5 must knows for acing Situational Judgement Questions

Struggling with situational judgment? In this article, we run you through the 5 must knows for acing situational judgment questions!

The Situational Judgement section can be confusing because it feels more subjective than the other subtests. Instead of mathematical or logic puzzles, you’re presented with a scenario and must rate how appropriate a response is, or how important a piece of information is. Here, we’ll share with you 5 must knows for acing Situational Judgement questions.

In this article, we’ll look at the two main question formats: importance and appropriateness. Like all Situational Judgement questions, you’ll be given a scenario with a character you’re supposed to identify with – a medical student, junior dentist or doctor, medical intern, etc. There will be some issue that needs to be dealt with that will test your understanding of ethical practices in the medical profession.

5 must knows for acing Situational Judgment Questions

Situational Judgement questions can seem difficult because they seem subjective, even though it isn’t. According to UCAT ANZ, Situational Judgement questions assess your ability to communicate and empathise, essential qualities in doctors and dentists and other medical practitioners. Here are 5 must knows to keep in mind when approaching the Situational Judgement questions:

1 – Keep track of the characters

The scenario may involve many characters, but the question will be about how one (the one you’re supposed to identify with) needs to respond. This person’s name will be underlined and in bold in the questions.

2 – Keep the types of issues in mind

Apart from the question formats, there are recurring themes in the issues that Situational Judgement questions deal with. These include professional behavior, patient care and safety, patient autonomy, confidentiality, honesty, bullying etc. Make sure you’re familiar with these and can spot them in a scenario from a mile away.

3 – Identify the issues

Keep the bigger picture of the scenario in mind but also try to see through the detail and identify the immediate problem and the most important issue. This will likely be key to answering the questions. Sometimes more immediate problems must be addressed first, before considering the big picture. The questions will be about responding to the situation presented, keeping the bigger picture in mind.

4 – Competing priorities

It wouldn’t be much of a question if there was only one problem with one solution. The scenarios are likely to contain an issue with multiple aspects and priorities involving the different characters. You must consider which is more important than the other.

5 – Partial marks

Given the difficulty in identifying the degree of appropriateness/importance, Situational Judgement awards partial marks for being close. First decide if the answer is appropriate/important and then decide on the degree to which it is so. If you’re wrong about the degree you will still get partial marks.

Situational Judgment “Importance” and “Appropriateness” questions

Now we’ll look at two different Situational Judgement Questions one “importance” type question and one “appropriateness” type question.

“Importance” question

Let’s have a look at a scenario for an importance set of the questions:

Sarah is a junior doctor at a hospital assisting Dr Chea, and has built a good rapport with Dr Chea’s patient Emily they have been treating who is critically ill. Dr Chea is very experienced with such cases and recommends a very aggressive treatment for Emily that will have serious side-effects. When presented with this option, Emily becomes visibly upset and says she doesn’t want the treatment. She starts asking about other options and opinions, but Dr Chea tells her that’s what best for her, before being called away to another patient.

How important to take into account are the following considerations for Sarah when deciding how to respond to the situation?

Without going into the specifics of the questions, let’s consider how to approach the scenario.

• Your character is Sarah, the questions are about her response.
• The question is about patient care and autonomy. It’s about how Emily is feeling, and her right to make decisions about her own treatment.
• The bigger picture is that Emily is critically ill, and obviously Dr Chea is recommending the best treatment in her opinion. However, is that the immediate problem? In this case, it is not…
• The immediate problem is that Emily is upset and questioning Dr Chea’s recommendation. Dr Chea has not addressed her feelings or questions.
• There are competing priorities for Sarah – she needs to interact with the patient and with Dr Chea, so cannot “take sides”. The patient’s care must come first and foremost, while her right to make decisions regarding her treatment is respected and her feelings addressed.

Let’s also consider some examples of what the questions might ask:

• Things relating to Emily’s feelings, reaction, and requests for information and second opinions will be very important as they relate to the immediate problem in the scenario: patient care and respecting her right to make decisions about her treatment. You can’t move on to treating Emily without resolving this.
• Sarah’s rapport with Emily is important as it can help Sarah comfort Emily and address her concerns and begin a dialogue. It is not very important because any doctor should be seeking to do the same, and also Sarah is not in a position to address treatment options, as Emily is Dr Chea’s patient.
• Things relating to Emily’s long-term health will be only of minor importance, as they do not address the immediate problem. This includes very serious cases, e.g. if Emily’s condition is fatal and Dr Chea’s treatment is her only option. Addressing Emily’s feelings and her right to choose her treatment must still be respected. However, Emily’s health is the bigger picture that should be kept in mind.
• Things relating to Sarah’s career advancement in terms of participating in the treatment, Sarah’s relationship with Dr Chea (i.e. taking her “side”), Dr Char’s expertise etc. are not important at all, as they are not address the problem or relate to the patient’s needs.

Keep in mind that this is about what to consider when deciding how to act, not about how to act.

Emily saying she doesn’t want the treatment is very important, but that does not mean the doctors must immediately agree.

The doctor’s responsibility is to do what is right for the patient. This would involve opening a dialogue, recognizing the patient’s reaction, feelings and requests, comforting the patient and then providing the information requested and required so that the patient can eventually make a calm, informed decision.

“Appropriateness” question

Let’s have a look at an appropriateness questions:

Imam is a dentistry student at university, coming to the end of the semester. Their course had a large assignment which Imam completed and submitted a day early. On the due date, another student Emilia asks him to glance over her assignment, which he does, and Emilia proceeds to submit it. A little later, another student Maria also asks him to glance over her assignment. When he does so, he notices a strong similarity to Emilia’s assignment. He knows that Emilia and Maria are friends.

How appropriate are each of the following responses by Imam in this situation?

• Tell Maria that he will report her to the lecturer.

This is not appropriate at all. Clearly this scenario is about the possibility of plagiarism, but Imam doesn’t have enough information to draw such a conclusion, and does not open a dialogue. Often “tell” is a hint that the answer is not appropriate, “ask” is usually better. The accusation, if false, creates a new problem.

• Ask Maria whether or not she worked with Emilia.

This would be very appropriate as it gives Maria an opportunity to explain the situation, without creating new problems. Imam can then decide how to act once better informed.

Plagiarism is never tolerated under any circumstances.

In general, in such scenarios, suspected plagiarism should be taken very seriously. If, as in this case, Imam can inquire then he should do so before further action is taken to be better informed and avoid creating new problems. If he was not able to do so, then he should raise the matter with the lecturer who has the authority to properly investigate.

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