The UMAT won't be like any exam you have done before.
That’s because the UMAT, unlike a VCE exam, does not test knowledge. In fact, no prior knowledge or study is assumed on your part. Rather, the questions are designed to test your thinking – your ability to draw conclusions based on nothing but your logic, reasoning, and emotions.
With that said, however, you can take steps to prepare yourself. But ideally, your preparation should be aimed less at rote-learning question types, and more at taking advantage of your brain’s plasticity and training it to think in the way that’s required for you to do well.
Let’s start from the start. What is the UMAT?
UMAT stands for Undergraduate Medicine and Health Sciences Admissions Test, and it’s conducted by ACER, the Australian Council for Educational Research. It’s a three-hour, 134 multiple choice question exam that evaluates how you think and how you draw conclusions. It is split into three equal sections, each focusing on a specific type of thinking.
For each of the three sections, you will get a score between 0 and 100. This is a bell-curved score, much like a VCE study score – but other than that, not much is known about how ACER derives these scores. All we can say for sure is that higher means better.
Then, the sum of your scores will be calculated, and this overall score will be used to give you a percentile (from 0-100) indicating how your overall score compares to every other student who sat the UMAT that year. A percentile of 42, for example, tells you that your score was higher than 41% of students, while a percentile of 85 means your score was higher than 84% of students.
While the median overall score fluctuates a little from year to year, it always tends to be around 150. While the highest theoretical score is 300, in reality a score over 200 is already exceptional – usually only the top 1% of students score this high.
Section 1 (Logical reasoning and problem solving)
Section 2 (Logical reasoning and problem solving)
Section 3 (Non-verbal reasoning)
Let’s walk through a typical Section 3 ‘pick the middle’ question, and think about how we might want to approach it.
Let’s look at each element in isolation. That way, we might be able to see some clearer patterns.
Looking at the black circle only, we can see that it’s only ever in two positions: the top right corner in options B, C and E, and the bottom left corner in options A and D. The simplest, easiest, and most logical conclusion would be that it’s alternating between the two positions.
With pick the middle questions, it’s good practice to always start by assuming the simplest possible pattern, unless you have a reason to believe it’s something else.
This tells us that options A and D take up positions 2 and 4. This is a good start! But to work out the rest of the sequence, we need to look at the other elements too.
Because the white circle occupies ever corner of the square at least once, the simplest, most logical conclusion would be that it’s rotating around the square, one corner at a time. Even better, this would line up with our pattern for the black circle, because options A and D would take positions 2 and 4. That gives us this sequence.
Note that although this sequence can be reversed, the pattern will still be equally logical and the middle option will be the same, so we don’t really need to consider the reverse.
The only ambiguity now is which of options C and E should go at the start and which should go at the end, but since B is the middle option regardless, we can comfortably say that’s the correct answer for this question. But for the sake of completeness, let’s work out what the pattern for the final element is, so we can be absolutely 100% sure of our answer.
We can apply the sequence we’ve already worked out to the duck and see if we can see any pattern.
There is a pattern in the first sequence (starting with C), but unlike the black and white circles, the duck isn’t moving a regular amount with each step. It first rotates 45°, then 90°, then 135°, then 180°. With each step, it rotates 45° further than the last.
So now we can be 100%, beyond-a-shadow-of-a-doubt sure that our sequence is CABDE, and our answer to the question is B.
If that seemed quite difficult and time-consuming, don’t worry. With a bit of practice, you’ll start to see the common patterns that arise in these questions, and you’ll be able to tackle them much more efficiently.
To succeed in the UMAT, You’ll need to put in consistent, long-term practice if you want to do well. But if you are aiming to study medicine, all that practice will be 100% worth the time you put into it. Don't forget that your UMAT score makes up one third of your medical admission – that's as much as all your VCE SACs and exams combined.
With a solid work ethic, patience, and a healthy dose of persistence, anyone has the potential to ace the UMAT. And if you have all those qualities, you’ll probably make a great doctor too.