Situational Judgement

What is Situational Judgement?

The Situational Judgement subtest measures your ability to understand and address moral and ethical concerns in real world medical and educational situations. The section presents a series of moral dilemmas, obstacles, or conflicts in the fields of dentistry, medicine, or tertiary education. Your task is to decide which are the most important factors to consider in these scenarios or which are the most appropriate actions to take to effectively deal with the scenario.


Situational Judgement Structure and Question Types

What is the structure?

The Situational Judgement subtest consists of 69 questions to be completed in 26 minutes.

Time per question: 15-20 seconds

Time pressure score: 5/10


Candidates often say this is the least time-pressured subtest of the UCAT exam. This is because of the structure of the subtest – the scenarios are relatively short and each has 2-6 related questions which don’t take long to answer.


What is the answer format?

There are two types of questions that appear in the SJT: Importance and Appropriateness.

Note that although the section presents situations in medical or dental contexts, the questions will not require any medical or procedural knowledge to answer them.


‘Importance’ questions ask you to assess how important a concern or action is in the context of the scenario. The answers will be presented as a multiple-choice format. There are four options:

  • Very important – the option must be taken into account
  • Important – the option is important but not vital to take into account
  • Of minor importance – the option is something that could be taken into account, but it does not matter if it is considered or not
  • Not important at all – the option should definitely not be taken into account

In total, there are around 27-28 ‘importance’ questions.



‘Appropriateness’ questions ask you to assess how appropriate an action is in the context of the scenario. The answers will be presented as a multiple choice format. There are four options:

  • A very appropriate thing to do – the action effectively addresses the situation
  • Appropriate, but not ideal – the action could be done, but it is not the best thing to do in the situation
  • Inappropriate, but not awful – the action is not the right thing to do, but it does not make matters worse
  • A very inappropriate thing to do – the action should definitely not be done and would make matters worse

In total, there are around 40-41 ‘appropriateness’ questions.


In addition, there are 1 or more ‘appropriateness’ questions which where you must evaluate the most and least appropriate actions out of three potential actions in a scenario. These will be presented to you in a ‘drag and drop’ style, where you drag one action into a box labelled ‘most appropriate’ and one action into a box labelled ‘least appropriate’.


What are the scenario types?

  • Direct patient care – Understand when a medical professional is unfit to practice and respond appropriately to patient symptoms.
  • Minimising risk in-patient care – Manage mistakes and anticipate problems to minimise risk in-patient care.
  • Professionalism – Act professionally in the workplace, particularly in response to fraudulent activity, rules and regulations, patient confidentiality and conflicts of interest.
  • Teamwork – Identify the best resolution to team conflict, including the case of a non-contributing team member.
  • Offensive behaviour – Manage offensive behaviours such as bullying or inappropriate comments.
  • Empathy and support – Respond appropriately to patient concerns, deliver bad news empathetically and support yourself and others through difficult times.


The Situational Judgement Method

Step 1: Read the scenario actively

As you read through the scenario, identify the key theme of the passage. This could be plagiarism, confidentiality, communication etc. This will give you an idea of what ethical issue is at stake in this scenario, and what consequences there will be for the action.

Also, identify the hierarchies in the scenario. Are they doctor/patient, doctor/medical student, senior doctor/junior doctor/, student/student etc.? This will help you to identify who is most responsible, and which authority may need to be reported to in the scenario.


Step 2: Read the question carefully

Make sure to identify whose perspective is being discussed in the question. Their name will be highlighted and bolded.


Step 3: Decide which half of the questions are most likely

Situational Judgement questions are divided between two ends of a spectrum: very important to not important at all, and very appropriate to very inappropriate. The correct answer must, therefore, lie on one end of either spectrum. The first step then is to make a judgement of whether the action being described in the question is either important/unimportant or appropriate/inappropriate, then you will have a 50/50 chance of choosing the correct answer.

You are also awarded a half mark for choosing a response that is in the correct half of the responses, but incorrect.


Step 4: Eliminate the incorrect answer of the two

Consider if there are any exceptions to the importance/unimportance or appropriateness/inappropriateness of the action being described. If there are no exceptions, then select the stronger response of the two. If there are exceptions, then select the weaker response of the two.

If you are not sure of the answer, choose the stronger response, as this is statistically the more likely answer. Flag the question for review, and move on.


Example of a Situational Judgement question

One of the most common types of scenarios is that involving teamwork in a university setting. Consider the example scenario below.

A group of five dentistry students are assigned to work together on a group project. The project is a research task that requires the group to write a report and present their findings. In the initial meeting, one of the group members, Daniel, assigns roles to the other group members. He decides the topic and offers to write more than half of the report because he has prior knowledge of the topic. Another group member, Christine, is unhappy that Daniel has chosen the topic and assigned roles without consulting the other members first.

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


1. Ask how other group members feel about Daniel taking charge of the project

a) A very appropriate thing to do

b) Appropriate, but not ideal

c) Inappropriate, but not awful

d) A very inappropriate thing to do


This is appropriate but not ideal. It may be helpful to gather the opinions of other group members with respect to Daniel’s behaviour. However, this does not resolve the key problem of the group’s work being unevenly distributed and the views of other members not being taken into consideration.



2. Suggest to Daniel privately that he should ask the other members for their thoughts before making decisions.

a) A very appropriate thing to do

b) Appropriate, but not ideal

c) Inappropriate, but not awful

d) A very inappropriate thing to do


This is a very appropriate thing to do. The group has been assigned to work together on this project, so the views of all group members should be considered. Approaching Daniel privately is very appropriate as Daniel is less likely to feel uncomfortable or awkward, allowing him to better receive Christine’s feedback.


3. Report Daniel to the supervisor for assigning roles without consulting the other group members.

a) A very appropriate thing to do

b) Appropriate, but not ideal

c) Inappropriate, but not awful

d) A very inappropriate thing to do


This is a very inappropriate thing to do. Any group conflict should be resolved locally where possible.


Test your Situational Judgement Skills under exam conditions!

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