A Situational Judgement Test is a popular pre-employment test, commonly used by employers to assess candidates’ key competencies and personality traits. The SJT for the UKCAT presents realistic situations and conflicts which are likely to arise in the daily routine of a medical doctor. It also lists a corresponding set of resolutions which the candidate is asked to rate on an appropriateness or importance scale.

The UKCAT Situational Judgement Test was added as a fifth subtest in 2012. Its objective is to reveal the competencies that are regarded as important for a doctor. SJT’s have shown to be very good indicators of future role performance. The test assesses skills beyond the scope of professional and cognitive skills.

The UKCAT SJT focuses on two sets of competencies:

1. Interpersonal competencies

This is a set of relational and communicational skills that enable the doctor or the medical student to work effectively with his colleagues, superiors and subordinates to receive their trust, appreciation and support. This set of skills includes:

  • Being empathic towards patients – listening to them patiently and treating them and their families with dignity and respect.
  • Teamwork – medical work requires a great deal of teamwork among medical staff. You need to show an ability to work effectively with fellow doctors and the mental flexibility to work effectively with people in other roles who work in your unit; such as nurses, hospital attendants, managerial staff etc.
  • Dealing with authority – as a young doctor or as a medical student, you need to respect senior doctors and experts, and be able to learn from their knowledge and experience as much as you can.
  • Decision making – a doctor makes numerous vital decisions under pressure on a daily basis. A doctor is required to be able to take into account all relevant information, to focus on the important aspects of every decision, to be poised when making decisions concerning health and human lives, and to consult their colleagues and supervisors.

2. Ethical competencies

Ethics is a branch of philosophy dealing with values pertaining to human conduct. It considers the right and wrong of actions and the good or bad in the underlying motives of such actions. Medical ethics are the values and guidelines governing decision-making in medical practice. There are a few different written ethical codes that display all the ethical guidelines a doctor needs in order to perform their duties. Ethical conduct is considered highly important for a doctor, as the doctor deals with ethical dilemmas concerning human lives on a daily basis.

Some of the most important principles in medical ethics are: to be dedicated to providing competent medical care, to uphold the standards of professionalism, to safeguard patient confidentiality and privacy within the constraints of the law, to make relevant information available to patients, and to continue to study, apply, and advance scientific knowledge.

What does the test include?

The UKCAT Situational Judgement Test is a timed test. You have 27 minutes to read the instructions and answer 13 items. Every item includes a scenario and 4-6 possible responses.

The scenario

The scenario is a passage of different lengths, which places the candidate in a dilemma that could occur during their studies or residency. The test is written with the aim of describing as close to real life situations as possible, so that the candidate can imagine themselves in the scene, facing the dilemma. The SJT UKCAT tries to display the most important and most relevant situations that a doctor encounters.

Read the scenario carefully, consider your role in the scenario and pay attention to the other characters taking part, such as colleagues, supervisors, patients, patient’s families etc.

Examples of scenario outlines (not full scenarios)

You are a doctor. You are talking to a parent who has come to the ER to pick up his son who has been brought in drugged and unconscious from a party.

You are a family physician. A woman comes to you and asks you to prescribe medications for high blood pressure for her husband, who is also your patient, without examining him.


The responses represent different ways of solving the dilemma. It is important to note that in the SJT, there are no objectively correct responses and it is up to the assessor to decide which answer is correct. When you answer SJT questions, you can only assume what they are “looking for” as the correct answer and try to implement that.

The test is divided into two kinds of response formats.

The first format asks you to rate each response’s appropriateness.

For each response you need to choose between the following options:

  1. A very appropriate thing to do (solves most aspects of the scenario in a positive way)
  2. Appropriate but not ideal
  3. Inappropriate but not awful
  4. A very inappropriate thing to do (this rating is given to responses that may yield a negative outcome, an opposite outcome to the one that the scenario is aiming at.)

The second format asks you to rate each response by its importance:

  1. Very important
  2. Important
  3. Of minor importance
  4. Not important (something that you will never consider doing in respect to this situation).

When answering questions

  • You can use every rating option more than once in one scenario, or not use an option at all.
  • You should regard every response independently, rather than rating them in respect to one another.
  • Pay attention to the question format (appropriateness/importance).
  • Pay attention to how appropriate the response is overall.
  • Pay attention to how much the response is related to the specific scenario, and how many aspects of the dilemma the response deals with.
  • Don’t answer instinctively. Your initial intuition is important but you must also use common sense and pay attention to details.
  • Remember that you are being measured on your overall competencies that you have shown throughout the SJT, rather than specifically for each question. Don’t answer dogmatically: Try to express more than one important quality throughout the test.

About the author: Neil is one of JobTestPrep’s expert test-writers. He has written and writes all SJT material for our online packages. Neil is a clinical psychologist; he has been with the company for a year.