficence, and justice.
    • Use elimination to narrow down options that are clearly inappropriate or less relevant.
  4. Practice Regularly:

    • Use practice questions and full-length mock exams to get accustomed to the types of scenarios and questions.
    • Review your responses to understand where you may have misjudged and why.
    • Reflect on feedback to improve your understanding of professional and ethical standards.
  5. Time Management:

    • The SJ subtest has 69 questions to be completed in 26 minutes, so practice pacing yourself to ensure you can complete all questions within the time limit.
  6. Stay Calm and Reflective:

    • Keep a clear and calm mind during the test. Rushed decisions can lead to errors.
    • Reflect on your own values and how they align with professional expectations in medicine.

By following these strategies, you can enhance your ability to judge situations appropriately and perform well on the UCAT Situational Judgement subtest.



Situational judgement refers to the ability to assess a situation accurately, understand the implications, and choose an appropriate course of action. In the context of medicine, situational judgement is crucial for doctors because it directly impacts patient care, professional conduct, and the overall effectiveness of healthcare delivery. Here’s why situational judgement is essential for doctors:

  1. 1. Complex Healthcare Scenarios:

    • Doctors frequently encounter complex, unpredictable situations in clinical practice. These can range from medical emergencies to ethical dilemmas and interpersonal conflicts among healthcare team members.
    • Effective situational judgement enables doctors to navigate these scenarios thoughtfully, making decisions that prioritize patient safety, well-being, and optimal outcomes.
    2. Patient-Centered Care:
    • Patients rely on doctors to make informed decisions that consider their unique circumstances, preferences, and medical needs.
    • Situational judgement involves balancing clinical knowledge with empathy and understanding, ensuring that medical care is not only effective but also respectful and compassionate.
  2. Ethical Decision-Making:

    • Medical practice often involves ethical considerations, such as respecting patient autonomy, maintaining confidentiality, and upholding professional integrity.
    • Doctors must exercise sound situational judgement to assess ethical dilemmas, weigh conflicting principles, and choose actions that align with ethical guidelines and standards of practice.
  3. Collaboration and Teamwork:

    • Effective healthcare delivery requires collaboration among interdisciplinary team members, including nurses, specialists, and support staff.
    • Situational judgement enables doctors to communicate effectively, resolve conflicts, and contribute positively to team dynamics, thereby enhancing patient care outcomes.
  4. Continuous Learning and Adaptation:

    • Medicine is a dynamic field with evolving standards of care, technological advancements, and changing patient demographics.
    • Doctors must demonstrate situational judgement by continuously updating their knowledge, integrating new evidence-based practices, and adapting their approach to meet evolving healthcare challenges.

Overall, situational judgement is integral to the role of doctors because it enhances their ability to provide competent, compassionate, and patient-centered care. By honing their situational judgement skills through education, training, and experience, doctors can navigate the complexities of medical practice with confidence and professionalism.



    Strategies for Success

      • Understand Professional Guidelines: Familiarize yourself with the ethical and professional guidelines relevant to medical and dental practice.
      • Practice Empathy and Communication: Develop strong interpersonal skills, including empathy and effective communication.
      • Reflect on Real-World Scenarios: Think about real-life situations you might encounter in medical or dental practice and how you would handle them.
      • Learn to Prioritize: Practice ranking responses based on their appropriateness and importance.
      • Use Process of Elimination: Eliminate responses that clearly do not fit the professional standards or ethical guidelines.

    Situational judgement

    • Key medical themes:
      • Respect clinical seniority: Being aware and understanding your role.
      • Due diligent: Improving the quality of service by taking leadership and exercising attentiveness and cases.
      • Teamwork: Includes working together in ways that best serve the patient.
      • Effective communication: A cornerstone of healthcare professions.
      • Local Resolution: Knowing when to deal with issue locally and when to escalate them.
      • Patient safety: A critical aspect of both medical and dental practice.
      • Honesty, Integrity, professionalism: Form the bedrock of trust in the healthcare field.
      • Confidentiality: Knowing when to keep it and when to break it.



    • Confidentiality: Parents can’t obtain any information for any of their children aged 18 or older, unless given permission.
    • Honesty, integrity and patient safety: Any issue that appears or medical condition that develops for students should be addressed as it could affect personal health or, later on, patient safety.
    • Team work: Completing a project is usually the bigger goal out of anything else that happens.
    • Knowledge, skills and performance: Patient safety and consent is the most important factor. Urgency comes right after this.
    • Honesty, integrity and patient safety: Patient providing vulnerable and private information are trusting the doctor/student. Therefore the trust should be earned by showing integrity and honesty.
    • Confidentiality: Information should never be shared, even if it’s someone close to the patient (family, husband/family) unless given permission or the patient is younger than 18.
        1. Appropriateness of questions
        • A very appropriate thing to do: If it will address at least one aspect (not necessarily all aspect) of the situation.
        • Appropriate, but not ideal: If it could be done, but is not necessarily a very good thing to do.
        • Appropriate, but not awful: if it should not really be done, but would not be terrible.
        • A very inappropriate thing to do: if it should definitely not be done and would make the situation worse.
        1. Importance of questions
        • Very important: If this is something that is vital to take into account.
        • Important: If this is something that is important but not vital to take into account.
        • Of minor importance: If this is something that could be taken into account, but it does not matter if it is considered or not.
        • Not important: At all if this is something that should definitely not be taken into account.
      Doctor in White Scrubs and gloves doing an examination

      Next Steps

      In recent years at the University of Aberdeen there have been between five and seven multiple mini interviews (MMI) with each station being manned by a single interviewer or more if required for role play scenarios. These stations are five minutes long with two questions being asked in each MMI Station. Aberdeen University has kindly provided an example of an MMI Station on tea



      Are you ready for your UCAT? Are you ready for your MMI? 🚀

      Need reassurance? Try our Free Checklists ! 📋

      FREE MMI ReportFREE UCAT Report