UCAT PREPARATION

UCAT Decision Making

WRITTEN BY
Medistudents Team
Apr 14, 2021

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Why use the Medistudents adaptive UCAT question bank?

Did you know that if you spend an average of 2 minutes answering and absorbing the explanation of each question in a question bank, it will take you 333 hours to get through 10k questions!?

No wonder the vast majority of people don’t answer anywhere near 10k questions before their exam!

We surveyed 100s of medical students and asked them what their biggest issue was when preparing for the UCAT.

Over 90% said that because the UCAT wasn’t a knowledge-based exam, they could answer thousands of questions but never feel like they were getting anywhere.

The trouble with standard question banks is that everyone is given the same questions to prepare with, with no consideration of what skills or topics each person is actually struggling with.

However, everyone has a different baseline ability. You might struggle with quantitative reasoning, whereas your friend might be a maths wizard. With a standard question bank, you’ll both answer the same QR questions, in the same order, meaning you’ll be left struggling while your friend doesn’t feel stretched.

No wonder so many people can find preparing for the UCAT frustrating!

The Medistudents adaptive UCAT question bank is here to change all that.

We recognise that the vast majority of students don’t complete all 10,000 questions in a question bank.

It’s therefore vitally important that the questions you do answer are relevant to your skill and ability level.

We’ll ensure that in the areas you’re struggling, you’ll master the basics first. Whereas in your stronger areas, you’ll be immediately pushed.

This will mean that every minute of your revision is turbo charged to maximise your UCAT score.

More than a just question bank that tells you the correct answers

As you progress through the question bank, you’ll be able to see a sophisticated estimate of your current skill level for each subsection of the UCAT. When other question banks give you a performance review, they are simply telling you how many questions you’ve got right or wrong. 

We do things differently.

Our algorithm will tell you exactly what your ability level is for each area of the UCAT. We calculate this based on the actual difficulty of the questions you are answering and it’s done in real time, so you can be sure that the work you’re putting in is actually translating into real gains in your UCAT score.

The Medistudents UCAT question bank is the only one available which shows you if you’re actually getting better at answering harder questions.

First introduced in 2016, to replace the Decision Analysis subtest, the UCAT Decision Making subtest assesses your ability to analyse information and apply logic to make decisions. This can be a tricky section of the UCAT with some questions which can easily trip candidates up; however, with adequate preparation, you can ensure that you’re familiar with the questions and able to perform well during the exam.

This guide will provide you with more information about the Decision Making subtest, including how to prepare, tips to do well and where to access free quality UCAT practice questions.

What is the UCAT Decision Making subtest?

With questions related to information presented in text, charts, tables, graphs and diagrams, the UCAT Decision Making subtest assesses your ability to evaluate arguments, analyse statistical information and apply logic to make decisions or form conclusions.

Why is there a UCAT Decision Making subtest? What does it test?

The ability to make decisions is an important skill for doctors. Often they are tasked with doing so in complex situations, in which they’re required to assess and manage risk, deal with uncertainty and apply high-level problem solving skills.

Being able to reason, evaluate arguments for and against, and to use logic are key skills for problem solving.

What is the structure / format of the UCAT Decision Making subtest?

The format of the UCAT Decision Making section is as follows:

  • 29 questions
  • Data provided in text, charts, tables, graphs or diagrams
  • All questions are standalone and do not share data
  • Some questions you will have to select the correct answer from 4 possible answers; others you have to respond to 5 statements with ‘yes’ or ‘no’

How much time do you get for the UCAT Decision Making subtest?

You’ll have 31 minutes (plus a 1 minute instruction section) to answer the 29 questions, giving you approximately 1 minute per question.

What types of questions are included in the UCAT Decision Making subtest?

There are six types of questions within the UCAT Decision Making subtest, they are:

  1. Logical puzzles
    • Using the information given and applying one or more steps of ‘deductive inference’ to arrive at a conclusion.
    • There is one correct answer per question.
    • Information will be presented in text, tables or other graphics.
  2. Syllogisms
    • You’ll be provided with information, from which you will need to evaluate whether each of the 5 conclusions could arise.
    • You need to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each of the 5 statements.
  3. Interpreting information
    • You need to interpret the information provided to determine whether the conclusions are correct.
    • You need to respond ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to each of the 5 statements.
    • Information will be presented in various ways, including text, graphs and charts.
  4. Recognising assumptions
    • You’re required to evaluate arguments for and against a particular solution to a problem, as well as the strength of the arguments.
    • There is one correct answer per question.
  5. Venn diagrams
    • You may be presented information in a Venn diagram and asked to select the best conclusion from a list of statements.
    • Or, alternatively, you may be presented with information in passage and asked to select the Venn diagram that best represents the information from a selection.
    • There is one correct answer per question.
  6. Probabilistic reasoning
    • You’ll be given statistical information presented in a short passage and asked to select the best response to the questions.
    • There is one correct answer per question.

You can find strategies for each of the question types in the relevant section below.

How do you answer UCAT Decision Making questions?

As mentioned above, there are two answer types within the UCAT Decision Making subtest:

  1. Multiple choice answers
    • For these questions you must select the correct answer from 4 possible options.
    • The logical puzzles, recognising assumptions, Venn diagrams and probabilistic reasoning questions all use this answer type.
  2. ‘Yes’ or ‘no’ answers
    • For these questions you’ll be given 5 statements which you need to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’ for depending on their accuracy.
    • The syllogisms and interpreting information questions use this anwer type.

The strategies section below gives more information on how to approach each of these question types.

UCAT Decision Making Scores

Within the Decision Making subtest, scoring depends on the type of question. For the multiple choice questions, which have one correct answer, there is one mark available for each. For the ‘yes’ or ‘no’ questions, which have five statements to respond to, there are two available marks; two marks will be awarded for all correct responses to the statements and one mark for partially correct responses.

The raw mark that you achieve in the Decision Making subtest is converted into a ‘scale score’ between 300 – 900. The other cognitive subtests – Abstract Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning and Verbal Reasoning – are all scored in the same way, whereas the Situational Judgement Test is scored using a band system.

What is an average score for the UCAT Decision Making subtest?

Although it was introduced in 2016, the UCAT Decision Making subtest was unscored in the first year. Therefore, the following ‘mean scores’ provided on the UCAT website are from 2017 – 2020:

Year Number of candidates Mean scaled score
2017 24,844 647
2018 27,466 624
2019 29,375 618
2020* 34,153 625

*Note, scores from 2020 are for tests taken up to 25 October 2020.

For more information about how the UCAT is scored, including the scaled scoring, visit the UCAT Practice Test blog.

What is a good score for the UCAT Decision Making subtest?

For all of the ‘cognitive subtests’ in the UCAT, it’s generally advised that a ‘good’ score is approximately 20 – 30 marks above the average score for that subtest. For example, for 2020, a ‘good’ UCAT score for the Decision Making subtest would be 645 – 655.

Remember, the average score will vary each year, depending on how that year’s candidates perform, and therefore, so will what’s considered a ‘good’ UCAT score.

How to prepare for the UCAT Decision Making subtest

As mentioned previously, some of the questions in the Decision Making subtest can be tricky if you’re unsure of them; therefore, it’s vital that you’re familiar with the types of questions you’ll receive and how to answer them. Focusing on practice questions and practice tests during your UCAT preparations will support you to understand what the subtest involves and how to approach it.

To ensure that you’re fully prepared for the exam, you should practice all six types of questions that you'll encounter. In addition to this, to gain more from your preparations, you should aim to identify the types of questions which you find more challenging and dedicate additional time to those. Our adaptive question bank can help you with this, by automatically identifying your strengths and weaknesses, and ensuring that you spend time developing the areas which are likely to have the biggest impact on your UCAT Decision Making score.

You’ll find more information about practice questions, our free UCAT practice test and adaptive question bank in the examples section.  

As well as practice questions and tests, brushing up on your maths skills will help you with the Decision Making section. The UCAT website suggests that you specifically focus on revising probability and Venn diagrams, which are needed for the probabilistic reasoning and Venn diagrams questions.

What strategies will help with the UCAT Decision Making subtest?

The UCAT Question Tutorial provides the following strategies for answering questions in the UCAT Decision Making subtest:

  • Logical puzzles
    • Work out the correct placement of facts first and use this known position as a reference to pinpoint other positions.
    • You might find it helpful to write or draw this information; you’ll be provided with a whiteboard for this.
    • You may also find it useful to eliminate answers that can’t be correct first.
    • Look at the language and how this affects the question, for example ‘must’ vs ‘might’.
    • Not all information may be relevant; avoid wasting time working out elements that aren’t required.
  • Syllogisms
    • Read the information carefully and consider each conclusion in turn.
    • Avoid assumptions and use only the information provided.
    • Don’t be put off by the occasional use of made up words.
    • Again, pay attention to the language used, particularly words such as ‘all’, ‘some’, ‘none’ and ‘only’.
  • Interpreting information
    • In some cases, you may be presented with a lot of information in graphs or charts – focus on what you can interpret from this information.
    • Remember to only use the information provided, not prior knowledge, and adopt reasoning skills to work out the answers. Does the information support the conclusions?
    • Similarly, don’t judge the strength of a conclusion by it’s plausibility.
    • Use simple maths techniques, such as rounding numbers, to speed up working out answers.
  • Recognising assumptions
    • Use the information provided to reach a conclusion; don’t use your own beliefs or existing knowledge to answer.
    • You need to select the strongest argument. Strong arguments will be those directly connected to the subject matter, whereas weak arguments will rely on assumptions or opinions. Therefore, eliminate statements that are based on assumptions, not facts.
  • Venn diagrams
    • Include Venn diagram revision in your preparations.
    • Read the information carefully and eliminate answers which can't be correct.
    • Not all information may be relevant; avoid wasting time working out elements that aren’t required.
  • Probabilistic reasoning
    • Include probability revision in your preparations.
    • Read the information carefully and consider each of the possible options in turn.
    • You may also find it useful to eliminate the options that can’t be correct first.
    • You don’t need advanced statistical knowledge to answer; you just need to apply practical reasoning to the statistical data.

For logical puzzles and syllogisms in particular, which refer to the type of language being used, the UCAT website provides ‘Decision Making definitions’ which clarifies the key language used in the subtests.

Tips to do well in the UCAT Decision Making subtest

The following tips will support you to perform well during the UCAT Decision Making subtest:

  • Use the information provided
    The Decision Making subtest requires you to use logic to arrive at a decision or conclusion; however, as mentioned in the strategies for some of the subtests, this should be applied to the information provided only, and you should avoid drawing upon your prior knowledge. The UCAT website suggests that you may need to ‘suspend your own beliefs and biases when making decisions’, to ensure that they don’t influence the conclusions that you make.
  • Practice using the test functions
    You can practice using the UCAT test functions, including dragging and dropping the correct responses used in the ‘yes/no’ questions and the onscreen calculator, with the UCAT tour tutorial. It’s useful to familiarise yourself with the test functions to ensure that you can easily navigate the test and avoid wasting time during the exam.
  • Use the tools provided, where required
    During the Decision Making subtest, you’ll be provided with an onscreen calculator and whiteboard, which can be useful during this section of the UCAT. Make the most of these when you need them, but avoid using them unnecessarily, as it can slow you down and waste time during the exam.
  • Use the ‘flag’ function, where needed
    The ‘flag’ function allows you to mark a question so you can easily return to it later, if you have time during the exam. We would recommend always using the ‘flag’ function and guessing an answer, rather than leave it blank, if you’re unsure of a question. As with all sections of the UCAT, the Decision Making subtest is not negatively marked, so it’s more beneficial to guess an answer than leave it blank, and flagging allows you to return to the question if you have time.

UCAT Decision Making subtest practice / example questions

Completing practice questions and practice tests is the most effective way of preparing for the UCAT. They allow you to become familiar with the types of questions you’ll be asked and how to answer them, which will increase your pace and help you to approach the questions more confidently.

Our UCAT Practice Test blog is a great place to start, as it offers free practice questions, for all areas of the UCAT including the Decision Making subtest. It also provides general information about the UCAT which you may find useful. In addition to this, our adaptive question bank offers artificial intelligence powered practice questions and practice tests, which automatically adapt to your strengths and weaknesses, to provide a personalised learning experience. This method of learning means that you’ll be guided to spend more revising the areas which are likely to have the biggest impact on your UCAT score and therefore make effective use of your UCAT preparation time.

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When the Medistudents team were preparing for the UCAT, working out where to start was quite overwhelming. The online resources offered thousands of practice questions and lots of generic advice. However, the only way of getting help that was specifically targeted at you was by paying for expensive tutoring.

This didn’t seem right to us. The personalised learning you get with a tutor has been shown to improve exam results across all fields of education. So why when it came to the UCAT, an exam that is vital for medical school, should it only be available to those who could afford a tutor?

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