What is UMAT?
Below we answer the typical question that face students and their parents about the UMAT exams.
What is UMAT, and how is it structured?
UMAT stands for the Undergraduate Medical Admissions Test. As its name suggests, it is used as an essential selection criteria for students seeking to enter Medicine and the Health Sciences degrees. Without a high UMAT score, you will not be able to enter these courses.
The UMAT is a set of three aptitude exams, set in multiple-choice format, that tests three specific types of thinking:
Section 1: Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving. This section tests your ability to analyse information, evaluate relevant facts, generate and test plausible hypothesis and draw logical conclusions. There are wide variety of question forms. Problem Solving Questions ask students to solve a logic game or “puzzle”, given certain conditions or clues, whilst logical reasoning asks students to draw conclusions and evaluate arguments based on stimuli material of a general scientific nature. The stimulus can include passages, data interpretation (charts and tables), and scientific experiment. This section tests student’s ability to reason based on specific information.
Section 2: Understanding People. This section tests a student’s understanding of people and their emotional intelligence– or “E.Q”. Typically, a passage is given, which represents a specific interpersonal situation, a dialogue between doctor and patient, or reflection of a person who is dealing with illness. The student is asked a series of questions that require him/her to identify, understand and infer the thoughts, feelings, or behaviours of the people in the situation. It tests the emotional sensitivity of a student – a skill deemed necessary for all health professionals.
Section 3: Non-Verbal Reasoning. This section tests a student’s abstract reasoning through a series of non-verbal diagrams. Students will be asked to visually identify sequences and patterns, and it is designed to test a student’s ability to draw conclusions in non-verbal contexts – an indicator of on-the-spot or “fluid intelligence”
The timing of the test is 2 hours and 45 minutes, and the suggested time for each section is as follows:
Who needs to sit the UMAT exam?
Any student seeking to study undergraduate medicine or other health science courses will need to sit the UMAT. The UMAT Exam is held annually in July. The marks for UMAT are used as an essential criterion in selecting students to study undergraduate Medicine and other Health Sciences, such as Dentistry, Optometry, Pharmacy and Physiotherapy in most Australian Universities.
How does UMAT differ from other school leaving exams such as the HSC and VCE?
The main difference between UMAT and other school leaving exams is that UMAT is a skills-based exam whilst your school leaving exams (Mathematics, English, Sciences etc) are primarily knowledge based exams.
Knowledge based exams test your memory and reasoning skills. For instance, in Mathematics and Science, you will need to recall formula in order to apply it correctly. In English, you may need to be familiar with texts, and memorise quotes in order to write a convincing essay. In such exams, memorisation plays an essential part in scoring top marks.
In contrast, UMAT is an aptitude test that tests particular types of thinking (logical reasoning, empathy and abstract reasoning) rather than their memory and in theory, a student is supposed to be able to sit UMAT without any previous knowledge.
Another major difference between the school leaving exams and UMAT is that time management is a critical factor for success in UMAT. Most school-leaving exams are designed so that students can always complete the exam. However, UMAT is specifically designed so that most students will not be able to complete the exam. Doing questions quickly is a source of competitive advantage in the UMAT exam. Given extra time, many students would be able to complete nearly all UMAT questions.
Knowing how to do UMAT questions is very different to knowing how to do them quickly.
At MedStart, we show students simple frameworks to breakdown even the most complex questions, to help them improve their marks and develop the critical time advantage needed for top-end success.For help in the HSC, visit Talent 100's results-focused HSC tuition and tutoring programs
Why is the UMAT test necessary?
According to ACER, the UMAT exam has been deemed necessary because there are “far more academically qualified applicants than there are places in such courses”. To put it simply, the demand of student seeking to study Medicine and the Health Sciences is greater than the supply of places offered by the Universities. In the past, selection was based purely on academic criteria. This led to a situation, where for better or worse, students had to score well within the top 1% in order to be admitted into courses such as Medicine. In fact, in NSW, students needed an equivalent ATAR of 99.75 for admission, regardless of whether students possessed the other characteristics needed to become good health practitioners.According to ACER, the UMAT test is necessary because
1. There is no correlation between the level of prior academic achievement and success in health professional courses or practice. Implicitly, this suggests that selection on academic criteria alone may be of limited use in predicting who will make the best health professionals.
2. Selection based purely on academic criteria may discriminate against particular groups. Since the previous ATAR (UAI) cutoffs for medicine were so high, it tended to groups of people, such as certain schools that consistently achieved high school-leaving marks. Conversely, students who were not afforded the same opportunity, but could make good doctors, would be unfairly discriminated against.
3. Graduating health practitioners should have a demonstrated ability to communicate with and relate to their patients, in addition to having the necessary technical expertise. This is the foremost reason put forward by ACER and suggests that it is in the community’s interest to have health-practitioners with effective communications skills. This is specifically assessed in Section 2 (Understanding People) in the UMAT exam, and in University Interviews.Hence, the UMAT and Interview in theory, helps Universities select students on a multi-dimensional level to avoid biases that may arise if selection were based solely on academic merit.
Is it possible to train for the UMAT exam?
The most common misconception of UMAT is that since it is a skills-based test, it is not possible to prepare for it. Whilst preparing for a skills-based exam is different to preparing for a knowledge-based exam, having a structured, and methodical approach to learning will help you will maximise your opportunity to excel in the UMAT.This is mainly because:
1. You will be familiar with typical question types, so that you can identify them immediately and apply frameworks to solving them.
2. You will be very familiar with the time pressure of the UMAT exams, so you won’t score sub-optimally due to time mismanagement, for e.g. spending too long on one question.
Can I sit the UMAT in Year 10 or 11?
The UMAT exam can only be taken by final year students, or students enrolled in undergraduate degrees. Therefore, it is not possible to sit the actual UMAT exam in Year 11. However, you can certainly prepare for it early!
Can I start preparing in Year 10 or 11?
Preparing for UMAT in Year 11 is an excellent idea, because it will free up your time in Year 12 to study for your school leaving exams. Moreover, since UMAT is a skills-based exam, you aren’t likely to forget the techniques even after a year is passed.
Remember entry for most health science courses in University require three main criteria for admission. (ATARs, UMAT Scores and Interviews). In your final year, you will be under a lot of time pressure in preparing for up to five subjects, school and the UMAT. Furthermore, the UMAT is usually just before your school trial exams (that usually count for 40% of your Assessment Mark), which makes this situation even worse. Many students end up facing a trade-off between preparing for the UMAT and preparing for their school-leaving exams. Failure to achieve high marks in either can cost you your place in Medicine.Hence, preparing for UMAT early is not only possible, it is extremely beneficial.
Can I sit the UMAT more than once?
Yes. If you were not successful the first time you sat UMAT, you may sit the UMAT test again. This would usually mean that you have finished high school (since UMAT can only be undertaken by final year high school students, at the earliest).Your UMAT scores are valid for two years. In deciding whether to sit UMAT again, you should note that if you are already studying at University when you sit UMAT for the second time, many Universities that you apply to will also consider your academic performance at University. You need to be mindful of this extra dimension to their selection criteria.
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