In 2018, it was decided that the UMAT (UCAT predecessor) was inferior to the UCAT for selecting for undergraduate medicine, and in 2019, the first UCAT exam was administered in Australia. Based on the scope of the examination, one can surmise that the move to the UCAT was in part based on the broader capacity for assessment of characteristics seen as befitting a career in Medicine. These include decision-making and situational judgement which were not previously assessed in the UMAT.
The shift to the UCAT is a continuation of the trend toward selecting candidates with innate competencies acquiescent to a career in Medicine which are difficult to teach. Decades ago, these capacities were seen as inessential in the practice of a paternalistic form of Medicine. This practice is however all but departed and been replaced by a collaborative model of practice. In this new model, doctors (ergo medical students) are required to possess a more rounded skill set. Candidates are now required to be proficient both technically and in their interactions with patients and colleagues.
Performing in the UCAT
The most important insight to be apprehended is the discriminatory nature of the examination. UCAT is likely to be a foreign form of assessment for students who are used to secondary school exams where the aim is simply to fail students who do not meet a pre-defined minimum. In UCAT, students compete against each other for limited positions rather than some arbitrary pass mark. Therefore, to perform in the exam students must work exceptionally hard to make continual improvements.
Practically speaking, this means following the below general process:
- Commencing with a complete list of the curriculum for all subtests of the examination. It is vital students collate this information as it will form the basis of a comprehensive study program
- Research and collate study resources for the UCAT including official questions, formal preparation programs, and relevant readings
- From the curriculum and collated resources, draft a study plan to adequately address all aspects of the examination. This study plan will need to consider the amount of time available before the exam and to factor in practice exams, review of those practice exams, and revision tasks
- Commence working through the study plan keeping note of progress versus time allocated. It is also vital to commence practice exams early, and to systematically review performance in each of these exams to identify weaknesses. Improvement of weaknesses throughout the study process is the most efficient way to improve performance
By following the above general process, students will give themselves the best opportunity to perform in the exam.