Dissecting the UCAT Decision Making Subtest

Michael, THE MEDIC BLOG

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The Decision Making subtest is the second section of the UCAT.  It includes 29 questions and is scored out of 900. In this article, we will look at the subtest in more detail.

The DM subtest is relatively new compared to the others. It was introduced in 2016 and replaced the Decision Analysis section. Though similar in some ways, the new DM subtest assesses a students ability to make sound decisions and judgements using complex information.

What to expect

You will be presented with a variety of information, in the form of text, charts, tables, graphs or diagrams and be required to analyse the information to answer the accompanying questions. This typically requires high-level problem-solving skills and the ability to assess as well as deal with uncertainty.

All questions are standalone and do not share data. Some questions will be multiple-choice and have four answer options with only one correct answer. Others will include a drag-and-drop function where you respond to five statements by placing a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ answer next to each statement.

Expect 20 multiple-choice questions and 9 drag-and-drop questions.

Question-types

The subtest includes 6 main types of questions.

  1. Logical puzzles: These are questions where you are offered a set of facts (or rules) from which you need to deduce information. The facts are presented confusingly, e.g. ‘John won the race and wore blue, David beat Tim and wore red. Lauren came last, wore yellow and was three positions away from the person that wore blue, who came 2nd place?’
  2. Syllogisms: These are questions where you are required to draw conclusions from two or more given premises. Typically, a common middle term is present in the premises but not in the conclusion, e.g. ‘all dogs are animals; some animals have four legs’, therefore can we conclude that all dogs have four legs? These questions require logic and careful thought.
  3. Interpreting Information: These questions present data in varied forms, including text, graphs, tables, charts or diagrams. You will need to deduce facts, infer meaning and see whether the information provided supports the conclusion stated. They also tend to lend themselves to the drag-and-drop format, where you are given five conclusions and must decide if each conclusion follows or not based on the data provided. You place a ‘Yes’ next to the conclusion if it follows, or ‘No’ if it doesn’t.
  4. Recognising Assumption: These questions assess your ability to evaluate the strength of an argument objectively. They ask whether it would be a good idea to implement a particular solution to a given problem, e.g. “Should the government continue to tax the deceased in order to support the country’s GDP?”. You are then presented with four arguments, usually two in favour and two against, from which you must pick the strongest argument. There is only one correct response per question. The topics will often be contentious and ambiguous, where you have your own opinion and ideas. However, you must suspend them and pick the strongest argument, whether you agree or disagree.
  5. Venn Diagrams: These question-types present Venn or Euler problems where you have to deduce the information provided. Three broad categories come up in the exam.
  6. Probability Reasoning: These question-types present probability problems but with a twist. Rather than just calculating the odds of an event or outcome, you are given a short passage with statistical information and a final short statement (or decision). You will then need to validate the given statement. You are presented with four options, usually two in favour and two against, from which you must pick the correct answer.

Skills & Reasoning tested

The skills and reasoning needed in the DM subtest go hand-in-hand with the question type.

  1. Deductive Reasoning: This is your ability of reasoning through one or more statements to reach a logical conclusion. In the test, you will be presented with items that are in the form of syllogisms and logical puzzles.
  2. Evaluating information and data: This is your ability to identify an assumption within an argument and correctly interpret data. The data provided might involve a mixture of text and graphical data. The question-types that fall under this skill type are recognising assumption questions and interpreting information questions.
  3. Statistical reasoning: This is your ability to use Venn diagrams and basic probability to solve problems.

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