How to Ace one of the Most Common Situational Judgement Question Types

Non-confrontational Communication in Situational Judgement

What are situational Judgement questions?

The Situational Judgement Subtest measures your ability to understand and address moral and ethical concerns in real-world medical and educational situations.


What skills do I need for Situational Judgement questions?

A lot of the scenarios presented in this subtest require you to use effective communication to resolve problems.


What’s effective communication?

According to the UCAT Consortium and the ethical guidelines that govern the medical field, good communication is non-confrontational.

Rather than confronting someone with a problem in public while others are around, it is best to approach others in a neutral, private environment to communicate your concerns with them.

Confronting someone in public may lead to defensive behaviour and make others around you uncomfortable.




How to Ace Common Situational Judgement Question Types in 4 steps

This requires you to apply the situational awareness and effective communication just discussed. We teach UCAT Masterclass students to follow this process:

  1. Evaluate the setting
  2. Evaluate the dialogue
  3. Consider what would be the most diagnostic but appropriate response
  4. Pick the most appropriate response

Let’s break these four steps down in detail:


Step 1: Evaluate the setting

What setting has been presented in the question? Is the setting relevant to the conversation and the responses provided?

Delicate conversations should occur away from other people in private settings. Consider whether the setting in the question matches those parameters. In the UCAT exam, as the settings can range from hospitals to being at campus at university.

Ask yourself, which response utilises the most appropriate setting? This will help you paint a picture in your mind about the scenario and provider greater context to determine the best response.


Step 2: Evaluate the dialogue

Consider what is being said by the participants in the question and responses. It is important to consider ethical principles when it comes to the medical field.

For this section, the character will usually be given a role (e.g. Doctor/ medical student / class mate etc). Each character has a differing level of responsibility and influence – an experienced surgeon will provide different advice to a medical intern, and have greater authority for medical decisions. This will play a key role in choosing your answer.


Step 3: Consider what would be the most diagnostic but appropriate response

You need to ask yourself:

“What is being said? Is it non-confrontational is it appropriate?”

“Is the response honest and hold integrity?”

“Do all parties feel that there is no breach of confidentiality?”

“Is compassion and care being exercised?”

Here, you should look at the options and consider which of the provided responses is most appropriate and diagnostic.

You should evaluate the nature of the situation to determine the most optimal outcome. Do you need to provide:

  • A problem solving or diagnostic response
  • An investigative response
  • A professional or empathetic response


Step 4: Pick the appropriate response

Read through the provided responses and see which response matches the scenario in terms of:

  • Appropriate setting, AND
  • Most appropriate and non-confrontational dialogue for the character in context of their role

Now let’s see this method in action.


Want to see your Situational Judgement skills in practice?

The method in practice

Consider these three examples of Situational Judgement scenarios and questions below.

Scenario 1

All fourth year students are completing a group project about the effect of certain drugs on neurochemicals in the brain. Harry is assigned to this group by the lecturer and the group assigns everyone a role and begins work. The group has some preliminary discussions to generate ideas for the project. It quickly becomes clear that Harry is not contributing to the discussions or completing his assigned work and the project starts to suffer as a result.

How appropriate are each of the following responses by the other group members in this situation?

Take Harry to one side and explain to him in private that his reluctance to contribute is causing problems for the whole group

A) A very appropriate thing to do
B) Appropriate, but not ideal
C) Inappropriate, but not awful
D) A very inappropriate thing to do




Answer: A) a very appropriate thing to do.
Approaching Harry in private in a non-confrontational manner would allow him to receive and reflect on comments that relate to the wider group, without feeling awkward.



Scenario 2

Denise is an intern who has just started a new rotation in the emergency ward. When the senior doctors are not present, Denise overhears one of the nurses making rude comments about her appearance to the rest of the medical team. The nurse also tells the team that Denise is not a competent doctor and that the nursing staff will have to deal with the outcomes of all the mistakes she is likely to make. Denise feels hurt and offended at the comments.


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

Discuss with the nurse later that day why her comments made her feel hurt

A) A very appropriate thing to do
B) Appropriate, but not ideal
C) Inappropriate, but not awful
D) A very inappropriate thing to do




Answer: A) a very appropriate thing to do.
This is the most appropriate course of action because it aims to find a non-confrontational and local resolution to the problem. The nurse should be approached in private as approaching the nurse in front of other team members could be seen as confrontational.



Scenario 3

A senior doctor, Dr Welsh, is examining a patient and is being observed by a junior doctor, Dr Kozianski. During the examination of a patient, Dr Welsh uses condescending and racist language towards the patient. The patient seems surprised but does not say anything in response to Dr Welsh’s language.

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


a. Tell Dr Welsh in front of the patient that his language is inappropriate

A) A very appropriate thing to do
B) Appropriate, but not ideal
C) Inappropriate, but not awful
D) A very inappropriate thing to do



Answer: D) a very inappropriate thing to do.
Discussing working practice in front of the patient is inappropriate. This should be discussed at a later time.



b. Tell Dr Welsh that his language is inappropriate after he has finished examining the patient and the patient can no longer hear their conversation

A) A very appropriate thing to do
B) Appropriate, but not ideal
C) Inappropriate, but not awful

D) A very inappropriate thing to do




Answer: A) a very appropriate thing to do.
It is entirely appropriate to wait until after patient examination before raising the issue with Dr Welsh.


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