Motivation: without carrots or sticks

Are you having a hard time motivating yourself to study for the UMAT? The tools we often reach for when we need to get ourselves moving are carrots (rewarding ourselves once a tough job is done) or sticks (depriving ourselves of something we want if we fail to do it). These are “extrinsic rewards”. But such extrinsic rewards and punishments are not as effective as intrinsic ones. Intrinsic rewards come from your own person – you believe that if you do a certain thing, it will make you a better, more knowledgable person.  Here, six ways to find the intrinsic interest in studying for the UMAT:

1. Fine-tune the challenge. 

We’re most motivated to succeed when the task before us is matched to our level of skill: not so easy as to be boring, and not so hard as to be frustrating. Deliberately fashion UMAT drill or exam so that you’re working at the very edge of your abilities, and keep upping the difficulty as you improve.

2. Start with the question, not the answer. 

Reaching a known answer is boring. Discovering the solution to a question/puzzle is invigorating. Approach the UMAT not as a story to which you already know the ending, but as a live question begging to be explored.

3. Beat your personal best. 

The UMAT can sometimes not be interesting in themselves, especially repetitive drills. Generate motivation by competing against yourself in drills: run through the UMAT drill to establish a baseline, then keep track of how much you improve (in speed, in accuracy) each time you do it again.

4. Connect abstract tasks to concrete outcomes. 

Imagine how real people and real situations will be affected by what you do. Picture in vivid terms what would happen if you did the task at hand poorly or not at all, versus what would happen if you did a truly outstanding job.

5. Make it social. 

Put together a UMAT Study Group, or find a partner, with whom you can work together. Divide the UMAT into parts, and take turns coaching and motivating each other. Being coached will help you improve, as will being the coach: research shows that the teacher often improves as much or more than the student, because the teacher must pay close attention to how a task is being performed and point out how it can be done better.

6. Go deep. 

The UMAT is interesting once you get inside it. Assign yourself the task of becoming the world’s expert on one aspect of the work you’re doing—its history, its current state of development, its controversies and debates. Then extend your new expertise outward by exploring how the piece you know so well connects to all the other pieces involved in getting the job done.

By discovering the intrinsic interest in the UMAT, you’ll find yourself motivated to finish it for its own sake — without a carrot or a stick in sight.

Springing back from adversity: Resilience

To be mentally tough is to resist the urge to give up in the face of failure, to maintain focus and determination in pursuit of your UMAT goals, and to emerge from adversity even stronger than before. Everyone can benefit from strengthening their resilience skills.

Mental toughness comes from thinking like an optimist. People who don’t give up have a habit of interpreting setbacks as temporary, local and changeable. When in the face of adversity, try to say to yourself, “It’s going away quickly; it’s just this one situation, and I can do something about it.” Analyze your beliefs and emotions about failure. Try to avoid describing failure as permanent, pervasive and out of your control — this can affect your resilience.

Resist “catastrophic thinking”, the tendency to assume the worst. Learn to fight back negative thoughts, challenge their accuracy and search for a more positive spin. However, at the same time make sure to reflect and act on genuine concerns and problems.

Keep in mind gratitude and generosity. Learn to “hunt for the good stuff”— look for and appreciate how fortunate you already are. It is important to focus on building personal strengths and fostering positive relationships.

Resilience won’t deal with every issue in the UMAT, but it can give you’re a good understanding of how to toughen your mind in the face of difficult questions.


The Dangers of Stereotype threat

Stereotype threat can affect the way students perform in the UMAT.

Some students are vulnerable to “stereotype threat.” This is being aware the group they belong to is often stereotyped as intellectually inferior. The fear of confirming the stereotype by doing poorly on a test actually creates an anxiety. It is this anxiety that poorly affects their performance on a test, creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Consider this study conducted at Stanford:

A group of undergraduates — some athletes and some not — was given a test made up of questions from the Graduate Record Examination (G.R.E.), the admissions test for graduate school. Just before tackling the questions from the G.R.E., the students completed a questionnaire that asked whether they belonged to a sports team, what sport they played and whether they had experienced scheduling conflicts between athletics and academic activities like course meetings and laboratory sessions. (A control group received no questions about athletics, instead answering questions about the dining services on campus.)

Student-athletes who were reminded of their identity as members of a sports team did significantly worse on the test than student-athletes who were not so reminded, and the effect was stronger for male students than for female students.

What does this mean?

Psychologists theorize stereotype threat affects individuals’ performance in three ways.

  • Stress: The physiological stress they feel at the prospect of being unfavorably evaluated impairs areas of the brain responsible for complex thinking. This can decrease students’ ability to apply problem solving skills in the UMAT.
  • Excessive self-monitoring: in an effort to ensure they will triumph over the stereotype, people monitor their own performance closely — How am I doing? Am I smart enough for this? Do I belong in college at all? This monitoring, while intended to aid their performance, actually uses up mental resources that would otherwise be applied to the UMAT. The UMAT requires full concentration, cognitive resources should not be wasted on unnecessary thoughts.
  • Uneven distribution of cognitive resources: individuals under stereotype threat try hard not to think about their performance worries, pushing away negative thoughts and feelings — another well-intentioned move that costs them mental resources needed for the test itself. Students should try to focus on the UMAT.

What can you do about it?

Simply being aware of stereotype threat can help reduce its effects. Parents can explain students how stereotype threat works. Having read this article also helps raise awareness.

Students should adopt a “growth mind-set”. The belief that ability is not fixed, but can expand through effort and practice. That is, your ability to do well in the UMAT is not fixed based on the “group” you belong to. You can change it through effort and practice.

Don’t worry about it. Instead of being concerned about fulfilling the stereotype, focus on the UMAT. Your mind needs support during these difficult times, not negative thoughts to weigh it down.


Effective Learning in the UMAT

Learning is not just about sitting in front of a text book and hoping the content will diffuse into your mind through osmosis. In order to learn effectively, you must learn actively, not passively. Active learning will allow you to engage with what you are learning and absorb it faster. New study strategies will also be introduced in this article so you can in-corporate them into your UMAT study. This will give your UMAT study sessions a direction and allow you to set goals.

What is active learning?

Active learning is all about engaging with what you are learning and how you absorb the knowledge. Learning is most effective when you assimilate new knowledge with old knowledge you already have. For example, if you just learnt something new about clouds, you may connect it to what you already know about clouds. Other strategies include converting what you just learnt into pictures or diagrams, or even explaining the new concept to others. These strategies allow you to use the new knowledge, and in turn, absorb it better.

Passive learners tend to just read the new content and try to remember it without connecting it to anything they already know. They may not even apply the new knowledge to a practice problem.

A good analogy to represent active learners and passive learners is in learning to use a toaster. An active learner, after purchasing the toaster will use it in their home, they will assimilate the appliance with the appliances they already have at home. A passive learner, on the other hand, will just watch people make toast and assume they know how to make toast.

The Key to Effective learning in the UMAT:

Effective learning is being aware of what you know about what you know. To learn effectively, you must learn actively. This may be learning there may be gaps in your knowledge, or knowing what you are good it.

Instead of just trying to learn skills for the UMAT, you can try a few of these study strategies below to try and enhance what you just learnt. These study strategies allow self-awareness during learning.

Effective study strategies:

  • I draw pictures or diagrams to help me understand the UMAT questions.
  • After learning about a new UMAT concept, I like to make up questions and answer them using the new concept.
  • When I am learning something new in the UMAT, I like to think back to what I already know about it.
  • I discuss what I am studying in the UMAT with others.
  • I practice UMAT drills over and over until I know the strategies well.
  • I think about my thinking to check if I understand the ideas.
  • When I don’t understand something in the UMAT, I like to go back over it again.
  • I make a note of things that I didn’t understand very well in a UMAT drill or practice exam, so that I can follow up on them at a later date.
  • When I have finished a UMAT drill or practice exam, I look back to see how well I did.
  • I organize my time to manage my UMAT study.
  • I make plans for how to do a UMAT drill or practice exam.

Plan before you study:

Before you start a study session, ask yourself the following questions. They will give you an aim to work towards and note down anything important for future learning.

  • What is your goal for today’s UMAT study session?
  • What will be the important ideas in today’s study session?
  • What do you already know about this topic?

Reflect after you study:

After a study session, it is always useful to reflect on what you have learnt to help your mind consolidate new knowledge. It also helps in finding questions to ask before your next session.

  • What can you relate today’s knowledge to?
  • What will you do to remember the key strategies?
  • Is there anything about this topic that you don’t understand or are not clear about?

Final note:

Using these strategies may make studying for the UMAT more engaging and allow you to learn UMAT concepts better. If you don’t already utilize any of the above techniques, it may be a good idea to start with just a few to see if there is a difference in whether you remember new knowledge better.



While you’re waiting for your UMAT scores, get back to real life

For the few weeks before the test, if not longer, you’ve been preoccupied with the UMAT. Maybe you’ve let a few things slide: homework, co-curricular activities, your friends, fun. Now it’s time to catch up on anything that’s fallen behind and to return to your normal routine after the UMAT.

We know you may be feeling a little anti-climactic after getting all geared up for the UMAT that’s now over, but don’t forget other tests that may be looming on the horizon. You’ve worked hard preparing for the UMAT and it’s natural to want to relax a bit. But please, please don’t blow off your Year 12 exams; they are just as important to your admissions chances as the UMAT.

UMAT Day: Get psyched up, not psyched out

Your UMAT scores depend on how much you know, but they also depend on how well you can apply what you know. If you are nervous, distracted, or in a bad mood during the UMAT, you may have a hard time concentrating and harnessing your knowledge. Here are some basic tips to help you control your nerves on the day of the UMAT.

Think Positively.

This tip cannot be emphasized enough. Getting down on yourself during the test does more than make you feel bad during the UMAT! In fact, it is taking away your body’s support system. If you are busy worrying about how well or how bad you are doing on the UMAT, then you are not busy thinking about the question in front of you. All that preparation has prepared you to do a great job on the UMAT.

Remember, you are ready for the UMAT. Just concentrate and keep moving. You’ll do fine. 

Keep Yourself Focused.

Try not to think about anything except the question in front of you on the UMAT. If you catch yourself thinking about something else, take a deep breath and bring your focus back to the UMAT.

Concentrate on Your Own Work.

The first thing some students do when they get stuck on a question, or find themselves running into a batch of tough questions in the UMAT, is to look around to see how everyone is doing. What they see is discouraging: other students busy filling in their UMAT answer sheets.

You may think to yourself, “Look at how well everyone else is doing. What is wrong with me?” If you start thinking this way, try to remember:

Everyone works at a different pace in the UMAT. Your neighbours may not be working on the same question as you. They too, might very well get stuck on that question later! Thinking about what someone else is doing on the UMAT is not going to help you answer even a single question. In fact, it is taking away your precious time!

Don’t get concerned about what other people are doing on the UMAT. Just concentrate on doing the best job you can do. 

Remember, You’re in Control.

Developing a plan for tackling the UMAT will help you feel more in control during the UMAT itself. Even if the UMAT is tomorrow, there is still time to familiarise yourself with the UMAT test directions You should also review the different question types so you won’t be shocked during the UMAT.

If you’re in control, you’ll have the best chance of getting the best UMAT score that you deserve. 

Staying in control during the UMAT

Below are a few useful tips as to how to stay in control during the UMAT.


  • One of the things you’ll probably have to deal with during the UMAT is distractions. This may be someone sniffling, or coughing, or tapping a pencil. In fact there have even been stories of distractions ranging from pile drivers at a nearby construction site to the school’s symphonic band practicing outside!
  • The most important thing is to not let these distractions get to you, use them as a reminder to get back to the UMAT in front of you.

Keep moving while the clock is ticking:

  • Don’t count on the supervisor being accurate or consistent about writing up the time remaining during the UMAT. You should monitor your time continually as you work through the UMAT exam.
  • To avoid time warps and spacing out during the UMAT, keep your pencil moving every few seconds, marking up your UMAT test booklet. Don’t ever let you pencil lift more than a few centimetres off the page – keep it poised to mark up questions.
  • Try not to spend forever filling in the bubbles on the UMAT answer sheet. It’s not uncommon to see a student in the exam room artistically darkening a bubble for 10-15 seconds. That is a total of 3 minutes wasted on the entire UMAT!
  • Use absolutely every second available during the UMAT to work on the questions. Don’t stop until the supervisor says stop!


10 Tips For During The UMAT

You have rehearsed for this day for the past few months, so here are a few final tips that you have no doubt heard before. We want to make sure that you have as smooth a UMAT experience as possible.

Please share this article with your friends or family if you think they need some final tips as well.

1. Read and Think carefully.

Consider all the choices in each question on the UMAT. Don’t lose points on easy UMAT questions through careless mistakes.

2. Use your UMAT test booklet.

Your UMAT answer sheet must be kept neat and free of stray marks, but you can mark up your UMAT test booklet. You can write whatever you want, wherever you want on it. However, you will not receive credit for anything written in the booklet. Below are some tips as to how to use your UMAT test booket:

  • Mark each question that you don’t answer on the UMAT so that you can easily find it again
  • Draw a line through each choice as you eliminate it when working on a question on the UMAT
  • Mark important sections, sentences or words in the stimulus.
  • Make drawings to help you figure out word problems
  • Mark key information on the graphs
  • Add information to drawings and diagrams on the UMAT as you work on them

3. Check your answer sheet regularly to make sure you are in the right place.

Losing your place on the UMAT answer sheet will affect your test results. Check that the number of the UMAT question and the number on the answer sheet matches every few questions. This is especially important when you skip a question on the UMAT.

4. Work at an even, steady pace, but keep moving.

Don’t spend too much time working through hard questions on the UMAT that you lose time to find and answer the easier questions on the UMAT. Try to work on less time-consuming questions before moving on to those that require more time. you can also save time on the UMAT by marking questions as you work on them and crossing out choices as you move through the UMAT.

5. Keep track of time during the UMAT.

You have a total of 3 hours to complete the UMAT. Develop a habit of occasionally checking your progress through the UMAT. That way, you know when you are a quarter of the way through the time allotted, when you are half-way through the UMAT and when you only have 5 minutes left. If you have any time left over on the UMAT, use it to check your answers.

6. Know which questions on the UMAT are best for you.

After practicing the different kinds of questions on the drills and practice UMAT exams, you will probably know which type of questions you are most comfortable with. Some questions, you will find, will take you longer than others. It may help to begin with the type of questions you feel most comfortable with, rather than the very beginning of the booklet.

If you do adopt this tip, just be sure to mark in your UMAT test booklet which question you skipped so you can return to it.

7. Answer the easy questions on the UMAT first

Once you know where the easy and hard questions are on the UMAT, answer the easy questions before tackling the more time-consuming questions on the UMAT.

8. Think positively on the UMAT

Getting down on yourself during the UMAT does more than make you feel bad. It is taking away the confidence and support your body needs to solve problems. It can even distract  you. Try to keep your confidence up, and focus on each question on the UMAT.

The UMAT aims to display what you know and can do. If you have prepared, you should feel good about yourself and your capabilities!

9. Stay focused on the UMAT

Ignore distractions during the UMAT. Think only of the question in front of you. If you catch yourself daydreaming, bring your focus back to the UMAT.

10. Never give up on the UMAT.

Don’t listen to the little voice in your ear that says “The UMAT is impossibly hard”. Keep going no matter what.


Final UMAT tips: The Morning of the UMAT

Here are some useful tips for you the morning of the UMAT:

  • When you wake up on the day of the UMAT, consider taking a shower or doing some brief exercise to get the blood flowing.
  • If your parent, guardian, friend or relative is taking you to the UMAT, make sure they are up too.
  • Eat a normal breakfast on the morning of the UMAT, by that we mean eat whatever you eat normally for breakfast. You don’t want to eat too much, or something that you don’t normally eat as it may upset your stomach or cause you to be groggy.
  • Caffeine should only be consumed on the day of the UMAT if it is in your normal routine to do so.
  • Before you leave for the UMAT, make sure you have everything you need with you. (Perhaps even have the bag packed the night before hand)
  • Allow enough time to get to the UMAT test site 30 – 40 minutes before the recommended time. This allows for traffic delays, and to get in a good position to enter into the exam room. (Remember, there are thousands of students getting to the UMAT test site, traffic is probably not going to be very smooth)
  • It may even be helpful to listen to some music in the car trip before arriving at the UMAT test site. If you listen to music that makes you feel good, you will be in a better position to solve the Understanding People questions on the UMAT. (Imagine if you were angry, it is likely that you would think others are also feeling angry, like you.)
  • When lining up with other candidates at the UMAT test site, exchange of general conversation may be useful, but try not to talk too much about the UMAT itself.

We hope these tips will help you in keeping calm, focused and relaxed for the UMAT. Ultimately, just remember, you have prepared for this, and the UMAT will allow you to showcase those skills you have practiced.

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.