Dissecting The UKCAT Situational Judgement

ukcat situational judgement

The Situational Judgement is the final section of the UKCAT. Unlike the other subtests, you do not receive a score out of 900. Instead you are assessed from Band 1 to Band 4. In this article we will look at the subtest in more detail  and discuss how to prepare for it .

Many UKCAT prep providers take this section for granted but many universities use this section to shortlist candidates for interview, especially during borderline cases – where they have two candidates who achieve the same score, and they can only invite one to interview or make one an offer then, they might  look at the Situational Judgement band score as a final tool in making their selection.

What Is The UKCAT Situational Judgement?

The UKCAT Situational Judgement  test measures your ability  to understand real world situations and to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviour in dealing with them. The section includes  69 questions that  assesses  your integrity, perspective taking, team involvement, resilience and adaptability.  The test is 27 minutes long ( 1 minute for instructions and 26 minutes to answer questions). You’ll be given 69 questions associated with 20 scenarios.

Type Of Situational Judgement Questions

The Situational Judgement questions do not require any medical or procedural knowledge – There are two types of questions  in the test, they include:

1. Appropriateness Questions

This part of the test account for roughly 60% of the items. This is where you are given a  scenario and  presented with an action. You  will then need to rate how appropriate this action is in the context of the scenario. You are then given four answer choices to choose from, they include:

  • a very appropriate thing to do  – if it will address at least one aspect (not necessarily all aspects) of the situation
  • appropriate, but not ideal  – if it could be done, but is not necessarily a very good thing to do
  • inappropriate, but not awful –  if it should not really be done, but would not be terrible
  • a very inappropriate thing to do – if it should definitely not be done and would make the situation worse

2. Importance Questions

This accounts for approximately 40% of the items. This is  where after each scenario you are presented with an action. You need to rate how important it is to carry out that action in the context of the scenario. Those actions which are considered essential should be awarded high importance. If an action is inconsequential, or even detrimental, then if will be of lower importance, You are then given four answer choices to choose from, they include:

  • very important – if this is something that is vital to take into account
  • important – if this is something that is important but not vital to take into account
  • of minor importance –  if this is something that could be taken into account, but it does not matter if it is considered or not
  • not important – at all if this is something that should definitely not be taken into account

What Is a Good Situational Judgement Band Score?

You do not receive a scaled score from 300 to 900 instead you are put into Bands, from band 1 to Band 4. The bands reflect the degree to which your answers match the correct answers determined by a panel of medical expert. Band 1 means that most of your answers were the same as the panel of medical experts; Band 4 means very few of your answers matched. Your goal is to match the same answers as the panel.

Band 1 – Very Good
Band 2 – Good
Band 3 – OK
Band 4 – Poor

Which Universities Considered STJ  Band Score ?

Some universities assess the STJ band score to shortlist candidates to invite for interview, others assess band score during interview stage. For instance, for 2017 entry Hull York Medical School automatically rejected any applicants with a Band 4 in the STJ.  More popular, the STJ band score was used during ‘borderline cases’ – this means is if they have two candidates who achieve the same ranking, and they can only invite one to interview or make one an offer then, they might  look at the Situational Judgement  as a final tool in making their selection. Find below a list of universities that consider the Situational Judgement Band Score, please note the information is copied directly from the university website:

University of Birmingham

The band score for the Situational Judgement Test (SJT) component of UKCAT will be used at the interview stage.

University of Edinburgh 

We accept all UKCAT scores and have no minimum requirement. We also consider the Situational Judgement section of the UKCAT test separately

Hull York Medical School

Applicants with a Situational Judgement Test Band of 4 (the lowest band) will not be considered. Following interview, we make offers based primarily on interview performance, and we use the UKCAT Situational Judgement Test as an extra interview ‘station’

University of Leicester

Applications from candidates with band 4 in the Situational Judgement Test will be fully scrutinised prior to and, if appropriate, following interview

University of Liverpool

It is expected that applicants who achieve Band 4 in the Situational Judgement Test of the UKCAT will not have their applications processed beyond the 1st stage

Queen’s University Belfast (only Borderline Cases)

UKCAT has introduced an additional paper called a Situational Judgement Test, but it has been agreed that the results of this will not be used for 2017 entry except, if necessary, to inform decisions on borderline applicants who have achieved a similar score at interview.

University of Sheffield

The Situational Judgement Test (SJT) component is considered for those applicants who are invited to attend a Multiple Mini Interview.

University of St Andrews

Decisions to make offers will be based on the interview score and the global UKCAT score and use of Situational Judgement Test (SJT). We intend to use the SJT as an element of our interview process; with the score being incorporated into the interview score

The information provided should be used as an overview. It is directly copied from the university website and might change for 2018 entry so  I recommend you have another  look on the university websites, I cannot be held responsible for any omissions, inaccuracies or changes.

For an up to date review on  how universities use the UKCAT.

How To Prepare For The UKCAT Situational Judgement

The main difficulty with the situational judgement is timing: 68 questions and 20 scenarios in 26 minutes means you only have 30 seconds to read each scenario and 10 – 15 seconds to answer each question. If you work any more slowly you will run out of time. The other difficulty is that correct answers are based on the principles that are not well known to A level candidates. Candidates  are expected to have a basic knowledge of the key principles of medical professionalism in order to obtain a respectable score in the situational judgement on the UKCAT.  Find below my Strategy for preparing for the test:

Step 1: Learn The Medical Principles

Read the Good Medical Practice Book, available on the General Medical Council website (GMC). It is an essential read, it elaborates on the different themes and provides detailed advice on how a doctor should behave. It is a 30 page document so you might want to take a few notes (click here to view it).


Step 2: Review The Official Practice Test

The UKCAT board provides Situational Judgement practice Question. I recommend going through them after you read the Good Medical Practice guide. I recommend going through them untimed so you can familarise yourself with the questions and become more comfortable with the test, understand why you get questions wrong and review them continually (Click here to view practice questions).

Step 3: Practice with an Online UKCAT course

Once you are familiar with the concept and  item types  start practising with an online UKCAT course to mimic the real test. Work and hone your exam techniques and time management skills. Check out my recommended online courses for the year to ensure you are picking the most suitable one

In conclusion, always keep an eye on the question type and skill  you find difficult when practising situational judgement questions and learn tips and tactics to improve them. For a step-by-step guide on preparing for the exam grab your copy of  The UKCAT study guide. It’s includes the tips, techniques and strategies I used to achieve a score in the 90th percentile. It has been adopted by over 8,000 candidates to date with 100% positive feedback! Also take part in the Free 30-day UKCAT Preparation Challenge includes daily exercises and goals over 30 days to ensure you prepare more effectively.


About Mike 107 Articles
My name is Michael and I'm a Pharmacology graduate from the University of Manchester, I was able to improve my UK Clinical Aptitude Test (UKCAT) score from 2400 to 2840 and get offered a place at Warwick’s graduate-entry medical programme.