This is one of the most important UCAT Situational Judgement tips.
Many students are tempted to assume that in a given scenario, they are a medical student, and so they choose their response accordingly. But this isn’t true: in each scenario, you should imagine that you are a doctor working in a hospital – unless this is stated otherwise (and sometimes it is – always pay attention to the question’s wording).
In UCAT Situational Judgement, the General Medical Council (GMC) guidelines are your best friend when practising. There’s also a handy page on their site with practical case scenarios (found here), many of which will likely come up in the test. Working through practical scenarios and understanding the reasoning behind each outcome is important, as this will help you improve your score in the test.
In each Situational Judgement scenario, you will be told what your role is: you could be a school pupil or a medical student. This is not something the examiners have done to fill up space – that information is given to you for a reason, so it’s likely that one of the responses is related to the role you have in the scenario.
For example, this is an instance where your response will be tailored to the role you have in the scenario: a patient asks you whether they are likely to recover from their serious illness. One of the responses is that you confirm this to the patient – however, it’s important to think about your role. For instance, if you’re a doctor then telling the patient this is appropriate – it’s great news. However, if you’re a work experience student, then you’re not in a position to tell the patient anything about their health as you’re not qualified.
So, before you answer, make sure you keep in mind what your role is!
2. Remember the action is not the only one taken
This is important: don’t assume that the action presented is the only one taken in the scenario, as taking more than one action can be appropriate.
So keep this in mind: you’re not being asked if this is the most appropriate action to take, only if it is an appropriate one which would be taken alongside others.
For example, if the scenario was one about your colleague’s professionalism, it might be appropriate to speak to your colleague as well as raising the issue with a more senior staff member.
The questions therefore exist both in isolation (you will not be aware of many parts of the situation you would know about in reality) but also in context, where it is assumed that this will not be the only action taken, just one of many.
3. Trust your instinct
In Situational Judgement, it can be easy to get caught up in whether or not the response is the ‘right’ one. It’s a section that can easily be overthought – you could always make an argument that something is more or less appropriate based on other factors, but make sure you don’t waste too much time on this.
Our best advice for this section is to look solely at the action you’re given and trust your instinct – go with what you know to be true. Remember too that in this section you’ll be awarded partial marks for being on the ‘right’ side (ie, the appropriate/inappropriate sides) – so even if you’re not sure if the answer is 100% right, you’ll gain marks by being close.
As long as you have read and understand the GMC guidelines, the chances are your gut instinct for a scenario is likely to be correct.
4. Think about the qualities of a good doctor
This will help you to answer these Situational Judgement questions. What makes a good doctor? Think about the key qualities, and try to answer accordingly: honesty and integrity, safety, dealing with pressure, and team-working.
For example, in the scenario above, the key things to consider are professionalism, honesty and patient safety. Maybe your colleague is legitimately struggling with a personal issue, and deserves the benefit of the doubt. Speaking to them in an empathetic way might be the best way to start. In this way, you have kept calm and professional but you have also demonstrated the value you place on patient safety.
5. Don’t rate the scenario – just the action
Many scenarios in Situational Judgement will be based on an incorrect or problematic action taken in the first place. So many students struggle with then taking the correct action after this.
However, it’s important to just focus on the action taken next, not what has already happened. The questions are designed to test how well you respond when something has gone wrong, so focus on choosing the next best action.
For example, the scenario could have said that as a doctor, you made the mistake of administering the wrong medication to a patient. However, the given response may include apologising to the patient for making the mistake.
Although the scenario itself was negative, this response demonstrates honesty and integrity (one of the key themes as mentioned above) and so tries to reach a positive outcome.