Lowering UMAT exam anxiety

Lowering your UMAT exam anxiety

Let’s face it. From here on in, we will be surrounded by exams, the UMAT, end of year 12 exams, not to mention all the University exams looming not so far into the future. So with all these exams, it is important to develop techniques to reduce and deal with UMAT anxiety. Below are some helpful techniques to help you deal with anxiety in the lead up to the UMAT.

Set up a UMAT study group

Studying with others is an effective way of lowering UMAT anxiety. However, the people you choose to be in your study group influence how effectively the study group will function. Be wary of choosing your friends to be part of your UMAT study group as you may get easily distracted and lose sight of your purpose. Instead, choose people with similar goals and aspirations as you.

Plan a revision schedule for school and UMAT

Make sure you include all your extra-curricular activities such as work commitments. You also need to allocate time for re-revision and going over any areas of the UMAT exam that you are unsure of. The key part of making a revision schedule work is ensuring that the goals you hope to achieve are manageable and realistic.

Planning a UMAT study sessions with breaks

Set a goal for each UMAT study session. Breaking down revision into more manageable goals makes revising less overwhelming. Most people can only concentrate for 20 minutes. Once you fail to absorb any more information, it’s time for a break. Short frequent study periods with breaks helps retention and recall.

Also, half hour time slots are useful for quick revision. If it takes a half hour train trip to get to school in the morning, why not try to work through some UMAT questions you have been having difficulty with or memorising techniques that will be useful for answering certain types of UMAT questions.

Find out the exam details

This will make you feel more comfortable before actually sitting down to do the UMAT. If you learn the details before hand, you won’t be thrown on the day.

Find out what to do if you get stuck on a UMAT question.

If you get stuck on a question during the UMAT, your anxiety level will rise. Fortunately, the UMAT consists of multiple choice questions. If you get stuck, choose an answer, mark the question and move on. If you have time at the end, go back and try to work through the question again. If you run out of time, at least you have a 1 in 4 or 1 in 5 chance of getting the right answer. Don’t let being unsure throw you, the answer is there, you just have to deduce which one it is.


Interested in studying Medicine?

If you are, then you need to sit the UMAT. The UMAT (Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admissions) test is required for entry into most undergraduate medical courses and health science courses.

The UMAT is not a test of knowledge. It tests your skills in three different areas: Logical reasoning and problem solving, understanding people and non-verbal reasoning. These three areas used to be divided into three separately timed sections and completed sequentially during the exam.

However, since last year, questions from the all three areas have been mixed together to form one large exam. This change actually makes the test harder, so it is even more important now to go into the UMAT with an effective test taking strategy.

Should you prepare for the UMAT?

Would you go into your end of year exams without preparing? Entrance into some universities usually have 3 equally weighted criteria: your UMAT score, ATAR score and performance in an interview. So your UMAT score actually plays a significant role as to whether you get into medicine. 

Even though the UMAT isn’t knowledge based, you can dramatically improve your scores by learning new thought processes and familiarising yourself with the types of questions. This will also lower your nervoursness on the day, because you have already encountered UMAT-styled questions. Many other students are treating UMAT preparation as another school subject, except it has an exam earlier in the year! You’ll be at a huge disadvantage if you don’t prepare yourself.

In fact, UMAT prep is even more important now with the new changes to UMAT. Speed reading, and learning how to decode patterns quickly are essential to doing well in the UMAT.

What is the UMAT?

Considering a career in medicine?

Then you need to know about the UMAT.

UMAT stands for Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admission Test.

It is a three hour exam administered by ACER (The Australian Council for Educational Research), and it tests your ability in three areas:

*logical reasoning & problem solving

*understanding people, and

*non-verbal reasoning

Most Australian and New Zealand Universities use your UMAT score, together with your high school results and your performance at an interview, in their selection of students for medicine, dentistry and health science courses.

There is help available to students who want to get the best possible results in the UMAT. Online courses such as those offered by MedEntry can greatly assist your preparation for the UMAT.

Registrations for the July 2013 UMAT test are already open, so you had better get your skates on!

New: ACER changes to UMAT exam in 2013

In 2013 ACER have made some important changes to the UMAT format.
Whilst the type of questions will not change, the structure of the exam will.
Previously the exam consisted of:
Section 1 (Logical Reasoning & Problem Solving), 48 questions, 70 minutes
Section 2 (Understanding People), 44 questions, 55 minutes
Section 3 (Non-verbal Reasoning), 42 questions, 55 minutes
Now the exam no longer has separate timed divisions for each of Sections 1, 2 and 3.
A ten minute reading only time is given at the start of the test to check for printing accuracy etc.  The three test “constructs” as ACER now terms them, are mixed up throughout the three hour exam.
Students will still receive a score for each “construct” (previously “section”), however this year students’ scores will be reported as an aggregate, rather than an average.
Please click here for more information

UMAT Anxiety

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Published on: October 19, 2012

Knowing that the UMAT is getting closer may cause you to feel some anxiety. While a small amount of anxiety or nervousness is good for test takers, too much can hinder your performance in the test and consequentially bring down your UMAT score.

The following is a list which includes all of the typical signs of anxiety for you to look out for leading up to the UMAT:

  • Mental blank out – eg. knowing the answers before and after the UMAT (or practice tests)
  • Negative thoughts
  • Difficulty concentrating – eg. Racing thoughts
  • Nausea
  • Sweating
  • Headaches
  • Tense muscles

There are a number of factors that can cause these symptoms of anxiety, but fear not, as there are ways to cure or handle them so that you are not affected when it comes to taking the UMAT.

Cause #1: You are not very familiar with the UMAT

It is important that you confront the UMAT and find out about it so that you can eliminate any anxiety that is caused by uncertainty – eg. What it entails, what you will be assessed on, how long it is, how many questions etc. The basic facts about the UMAT can be easily accessed online via the ACER website or any other UMAT websites. Also, use the information that you find out about the test to discover the truths about any myths surrounding the UMAT. Don’t be sucked into believing what others may say about the test. Find out the answer yourself so that you are confident that you know the test well and can prepare accordingly.

Cause #2: You feel that you are unprepared for the UMAT

If you feel unprepared you should create an organised study schedule so that you have time to take practice tests, familiarise yourself with the types of questions that you will be asked on the UMAT, and most importantly work on any areas of weakness you may have regarding the UMAT.

Cause #3: You have physical signs of anxiety

Tension reinforces itself and will build up over time, so it would be beneficial to practice some stress and tension relief exercises.  Also make sure you are taking care of your body and your mind. Make sure you eat well, do regular exercise and get a good amount of sleep. Over studying and over preparing will hinder your performance in the UMAT. A good balance between study and leisure will help maximise your performance on the test.

Cause #4:  The ‘test environment’ affects you

The supervisor of the UMAT will try to make the environment favourable for test taking, however they cannot control everything. Wear comfy clothes (layers are good because the room could be cold or warm and you won’t know until you get there) and try to minimise distractions, for example, don’t arrive to early or too late – know the location of the testing centre and possible traffic conditions and sit by yourself before the test, as nervousness can be contagious.

The three keys for UMAT Success are: Preparation, Organisation and Practice. By implementing the tips above, you will be able to control your nerves and anxiety so that they don’t affect your UMAT results.

HPAT Practice Questions

The HPAT – Health Professions Admissions Test is a test similar to the UMAT for students wishing to gain admissions into Medicine and Health Sciences in Ireland. It is structured just like the UMAT:

  • Section 1: Logical Reasoning & Problem Solving
  • Section 2: Interpersonal Understanding
  • Section 3: Non-verbal Reasoning

Just like UMAT preparation Courses there are also HPAT Preparation Courses that provide various resources to help student prepare for the test. If you are looking for a little bit more UMAT help or some more UMAT resources, take a look at some HPAT Sample Questions. The similarities in the sections of the HPAT and the UMAT mean that HPAT sample questions will be just as valuable as UMAT practice questions in preparing for the upcoming UMAT exam.

Some free HPAT sample questions can be found at HPAT Resources.


Get ahead with your UMAT prep

Today the most efficient UMAT preparation companies are opting to provide students with online resources rather than the traditional, hard-copy materials. Preparation for the UMAT exam no-longer needs to be in a classroom because advances in technology make it possible for students to learn almost anywhere.

Now that distance learning is possible through smartphones, tablet computers and laptops, the time taken to master skills for UMAT can be significantly decreased and more time can be spent applying these skills to practice questions.

Online materials have been proven to be far superior to hard copy materials, which is why the best UMAT Preparation organisations are providing them. Through online learning students are able to easily interact with other student via forums, blogs, e-mail and chat. Products can be accessed immediately with thousands of pages of information being provided to students. This simply would not be possible without significant price rises if materials had to be distributed in hard copy to each student. Exams taken online can be marked instantly and students are able to receive instant and detailed feedback on their performance allowing students to compare their performance with their previous results. The online materials can be instantly updated if there are any important changes and students can have 24 hour support.

Cast aside traditional learning methods and get ahead today with revolutionary, 21st century UMAT preparation!


Best UMAT Courses

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Published on: May 4, 2012

As a customer, it is difficult to choose which UMAT course provider is best, especially when outlandish claims are made through slick and deceptive marketing strategies. As in most cases, ‘Word-of-mouth’ recommendation is the best. You can ask around for the impressions of students who have attended a UMAT course to help you decide which is best.

When choosing which UMAT course provider is best, it is important to consider the quality of materials you will be purchasing. You want to ensure that the questions or papers you buy best simulate the actual UMAT in question style and difficulty. Some providers claim to have the best UMAT materials and resources, however they are really sub-standard. An example of a trusted UMAT educational institution with some of the best UMAT preparation materials, resources and test specialists can be found on our UMAT Courses Comparison page.

The best UMAT courses take into account students from all areas. Courses are run in all capital cities of Australia (all states/territories), as well as New Zealand so that all students can access the best preparation for the UMAT. There are also distance education packages for those who are unable to attend the 2 day courses, but still want to prepare for the UMAT using the best resources available.

UMAT Tutors

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Published on: April 19, 2012

MedEntry is the only UMAT preparation institution with an extensive and unparalleled bank of questions, resources and course techniques developed for UMAT over a period of over thirty years. We have over 10,000 questions, over 1,000 pages of preparation materials, thousands of forum discussions on UMAT course and more accessible via our easy to use Learning Management System (included in all of our packages).
In addition to our comprehensive on-line resources and 2 day courses, we also offer five sessions (1 hour each) of personalised, one-on-one UMAT coaching sessions with MedEntry tutors. Some of our tutors are past MedEntry students, and all are experienced tutors who performed exceptionally well in UMAT, interviews and at school. Personal tutoring allows you to build on your individual strengths and thoroughly work on your weaknesses. Our one-on-one tutors are available in most capital cities.

UMAT Success = Timing

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Published on: September 25, 2011

To be successful in the UMAT, timing is just as important as anything else. You should aim to pace yourself throughout each section so that you finish the last question just before time runs out. If you finish early, not only would you have wasted valuable time twiddling your thumbs but you may also have ultimately sacrificed your precision for speed.

Students frequently argue that they wanted to finish early so they could check over their answers. Let’s be honest, it would be impossible in the remaining time to check through every one of your UMAT answers for that section thoroughly enough to alleviate any mistakes you made the first time around. If you made an error because you rushed the first time, then it is likely that by rushing through the second time you will make the same mistakes again. In order to minimise rushed errors, it is important to prepare leading up to UMAT 2013 so that you are familiar the type and style of questions you will be asked in the UMAT.

If it happens that you finish a UMAT section with time to spare and you decide to go over your answers, beware of second guessing yourself as this can be a mistake. Most often if you are unsure about a UMAT question you should stick to the answer that you first came to. If you begin to over-think and second guess your answers you may only confuse yourself more and you are more likely to change your answer and consequently may get it wrong.

Ultimately, if you do not pick up your mistake, just before you make it, while you make it or just after you make it, it is unlikely that you will pick it up later when you ‘check over your answers’. In general students will just end up flicking through the pages of the section and glance quickly at all of their answers before sitting back and waiting until everyone else finishes. This could have a real negative impact on your UMAT score.

UMAT Preparation is essential for allowing students to manage their time throughout each section of the UMAT as this is a pitfall for many student who sit the UMAT. Courses provide students with UMAT help not only regarding answering the questions but they approach the UMAT in a holistic manner, covering all facets of the test including things like timing and confidence. Many of the skills taught in UMAT courses are not only relevant for the UMAT, but for life in general. Have a look at the timing for each section on the UMAT and prepare accordingly to achieve UMAT success!

What is the best UMAT preparation course?

Categories: UMAT Preparation
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Published on: September 7, 2011

It is understandable that aspiring medical students and their parents are thoroughly confused when there are so many conflicting views being expressed. There are conflicting opinions not only about UMAT Preparation but which UMAT Preparation course they should choose from amongst a plethora of courses available.

The following articles will be of use in your quest to find whether you should do a UMAT course and if so which is the best UMAT preparation course:

UMAT Courses compared

UMAT and careers teachers

ACER’s conflicting stance on UMAT Preparation


Good luck!

UMAT Preparation Organisations

Categories: UMAT Preparation
Comments: No Comments
Published on: September 7, 2011

UMAT Preparation Organisations


There are many organisations which claim to offer UMAT Preparation. There are broadly four types of groups which offer UMAT training:

1.  Organisations that operate scam websites. Beware of these! You will NOT receive the UMAT Preparation services promised, you wil not receive any refunds and you will have no recourse (you will not be able to complain to anyone to obtain compensation).

2.  Organisations which specialise in preparing students for Year 12 exams to enhance your ATAR, with UMAT Preparation as an “add-on”. They do not specialise in UMAT Preparation. While the quality of their coaching for Year 12 subjects may be high, the quality of their UMAT Preparation is quite poor.

3. Individuals, groups or organisations run by students. Training is offered by students who claim to have done well in the UMAT in the past. These students lack the pedagogic skills necessary to teach. They lack the teaching and necessary strategic thinking skills required to teach the complexities of UMAT. Teaching is a complex skill requiring a degree and experience. This is a mandatory requirement at all primary, secondary and tertiary educational institutions.

4.  Only a few organisations specialise in UMAT Preparation and therefore are likely to provide a quality service. A comparison of some of these is shown here: UMAT Courses comparison.

MedEntry is the most highly regarded educational institution offering UMAT Preparation and HPAT Preparation.

10 Tips for UMAT Success!

1. PREPARE! If you wanted to do well in a test, you wouldn’t walk in unprepared. The UMAT is no different, despite what ACER may say. Make sure you prepare appropriately for the test by exposing yourself to UMAT style questions that you are likely to receive on the day so that you can hone you logical reasoning and and problem solving skills as they are essential to scoring high on the UMAT.

2. UMAT Prep Courses – beware of the scams! There are many websites that claim to be UMAT prep organisations when they are actually scam websites. If you avoid these websites and go with a good quality UMAT preparation organisation, you are sure to get the quality preparation that you pay for so that you can practice your UMAT skills, gage your strengths and weaknesses and improve your ability to respond efficiently to questions in a timely manner.

3. Don’t leave your preparation to the last minute! The skills required to succeed in the UMAT cannot be learnt the night before. Make sure you don’t leave all your practice exams and questions to the last minute. If you practice consistently over a longer period of time the skills will consolidate and you will have time to improve in all areas as well as focusing on your weaknesses. If you are cramming the night before you will not be aware of your strengths and weaknesses and will most likely be wasting a whole heap of good value practice exams because you were ‘saving them for later’.

4. Speed Reading! It would be beneficial take a speed reading course as part of your UMAT preparation, particularly for sections 1 and 2. The whole of section 2 is based around comprehending large chunks of text, and in section 1 there are many questions which also involve reading a large text. You want to waste as little time as possible reading but you do not want to rush through it as you will not understand very much and you may have to go back over what you have already read. A speed reading course will help you increase your reading speed and your ability to understand and pick out the key ideas in the text whilst speed reading.

5. Be organised! Depending on the time you are allocated you may need to get up really early on the day of the UMAT and if not it is still important to be organised. Have all of the things you need (ie. pencils, admission ticket, correct identification, transportation) organised the night before (or earlier) so that you do not have to stress of worry about them on the morning. You don’t want to be printing out your ticket or searching for the correct pencils right before your exam. You want to be calm and collected going into the exam, not stressed and flustered.

6. Arrive Early! Make sure you organise to get to your designated UMAT testing centre by the designated reporting time on your admission ticket. Allow for any transportation mishaps (like missing your train or being stuck in traffic). Also, you may want to take a snack while you are lining up to go in. The lines are really long and you can’t take any food or drink other than bottled water into the test. If if the test has started and you are late you will not be allowed in (the UMAT begins once all of the pre-testing procedures – checking of Admission Tickets and identification have been completed).

7. Time management is key! One of the most daunting factors of the UMAT for candidates is the sheer amount of work that needs to be done in a short amount of time. This is where the preparation comes in. If you have practiced UMAT style questions you are likely to be faster and more efficient at answering the questions. If you feel you are spending too much time on a question, take an educated guess and move on so that you have time to come back to it at the end (do not leave it blank, because if you run out of time, you cannot go back and you will be left with an unanswered question).

8. Utilise your nervous energy! On the day of the UMAT it is healthy to be a little bit nervous. Psychological studies have shown that people perform poorly when they are not aroused or when they are too aroused. If you are extremely stressed you are likely to become easily confused and misinterpret questions. Without any anxiety you will not perform as actively as you would with slight arousal. If you have a little bit of nervous energy and you are able to harness it, your performance will be heightened and it will allow you too perform at your best level.

9. Have confidence in your abilities! If you go into the test with a negative mindset, expecting to perform poorly, this will be the case. You should go into the UMAT confident in all of your preparation with a ‘can do’ attitude in order to make the most of the UMAT and score as high as possible! A positive mindset may be a small factor, but it does contribute significantly to a person’s performance in any test.

10. Don’t try and think like the test writer! Be careful if you are trying to think like the test writer or assuming they are trying to trick you (even if they are). You could waste valuable time channelling the writer when you could be using that time to use the methods and logic you learnt and prepared in order to answer the question correctly. Beware of the endless “what do they think I will think?” cycle. You may end up completely confusing yourself and will gain no ground on selecting the right answer.

UMAT myths

1. “You cannot prepare for a test like the UMAT”

ACER does not support preparation because they say that the UMAT is not based on a particular body of knowledge and therefore no preparation or very minimal preparation is sufficient as the test  measures skills acquired over time. Most psychometric and personality tests -  like the UMAT rely on the fact that candidates do not prepare (ie. ‘an even playing field’), which is why preparation if often discouraged.

While the questions that arise in each year’s UMAT cannot be predicted. Most of the questions use similar methods or ‘tricks’ in order to solve them. This is where preparation can be very valuable. Any opportunity to practice the types of questions you will receive in the actual exam will help you become faster and more efficient at answering UMAT style questions – especially since you are under a time limit.

2. “I am a top student at school, so I will do well in the UMAT

ACER states that the UMAT tests “general skills and abilities developed over the course of your education and life experience”. In order to succeed in the UMAT candidates will need to employ strategies, critical thinking and logical analysis that are not used in any of their usual academic studies. Students need to practice these skills instead of resting on their laurels.

3. “The UMAT doesn’t matter; it’s not that important”

The UMAT does matter, however its significance is often underestimated by many students. The UMAT accounts for a whole third of the selection criteria for entry into Medicine or Health Science courses (next to the ATAR and the interview) and determines whether or not students receive an interview offer. Without top UMAT scores, students will not be considered for most undergraduate Medicine and health science courses in Australia and New Zealand.

4. “UMAT refers to medical and scientific concepts and terms”

The UMAT has no required knowledge (unlike the GAMSAT). Subjects studied at school or University will not help you with the UMAT unless they involve critical thinking or logical reasoning as this will help you enhance your skills. The UMAT bases their questions on everyday examples and it is the interpretation and analysis that is important, not the content.

5. “Universities will know if I do a preparation course, it might jeopardise my position”

The only way that a University will know if you did a preparation course is if you tell them yourself. Good quality preparation courses will have their student’s records protected under privacy policies and laws.

6. “Universities will know if I do interview training, it might affect my score”

The only way that and interviewer will know that you have done an interview preparation course is if you spill out the same generic answers that students are told to say at all interview training courses. The purpose of an interview training course is not to provide you with a script to follow in an interview, rather they provide you with the tools to help you not only answer questions originally and efficiently, but to also express yourself in a clear manner and to present yourself well.

UMAT Preparation

Categories: UMAT Preparation
Comments: 2 Comments
Published on: September 2, 2011

I hear that the UMAT is hard, so why shouldn’t I pursue the graduate medical entry path instead of all this UMAT Preparation?

The graduate medicine entry route requires that you complete a degree first before applying for Medicine. This means studying hard for an additional 3 or 4 years (and paying the fees), with no guarantee of getting into Medicine. You also need to sit a test called the GAMSAT, which is a six hour test (compare this with UMAT which is a 2.75 hour test) as well as doing well in the interview. The GAMSAT has been described by most people as “the most horrible thing I’ve ever had to do in my life”. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you do a Biomedicine or Biosciences degree, you will automatically be offered a place in Medicine. If you miss out on a place in Medicine, you may end up with a degree that is not useful for your future, and a waste of several years.

The median age of students entering graduate medical programs in Australia is 25.4 years. By that age, you would have completed your medical degree and probably working as a Registrar in your chosen specialty if you choose the Year 12 entry (UMAT) route. Imagine entering medical school at 25 via graduate entry, then trying to study for the specialist training exams in your early thirties with family to care for!

Further, when you apply through the graduate entry pathway, you can only apply to one university (with only three preferences) and you will be interviewed only by one university. The universities have colluded to make it this way, so that it is less work for them and easier for them to select students (although it imposes harsh restrictions on aspiring doctors).

Even if you are planning to enter medicine through the GAMSAT route, it is strongly recommended that you undergo UMAT Preparation and sit the UMAT test. This has numerous benefits: the thinking skills you will develop in the UMAT Preparation course will be useful for GAMSAT as well; one section of UMAT is similar to that in GAMSAT; you can assess your competition; the experience of sitting a unique test such as the UMAT gives you confidence in sitting GAMSAT later on.


As a student who wishes to study a course like medicine, you may find yourself debating whether to follow the undergraduate or graduate pathway. The undergraduate pathway involves entering the relevant course at an undergraduate level, whereas the graduate pathway requires students to have an undergraduate degree before they enter a course like Medicine at a postgraduate level.

Immediately we can see the benefits of the undergraduate pathway. Through the undergraduate pathway students can enter their desired course straight away, they don’t need to worry about acquiring a degree before they enter their desired course – year 12 students can begin studying Medicine straight away. Universities generally prefer the graduate pathway which is at least 2 years longer than the undergraduate pathway as it means that they keep students longer, thus generating more income.

The demand to study Medicine is ever increasing (with the demand to supply ratio higher than any other course in Australia). It is because of this strong demand that it is necessary to use other selection criteria as well as the ATAR score (or equivalent) like the UMAT and often an interview or oral assessment. Medical knowledge is always growing and is far more accessible than it once was, however doctors do not only require knowledge (as tested through their academic results), but they also require critical and abstract thinking, problem solving and good interpersonal skills (as tested through the UMAT).

Not only are there differences between the two different pathways into Medicine, there are also conflicting opinions about the tests used as part of the selection and screening of candidates. In order to be considered for undergraduate Medicine students must sit the UMAT (The Undergraduate Medical and Health Sciences Admissions Test).

For graduate Medicine students must sit the GAMSAT (Graduate Australian Medical School Admissions Test). It is important that students are aware of the fact that the UMAT and the GAMSAT are quite different. The UMAT is not a test of knowledge or curriculum, rather it is a test of generic skills, such as, problem solving and critical thinking, that one gains from experience, however the GAMSAT does require a level of what some call irrelevant knowledge which leads people to question the validity of the test.

Unlike the GAMSAT, the UMAT can yield results that are accurate predictors of success in any professional endeavours. Students should ensure that they are appropriately prepared for whichever test they are taking, for example, there is no point in learning specific content if one chooses to sit the UMAT, their preparation should focus on honing the skills that are tested.

An article provides a comparison of UMAT and GAMSAT.

Student-centred learning and UMAT

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Published on: July 15, 2011

Student-centred learning/teaching (SCL) is based on putting the students first – focusing on a student’s needs, abilities, interests and learning styles with the teacher as a facilitator for learning. SCL places great emphasis on the importance of the student voice and student responsibility in learning. In contrast, the more traditional teacher-centred learning (TCL) involves the teachers being far more active with students playing a more passive, receptive role in their learning. The SCL teaching method encourages students to be active and responsible participants in their learning.

There is broad agreement throughout educational research that student-centred learning is more effective than teacher-centred learning. By simply standing in front of a class and telling the students everything they will need to know, teachers are failing those students with the capability for high level thinking and problem solving.

Using the SCL method, a student’s learning could be independant, collaborative, cooperative and competitive as it is the utilisation and the processing of information that is important rather than the basic content itself. Teachers may be interacting with students on a group level or individually, typically questioning, guiding, monitoring, validating etc. allowing the bulk of the power and responsibility of learning to be in the hands of the students with the teachers providing them with the tools.

As far as UMAT preparation goes, it is important that students have the ability to be responsible for their own learning as there is no actual content that needs to be taught. It is the problem solving and critical thinking skills that are gained through SCL that are the big help! Some preparation organisations will utilise SCL throughout their courses in order to hone their students problem solving and critical thinking skills so that they are able to respond quickly and effectively to questions in the actual UMAT exam. This is evidenced by good UMAT Course evaluations they receive.

Also note that if students are not successful during their first years of university, a common reason is that they have not adapted to the teaching styles. At a university level some lecturers use the SCL method of teaching which means that the student is in control of their learning and they need to take responsibility. This can be quite a big jump from high school where students are commonly ‘spoon fed’. Once they have adapted they will find that it is quite an effective learning method. Some UMAT Courses focus on this teaching style which will be useful for your future study as well.

‘Gaming’ Psychometric Tests

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Published on: July 12, 2011

You may think to yourself: what is the point of tests like the UMAT? Don’t they say you can’t prepare for them?

Psychometric tests like the UMAT are actually becoming very popular in the human resources industry. Employers use them as selection criteria when hiring an employee, particularly graduate jobs, just as the UMAT test is one of the selection criteria for entering Medicine at an undergraduate level. Simple personality tests are being used less and less as they assume that all aspects of an individual’s personality are fixed, however psychometric tests like the UMAT yield results that represent how an individual’s traits vary from situation to situation. It is another screening system to eliminate unsuitable candidates, by providing deeper information about their capabilities than the well-rehearsed spiel they provide in an interview or on their resume.

While the psychometric tests can be useful, they are not without their criticisms. Defenders of tests like the UMAT state that they can achieve negative outcomes if employers use the results in the wrong way – this is a common problem with the often complex result statements. Also, recruiters are sometimes unaware of the fact that the content being tested is irrelevant to the actual position available. However when the test is relevant and fair and the results are used correctly in conjunction with other information, for example an application/resume and an interview the probability of hiring a suitable person is dramatically increased.

People often claim to try to “game” psychometric tests. That is, they answer questions in a certain way because they know what the employer is looking for. Those who offer psychometric tests such as ACER state that you can’t prepare for the UMAT, however, there is some evidence that shows that practice or exposure to the types of questions that will be on the test can improve your results. While you don’t know the exact questions that will be asked, the types of questions that appear year after year are very similar and the methodology behind solving them is generally the same. This is why students or candidates are more commonly preparing for tests like the UMAT through preparation organisations in order to get the edge over their competitors so much so, that those who choose not to prepare are actually at a disadvantage.

Some of the reasons why ACER says you can’t prepare for UMAT are given here. It is interesting that while two sections of GAMSAT are similar to UMAT, ACER is quite silent about preparation for GAMSAT.

Inside the minds of the UMAT test writers

The general aim of multiple choice tests is to gain truthful information about what students have learnt. The UMAT is slightly different as it tests an individual’s generic skills rather than specific content (as multiple choice tests usually do), however, the process by which test writers create psychometric tests such as the UMAT is very similar to the processes for creating any other multiple choice test. Writing a multiple choice test is much harder than it seems. For every question that is ultimately published there would have been many questions and drafts that were written, trialled and rejected, prior to arriving at the final question that is issued as part of the test. ACER states that “all test questions must pass detailed panelling, trial testing, analysis and final review.” This scrutiny ensures that all of the questions on the test are relevant, fair and reliable, enabling truthful results to be attained.

The following are the two most basic and fundamental elements to writing an effective multiple choice test: Firstly, test writers eliminate any barriers that could potentially prevent a knowledgeable candidate from responding correctly.  Secondly, they will discard any clues that could assist a ‘less-than-knowledgeable’ candidate from correctly answering the question. This means that those who have not practiced or did not learn the skill should answer incorrectly.

The vocabulary used (other than terms you are expected to know) in multiple choice tests is generally kept simple (except in the case of Section 2 of UMAT which uses complex emotion vocab) and is usually high school level – sometimes a little higher. Therefore, if you are finding it quite difficult to understand the vocabulary throughout your preparation and practice tests, it is something you should work on before sitting the actual test.

Testers will not ask questions that can be answered using your common knowledge. You should always refer to and draw from any information or content provided in the question or the material you have learnt in order to answer the questions.

When creating the answer options, test writers will aim to keep all options at relatively similar lengths because it is likely that a longer option is the correct answer due to a more lengthy explanation. Beware of this, because longer options make great distracters. Distracters are options that are extremely close to being correct and aim to put a little bit of doubt in the candidate’s mind when they think they have the correct answer. Often you will be able to eliminate options until you are left tossing up between the correct answer and the distracter. This highlights the importance of using the process of elimination to eliminate all incorrect answers first. If you need to make an educated guess, the chance of selecting the correct answer then becomes much higher. Test writers will also avoid using the same words in the stem and the correct answer as it is often an obvious clue to the solution. This can work both ways, as associations between the question stem and the answer can act as great distracters.

You should beware of trying to think like the examiner or assume that they are trying to trick you. While they are often trying to trick you, it could waste valuable time you could use to answer the questions and it could also cause great confusion, not to mention the endless cycle of ‘what do they think I will think?’ Trying to anticipate the moves of a test writer can be quite dangerous and it is generally best to just focus on answering the questions using the information you know or through your own logical reasoning and  UMAT practice that you have done. Nevertheless, you can always look out for some of the small things mentioned above when preparing for or sitting a test like the UMAT.

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