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Tips for Multiple Choice on UMAT

Top tips for multiple choice in the UMAT

The UMAT consists of only multiple choice questions. While multiple choice means they give you the correct answer as one of the options, choosing it is not as easy as it seems. Here are some useful tips for answering multiple choice questions for the UMAT

  • Answer all questions. For Logical reasoning, problem solving and understanding people questions in the UMAT you have a 1 in 4 chance of getting the right answer. In Non-Verbal Reasoning questions, a 1 in 5 chance, so why not go for it, even if you are unsure of the correct answer. The odds are in your favour! Never leave an answer blank, it may cause you to stuff up your answer sheet. Instead, circle the option you think is best and put a little asterix next to the number of the question. That way if you have time at the end of the UMAT, you can go back and consider the question more carefully.
  • Read the question carefully. In the UMAT, there may be little tricks in the question to throw you off so you will need to read the question carefully. They may ask you to choose the best answer, the most right or simply the correct answer. However, not all questions are phrased positively. They may ask you to choose the option that is not correct or the exception to the answer set.
  •  Read all the options. Whether you are doing a UMAT practice exam, or the actual UMAT, read all the possible answers before determining the answer. Whilst you may feel you know which one is the correct answer, after reading all the options you may decide the one you chose was not the best answer. In addition, reading all the options can act like a second check for what the question is asking. If three of the answers seem similar and one doesn’t seem to fit, the question may actually be asking you to find the incorrect option!
  • Be wary of changing your mind. You may want to change your answer during the UMAT. However, only do this after careful consideration of the question. Often you’ll find that your first answer was the correct answer.
  • Don’t spend too long on one question. The UMAT is a timed exam. If you’re having problems with one question, select an answer and mark the question so you know to come back to it at the end. Each question is worth the same amount of marks so spending more time on one than another does not necessarily benefit you.

 

 

Simplifying UMAT passages

The passages that you are required to read and understand in the UMAT can be long and dense. Absorbing enough information from the passages to answer the questions can be difficult and your brain will not be able to recall all the information that you read from a passage. However, passages can be broken down into simpler forms to help you better process and recall the passages when it comes to answering the questions.

Paraphrasing

Passages may be simplified using paraphrasing. This helps transform the big, complex paragraphs and passages into small bite-sized pieces of information. Good readers paraphrase as they read. This saves time and helps them to keep the ideas fresh in their mind when answering questions. To paraphrase, you may want to write summaries on the UMAT paper, underline key sentences that you feel capture the main ideas as simply as possible. It is important to be as concise as possible while doing this without losing the main ideas, otherwise this process won’t be very helpful.

Visual Aids

Using visual aids can also help in simplifying a passage. Visualising the subject matter of the passage can help keep your interest in the passage as well as helping you to retain the information. For a story or an extract from a novel, this is relatively easy as they are written to encourage visualisation. However, it can be more complex to do for an analytical piece or article. The best way to visualise for these passages can be to picture a particular aspect of the article. If it is an article discussing Van Gough’s work, picture his paintings or him. For an argumentative piece, try and picture the article as a battle with the author’s arguments battling against possible opposing arguments.

Don’t Oversimplify

However, whilst simplifying is important, do not oversimplify. Be wary of falling into a pattern by assuming that just because some questions have answers that lean a particular way doesn’t mean all questions will. For example, do not assume that all questions that relate to paragraphs about politics will have answers that are negative and critical. To always assume patterns in answers will be costly to your UMAT score. In addition, don’t oversimplify so much that you lose the central idea of the paragraph. Simplifying is meant to help you remember it, not push it aside.

Improving your Critical Thinking Skills

Everyone has their own concept of the world, of how they interpret and predict stimuli. This “concept” is underpinned by their philosophical approach to life. Whilst philosophy may seem to be a branch of knowledge best left for academics, the truth is we all utilize some form of it.

It surprises some people when they are told they use philosophy in just about everything they do – even science. The way we gain knowledge and enquire about it is greatly impacted by how we view the world.

In the UMAT, you will encounter questions that require you to evaluate a study and make assumptions. This means it is imperative that your critical thinking skills are up to scratch before the day of the UMAT arrives.

Important key terms:

Before we introduce any theories of thought, it is important to define some key terms relevant to critical thinking:

  • Reliability: reliability is a method’s ability to produce consistent results if the study was conducted multiple times.
  • Parsimony: Parsimony refers to the idea of “keeping things simple”. Rather than having a long and complicated explanation for the results of a study – is there a more simple and straightforward one?
  • Generality: refers to whether the results obtained from this study be generalized to the population.

Theories of thought:

There are many theories of thought in philosophy. They can be lined up in a spectrum. On the opposite sides we have positivism and relativism. You may find that you fall somewhere between these two theories. These are briefly outlined below.

The concepts of order, external reality, reliability, parsimony and generality are understood differently in relativism and positivism. Positivism believes definite facts can be established and certainty can be achieved. Relativism, on the other hand, believes what is “true” depends on the circumstances of the situation.

Positivism:

Positivism is based on the idea that knowledge can only be gained from observable and measureable things. An observer must view the object from a detached and neutral perspective. This means personal beliefs and external factors are irrelevant during observation.

The theory suggests that any observable phenomenon can be understood and explained in a logical way if there was sufficient knowledge about the situation.

The scientific method:

It is the underlying assumptions of positivism that create the basis for the scientific method. Understanding the scientific method is key to tackling questions in the UMAT that requires you to analyse or interpret results in a study. Below are some assumptions that underpin positivism. Think about how they can apply to your UMAT prep as you are reading them.

 

Order:

Positivism suggests the universe has an inherent order. Understanding the universe can be achieved through drawing links between causes and events. This knowledge can be used to predict future events.

External reality:

Positivism believes everyone shares the same reality. It is assumed that knowledge can be shared and verified. A simple example of this measuring the length of a line in centimetres – regardless of who measures it, the length is still going to be the same.

This means when evaluating a study in the UMAT, you should see whether the results have high replicability. That is, whether it will produce similar results if it was conducted again.

Reliability

Positivism maintains that humans can depend on their senses and methods of thinking where careful observation and logical thought has been used. It suggests that our memories are accurate.

Parsimony

Positivism believes the simplest explanations are the best. A theory should not be cluttered with unnecessary complexity. This is particularly important when tackling pattern questions in the UMAT – is there a simpler answer available?

Generality

Positivism suggests results of a study are not entirely useful if they are only relevant to those particular set of circumstances. Results obtained from a study must be able to be generalized to other sets of circumstances. This may include predicting future results. In terms of critical thinking for the UMAT, this translates to whether the results from the study can be used for a different set of circumstances.

Relativism:

Relativism suggests it is impossible for anyone to observe things detachedly as we are influenced, whether subconsciously or consciously, by personal experiences, viewpoints and social values.

Relativism is particularly useful for humanity subjects. Whilst the scientific method is useful in analysing and predicting things in a systematic and logical manner, it does not take into account external factors – that is, inconsistences, conflicts and differences in beliefs. These are aspects that make up what it means to be human.

This is particularly important when it comes to the ‘Understanding People’ questions in the UMAT. You will have to interpret passages and understand the subtleties of language.

Relativism also very heavily relies on communication. Communication differs from individual to individual, from culture to culture. Differences in the meaning of words or gestures due to cultural differences can give rise to conflict. This is particularly important for questions in the UMAT where you have to interpret the actions of an individual and their effects on others.

 

Listed below are a set of assumptions that underlie relativism:

Order:

Relativism believes order is dynamic. It is changes as our own human perceptions of life, society and beliefs change. Despite the amount of knowledge we gain, a definitive understanding of world order will never be reached. Ultimately, our perception of the order of the universe will be influenced by societal and personal values.

External reality

Relativism suggests that we look on the world from within ourselves. Everyone already has a picture of the world, and it is through our feelings and understanding that we interpret this picture to create our own reality.

Reliability

Relativism is based on personal interpretation and memorization of stimuli. Our senses can be fooled and influenced easily – either by personal or cultural values. Our memory is not 100% accurate. Researchers therefore cannot rely on their senses to give definitive records. However, our skills of reasoning can be taken as a reliable method of organizing data and ideas.

Parsimony

Relativism believes life and society cannot be summed up in a simple explanation. It is rarely possible to sum up any situation in a neat formula. There is the risk of oversimplification.

Generality

Relativists do not believe that individuals should be categorized. The uniqueness of each event and person should be valued. It is also this uniqueness that makes predicting future events difficult. Relativists believes it is dangerous to generalize from studies.

Relativism also very heavily relies on communication. Communication differs from individual to individual, from culture to culture. Differences in the meaning of words or gestures due to cultural differences can give rise to conflict. This is particularly important for questions in the UMAT where you have to interpret the actions of an individual and their effects on others.

So what is the point of this?

You will need to think about this for the UMAT. There are many ways of analyzing a situation. Each method is usually based on a philosophical approach that influences the way you interpret the data and the conclusions you come to. Your philosophical approach to understanding the world is a key factor in your interpretation. Of course, the approach you choose will depend on what study you are analyzing in the UMAT. You may end up using different methods for different types of questions.

Ultimately, being aware of your philosophical standpoint is important. It influences greatly how you approach each question on the UMAT.

 

Useful links:

http://umatpracticequestions.com.au/

http://www.umat.net.au/free-umat-sample-questions/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

UMAT stress – friend or foe?

 

How do I get rid of test stress?

 

While familiarity with test content is undoubtedly helpful, sometimes just doing practise exams is not going to make the stress go away. Some common causes of test stress include: anxiety, lack of confidence, being distracted and pressure to do well.

 

The truth is you are going to be stressed on the day of the UMAT, but that is not all bad news. A little bit of stress can actually be beneficial to your performance.

 

Consider the Yerkes-Dodson Curve:

We perform best when there is a moderate amount of stress placed on us. It allows us to think rationally, and actually enjoy what we are doing. On either side of that we have under-stimulation and over-stimulation, where negative emotions and general dissatisfaction take over. Don’t think of the UMAT as a draining experience, after all, it is part of the journey to achieving your dream career.

Whilst this “optimum performance zone” may be different for everyone, we all have one and it is through practise and developing certain test tactics that allows you to find the zone where you are both calm and alert.

Knowing vs Performing:

Knowing and performing is not the same thing. “Knowing” is how well you understand the content. “Performing” is what you do with what you know. No doubt by the time you do the UMAT, you will know a lot of skills. But the real question that remains is how well you perform – that is, how well you utilise what you know.

Keeping Calm:

Your performance on the day hangs significantly on how your mindset is.

You can be the nervous person who only thinks about failing or you can approach each question on the UMAT calmly. Don’t let external factors you can’t control affect you – the ticking clock, questions presented to you on the page, the weather, etc. Stress is caused by an individual’s interpretation of the events around them. In other words, you create the stress for yourself.

A good question to ask yourself is: “what am I doing to myself that is making me feel so stressed out?” . This is the first step to recognising that you are causing yourself stress so you can identify the factors and fix them.

Common stress reactions:

Knowing what some common stress reactions are can help you identify how you react to stressful situations, like the UMAT.

  • Physically tense
  • Thinking negative thoughts
  • Being continually distracted

When you are physically tense, your body is agitated so you can’t think clearly.

Negative thinking can be the killer to the confidence boost that you need during demanding times like the UMAT. When you say you are not good enough, you are not supporting yourself. During the UMAT, your mind needs encouraging messages, rather than messages of failure. When you think negative thoughts – it is like giving up on yourself! In fact, these negative messages can create a self-fulfilling prophecy. That is, if you think you are not going to do well and you keep insisting on it question after question, you probably are not going to do well on the UMAT!

Don’t let yourself let you down. 

When you get distracted during the UMAT, your mind cannot properly focus on the questions. This is decreasing your level of performance.

What now?

There is still time to mentally prepare yourself so you can get into that “optimal zone” where are you are alert and calm during the UMAT. When doing practise exams, try to sit in a way that relaxes your muscles so you are not physically tense. Instead of thinking negative thoughts, give yourself some encouragement. It does not have to be “bring it on! I am so good at this”. They can just be little things like, “I’ve done this before, so I know the method.” Finally, stay focused. Ignore other things happening in the room. Rather than worry about time ticking away, or other questions, just focus on the question you are working right now.

A final word:

Remember, stress is going to be there during the UMAT no matter what, but if you remember to keep calm, focused and confident. You can at least make your UMAT experience a good one.

Negative marking in UMAT

You will never know whether or not there is negative marking in UMAT. This is because ACER does not release information on how your ‘markings’ on the answer sheet are converted into UMAT scaled scores. This information is kept ‘confidential’.

Even with negative marking, you will not be disadvantaged by random guessing. For example, in the Australian Mathematics Competition negative marking was used in the past – you got minus one fourth for choosing the wrong option out of the five options. This means if there are 100 questions and you guess randomly, you will get 20 right and 80 wrong, so 20-80/4=0. When negative marking is used, it is weighted so that students are not disadvantaged by random guessing. So random guessing is a zero sum game. Most high stakes tests use ‘negative marking’ to avoid the ‘lucky monkey’ problem.

While ACER says ‘no marks are deducted for an incorrect answer’ and ‘all questions carry equal marks’, unless the ‘confidential’ information on how your answers to UMAT questions are converted into scaled scores, you can never be certain. ACER also says ‘all questions carry equal marks,’ but how is this possible when all candidates do not get the same questions? It is known that there are some differences in the questions given to students sitting the UMAT in the same year. Further, ACER says you can’t prepare for UMAT. Evidence is to the contrary.

Most high stakes tests take several factors into account (one of them being negative marking) when calculating results. However, since they do not release the information on the factors they take into account, we can only draw conclusions based on available scientific evidence – on Rasch models and so on. ACER may or may not use negative marking in obtaining the raw score (which is irrelevant), but almost certainly uses some variation of it (eg, the percentage of questions right out of those attempted) in arriving at the scaled score (which is what is relevant).

The best approach for students is to try to eliminate at least one (preferably two) of the options and then guess; rather than randomly guess.