The UKCAT has always been a tricky little thing. But with targeted preparation, many candidates have felt confident that they have got a good score after the exam. This year, however, the UKCAT consortium have thrown a proverbial spanner in the works. One of the subsections (funnily enough, a section that candidates tend to do quite well on) is being removed entirely: Decision Analysis. It is being replaced, quite confusingly so, by the Decision Making section.
Out with the old…
The old Decision Analysis section was based around codes. A table would include letters and numbers that would stand for words. You were then given a statement. Either you had to make sense of a coded statement using the table provided, or turn a prose statement into a coded statement, again using the table.
In with the new!
The new Decision Making UKCAT section will not include coding in this way. Instead, it will test deductive reasoning and the assessment of whether an argument is good or bad. You need to therefore be clued up on these ‘critical thinking’ topics: it might not be something you were directly taught at school. The test will also draw on diagrams and statistical charts to test your reasoning skills. For example, you might be given a statement and then four diagrams, and asked to choose the diagram that best fits the statement given.
Decision Making is not about the 100% right answer, but in fact, which answer is the best fit. In this way, an answer does not have to be wholly true but must be ‘more truer’ than the other options.
Who sees my score?
This is the pilot year for Decision Making. This means the score you get from this section will not be sent to your chosen universities, but only to the UKCAT examiners. That way the UKCAT guys can see how candidates have responded to their new questions, i.e. if the questions are too hard or too easy.
So then, why on earth should you prepare for the Decision Making section? Surely a section that does not count means you can concentrate more on the other areas of the UKCAT. The answer to this is: of course! It makes complete sense to prioritise the other four sections in your preparations.
However, it might be disadvantageous for you to not get ready for Decision Making at all. Here are some reasons why some prep for the Decision Making section could be helpful:
Overall performance. It is never a good idea to take your foot off the gas for an extended period of time in an exam. Disengaging your brain for the Decision Making section, just because it doesn’t count, may leave you a bit slower in the next time pressured section. If you have prepared, however, you may be able to answer some questions, possibly keeping your mind sharp for the next section. You will also get a psychological boost if you can answer the questions well.
Professional development. Skills that are tested in decision making are very important for personal and professional development. Deductive and statistical reasoning skills for example, are used every day by doctors when making decisions.
Re-sitting the UKAT. Hopefully not a reason you will need to use. But if you have to re-sit the UKCAT next year, when Decision Making section will count, you will be at an advantage having sat and prepared for the Decision Making section once before.
As of May 2016, there’s not that much more information available on the Decision Making subsection. There will be more information on the way shortly. You can also visit the UKCAT official website for Decision Making information.