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

Process of Elimination

(Consider this process when answering UMAT questions)

Most people look for the best answer and, in the process, end up falling for answer choices that are designed to look appealing but actually contain artfully concealed flaws. The part that looks good looks really good, and the little bit that’s wrong blends right into the background if you’re not reading carefully and critically. The “best” answer on a tricky question won’t necessarily sound very good at all. That’s why the question is difficult. But if you’re keenly attuned to crossing out those choices with identifiable flaws, you’ll be left with one that wasn’t appealing, but didn’t have anything wrong with it. And that’s the winner because it’s the “best” one of a group of flawed answers. If you can find a reason to cross off a choice, you’ve just improved your chances of getting the question right. So be aggressive about finding the flaws in answer choices that will allow you to eliminate them. At the same time, don’t eliminate choices that you don’t understand or that don’t have a distinct problem.


POE with “Could” and “Must”

Could Be True/Must Be False

POE strategy: Try to make the choice true; make an example.

For could be true and must be false EXCEPT:
If you can make the choice true, pick it.
If you can’t, eliminate it.

For must be false and could be true EXCEPT:
If you can make the choice true, eliminate it.
If you can’t, pick it.


Must Be True/Could Be False

POE strategy: Try to make the choice false; make a counterexample.

For must be true and could be false EXCEPT:
If you can make the choice false, eliminate it.
If you can’t, pick it

For could be false and must be true EXCEPT:
If you can make the choice false, pick it.
If you can’t, eliminate it.



The ISAT ( International Student Admissions Test) is a three hours computer based multiple choice test which aims to assess students’ intellectual skills and abilities – the foundation of academic success.

The ISAT consists of 100 multiple-choice questions, each with 4-5 answer options to choose from which assess critical reasoning and quantitative reasoning (the ISAT does not test subject specific knowledge).

The ISAT is a mandatory requirement for international applicants to the following courses:

Registration for ISAT 2012 is currently open. Testing is available between 3rd April – 26th October, 2012.

The ISAT consists of 100 multiple-choice questions, each with 4-5 answer options to choose from which assess critical reasoning and quantitative reasoning (the ISAT does not test subject specific knowledge).

UMAT route or GAMSAT route? Which makes better doctors?

There is a myth that graduate entry path (GAMSAT route) is better because they make better doctors. Like most myths, it does not stand up to closer scrutiny. This myth is promoted by universities because training doctors through the Graduate entry (GAMSAT) route increases income of universities by a huge amount (about 70%).

An article published in the Medical Education journal (2010) confirmed that it is nothing but a myth (reported in Australian Doctor, 22 January 2010, page 7).

The average age of doctors graduating through the UMAT route is about 23 (18 years plus 5 years). In this blog, they are referred to as ‘UMAT doctors’.

The average age of doctors graduating through the GAMSAT route is about 29 (Median age of graduate entry applicants is 25.4 years plus 4 years). In this blog, they are referred to as ‘GAMSAT doctors’.

So, if you compare a newly graduated doctor, the GAMSAT doctor is about 6 years older than the UMAT doctor. You would therefore expect that, due to the additional 6 years of life experience behind them, GAMSAT doctors will come across as more mature and perhaps ‘better’ doctors.

However, if you compare a doctor’s performance, when they are both of the same age, say 35, you will find that UMAT doctors will be better doctors for several reasons:

  1. Both types of doctors have had similar years of life experience but UMAT doctors’ experience would have been in medical settings, making them better doctors.
  2. UMAT doctors would have had 12 years of experience as a doctor (35 minus 23), whereas GAMSAT doctors would have had only 6 years of experience (35 minus 29). UMAT doctors would therefore be better doctors and better diagnosticians.
  3. The majority of aspiring doctors try the UMAT route first and if they don’t get in, try the GAMSAT route. Since it is more competitive to get in through the UMAT route, it can be argued that UMAT doctors in general are more ‘able’.
  4. Research shows that knowledge and skills learnt in the younger years is better retained in the brain and more effectively/efficiently utilised. UMAT doctors learn medicine when they are younger.
  5. Due to the fact that GAMSAT doctors are older, they are likely to choose specialties which are easier to get into, and require shorter training, such as General Practice. UMAT doctors are more likely to choose competitive specialties such as Dermatology, Ophthalmology, Neurosurgery, Gastroenterology, because time is on their side, among other reasons.
  6. There are no full fee UMAT doctors whereas there are full fee GAMSAT doctors (Universities are prohibited from charging full fee for undergraduate degrees). Due to the exorbitant fees, the demand for full fee places in graduate entry is much lower resulting in students of much lower ability getting in through the GAMSAT route. Such GAMSAT doctors are dubbed ‘the dumb rich’.


It is incorrect to compare a newly graduated 29 year old GAMSAT doctor with a newly graduated 23 year old UMAT doctor.

The right way to compare is to look at the performance of the two types of doctors when they are both of the same age.  For reasons given above, UMAT doctors make better doctors.



Project 2012: Uncapping university places

From 2012 universities will no longer receive guaranteed funding for a set number of student places. Universities now need to compete for students and their funding depends on how many students they can attract. The Government is adopting an ‘uncapped’ system of funding that is based on university student demand. In the previous system of ‘capped’ places, Universities that were low in demand were protected because each University was given a certain number of students regardless of who actually wanted to go there.

The students turned away from those Universities in high demand were generally given a place in one of their second or third preferences. Now, instead of the funding being allocated to the Universities, it is going to be allocated to the students and they are entitled to spend it wherever they choose. It is argued that by allowing students more choice and greater chances of getting into the University they want, students will find the idea of University more attractive than they did before. For those Universities in low demand, the difficulty of attracting students may increase as they are thrown into competition with other Universities.

In theory, from 2012, Universities will be able to enrol as many students as they wish in all faculties except for Medicine. For Medical students the funding and number of places will remain capped. Why are places in Medicine remaining capped? In the long run, doctors cost the Government money. The government has no problem with churning out engineers or lawyers left, right and centre, because after university they are independent. The Government wants to control the number of doctors that leave University because the government still needs to provide them funds throughout their practicing years. To uncap the number of places in Medicine would greatly increase the number of doctors that graduate from University and hence drastically increase future government costs. This is one of the reasons why demand for places in medicine will always remain high and hence they had to use other means for selection such as the UMAT.



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.


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?