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 Validity Study

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Published on: August 31, 2011

To assure the quality of the UMAT exam, a review of the structure and the content of the UMAT was carried out by ACER and the University of Western Australia. The summary of the findings is publicly available and can be downloaded. Click here to access the summary.

UMAT VS. GAMSAT

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.

The ‘costs’ of University

Amidst the Government debate over uncapping university fees and places, ACER, the Australian Council for Educational Research has released startling statistics that show that not only do we have a problem with ‘professional students’ amassing enormous debts, but “getting students to stay” is also a real problem.

ACER’s survey showed that 30% of undergraduates choose to leave their course before finishing it. Some of ACER’s most startling results show that:

  • 45% First-year Engineering students drop out
  • 29% of Beginning nursing students were considering dropping out
  • 57% of students studying Humanities give up after their first year as they think they are wasting their time.

Rest assured that Medical students appear to be the most content with their courses (only 17% were finding it too hard after the first year and less than 1% drop out). The issue is not the money, but an array of different psychological reasons such as “interests, aspiration and ennui” (according to Matchett), being bored or wanting a change of direction or study-life balance, not to mention a range of personal reasons and trouble with the workload. It appears that the students feel these personal ‘costs’ outweigh the benefits they are obtaining with through their studies and experiences at university. As these reasons are predominantly psychological, ACER states that one of the possible ways of improving the current predicament is to provide more support, particularly through the academic staff. Unfortunately an increase the support networks at university are only going to add to the ever increasing cost of tertiary studies (See Stephen Matchett’s blog “Uni loses appeal in first year”).

Speaking of the ‘costs of university’, you may wonder where it is that all of your hard earned money goes. A professor at ACU found that the universities contribute approximately $8000-$9000 of private and government funds to various teaching costs, and yet the cost to complete a course is actually around $30,000. Where is all of this additional funding going? The answer – Research. In Australia 28 of our 36 universities are classified as ‘research intensive’ because they are choosing to spend over 50% of their revenue on research. You have to wonder if it is fair for the universities to charge the government and students exorbitant fees claiming that it is contributing to their education, when it is actually going into the university’s research. Medical schools ranking and UMAT news related articles provide further insight.

Are university students in Australia really getting the most out of their dollars?

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