Many students underestimate the UMAT (Undergraduate Medicine & Health Sciences Admission Test) and consider that it is just another academic assessment along the way to achieving their dream career. Nothing could be further from the truth. On average about 18,000 candidates sit the UMAT each year, and the highly sought-after health science university seats are strictly limited. UMAT is a highly competitive screening process that sees over 80% – 90% of the applicants culled well before the final year 12 scores are even released. Yes, that is right, just to be competitive and have a chance of an offer for the UMAT interview, you will need to be ranked in the top ten percent.
Furthermore, as our current secondary school system is overloaded with increasing student numbers, the traditional scoring system (e.g. ATAR, OP, etc.) is invariably useless in screening and differentiating, to a fine enough point, the limited number of successful candidates.
Hence, the UMAT serves a number of purposes. It alleviates the stress, logistics and costs faced by universities in assessing a rapidly growing number of applicants, as well as acting as a parallel comparative assessment tool alongside the year 12 summative assessments. Whilst the outcomes are continually challenged and debated, it supposedly assists with the selection of more appropriate health science candidates in a way far beyond the scope of the current secondary school system.
When considering the UMAT (and any of the careers or courses that use the UMAT), you will be faced with a highly controlled and specific 3 hour assessment containing three constructs – logical reasoning and problem solving, understanding people, and non-verbal reasoning. These three UMAT areas aim to assess a range of non-knowledge based skills and personal qualities. The nature of the test and its questions will be unlike anything else you have ever faced. The test itself will be highly stressful, critical and difficult. It will be held during the peak of your year 12 studies (except in NZ where it will be Year 13 or during the first year of your university studies). The test will be timed in such a strict manner that most candidates will not come close to finishing it. Finally, you will be competing against thousands of candidates (no matter what course you are applying for) when the secretive scoring system of standardising and percentile ranking is considered.
So, what is the UMAT? This test is used by a variety of universities to assist with the selection of candidates for specific health science courses. Medicine, dentistry, optometry are the primary programs. This does not mean that in any given year, another course might be added where UMAT will be a requirement. For example, Pharmacy and Physiotherapy used to use UMAT too. It does not mean that one day it might not be the case again. Also, not all universities rely on the UMAT. Some have their own tests and others simply rely on the Year 12 scores and interviews. Almost all of the Australian and two universities in New Zealand do, however, use the UMAT when considering medicine and dentistry fields. Also, almost all universities combine the UMAT score with not only the year 12 scores, but also the results of the medical interview. For that reason we strongly encourage students to meticulously research the application requirements and selection criteria for the course of interest.
The best advice we can give to those who are contemplating or attempting the UMAT is to be prepared and clearly understand not only your options, but also the prerequisites and respective selection processes. Almost every university that uses the UMAT scores as part of the selection process uses the data in a different manner. Some will look only at the raw scores, whilst others will be focussed on the percentile rankings. Some will calculate the total score, and some will possibly place more importance on one construct or even view the results as separate constructs. Some universities will view the UMAT from September onwards and offer interviews based only on the UMAT scores, UMAT scores and predicted ATAR, or with no consideration for the final Year 12 results (these will come into play later, but the result is a drastic leaning towards the importance of the UMAT).
In 2007, ACER (the authors of the UMAT) unexpectedly added a new dimension to the official UMAT scorecard. Overall rankings were added to the raw and percentile scores with one number representing the three individual section scores. Along with this, a number of universities changed their selection processes accordingly; now observing only one number instead of the original three.
To clearly understand the logistics of university selection, we strongly recommend that each student (or parent) contacts the selection officer for each course and university being considered and then ask them as many questions as possible.
The UMAT Preparation Goals and the Study Plan
The way that you plan and prepare is just as important as what you are preparing for. Think carefully about what the universities require and how important each component is. Entry for most of these courses follows three distinct steps:
- Ranking in the top X% of year 12 (depending on course cut-offs).
- Ranking in the approximately top 10% of UMAT candidates (or higher depending on course cut-offs).
- Excelling at an oral interview.
Once you know what the universities require you will be more able to plan out your preparation. Always remember though, in most cases a year 12 score of even 99.9 will not be sufficient without the required UMAT score!
Taking the above into consideration, your basic study plan should be as follows:
- Prioritise and maintain an excellent and consistent general study ethic to maximise your Year 12 scores.
- Start UMAT Prep as early as possible (Year 10-11 is our advice). Identify your strengths and weaknesses, prioritise and peak your preparation for the UMAT test closer to the test date.
- Strictly limit interview preparation to before the commencement of year 12 and until after the UMAT or until you are notified of any invitations for interviews.
Of course, there are courses that fall outside the above guide (but not many). Also, the ways in which the UMAT results are used can be virtually different for various universities. Finally, the universities can change their selection criteria at any time, and hence, students should check the university website for any information updates.
The point being, if you understand what each university is after, then you will be in a far better position to prepare and apply, catering for their specific requirements.
A few final pointers are worth noting:
- The UMAT is a hardcopy printed booklet. Online programs do not fully replicate this.
- No interview prep should be entered into at all during the five months before the UMAT.
- Speed-reading is in no way a valid tool for the UMAT.
- The UMAT content has no direct relation to medicine. Hence, doctors or medical students have no advantage over qualified and experienced teachers with UMAT expertise.
- Your focus should be year 12, UMAT and the interview. Any prep courses that do not focus on these or offer extra units in other fields are simply wasting your time but more importantly, jeopardising your chances of success.
How can NIE help with UMAT?
Year 12 is a challenge on its own! You will be under immense pressure to manage your time effectively and to exceed the academic performances of your peers. So, how can this seemingly insurmountable wall of UMAT be not only tackled, but also successfully scaled? How will you manage your standard studies, plus find time for UMAT? How will you know what the UMAT contains and how the examiners want you to answer? How will you remain calm and composed when faced with such a critical, competitive and convoluted process?
The answer to all of these questions is simple and can be summed up in four short statements:
- Recognise that you are not alone. The UMAT does not disadvantage you personally. Everyone sitting the test and applying for the same courses will be facing the same process. So, you will all start as equals.
- Realise that preparation can help! In fact, a number of studies have shown that the majority of successful health science applicants did complete a preparation program.
- Understand the importance and seriousness of UMAT and subsequently approach your preparation with the same confidence, pro-activeness and determination that you apply to your other studies.
- Rest assured that the UMAT NIE materials and courses are the most up-to-date available, are uniquely created for maximum relevance, are prepared by a team of specialist educators and are designed for maximum effectiveness within the constraints and pressures of a tough school year.
Your first step in UMAT preparation should always be planning. You need to fully understand what you are facing, when you will be facing it and what tools and resources are at your disposal. Planning is just as important as doing and is a key element to success. Planning incorporates prioritising and directing your efforts in a functional fashion that will allow you to maximise your potential.
Preparing for each of the three styles of the UMAT questions.
UMAT is a single test made up of three separate styles of questions merged into one three hour test paper. So, what can you do now to start preparing?
We first need to understand that each of the three styles of questions of the UMAT is very different. So different in fact, that each section engages totally different areas of your brain (and reasoning skills) in attempting the questions. This in itself creates issues and is the main reason why NIE goes to the effort of employing relevant educational experts for each section of the UMAT.
Ultimately, you need to start preparing as soon as possible! But as each section is vastly different, allocate separate times, initially, to explore, understand, learn, practise and refine each group of questions.
If you now have the NIE full curriculum and books with practice questions…get started…if not…follow the preliminary guides and the practice test at the end of this book to kick off your prep in a balanced and beneficial manner.
Focus your Practise
Practise, practise, practise…there is no better way to prepare for a high stakes test like UMAT than to practise as many relevant questions as possible.
Once you understand what you are facing with the UMAT in terms of how competitive and difficult it is and what underpinning academic and general skills you will need to tackle it…you can then hone your UMAT skills through extensive and rigorous practise.
There are three areas to consider:
1. Firstly, familiarise yourself with the nature and type of respective UMAT-style questions. Understand the complexities and differences between each section, but also more importantly understand your true strengths and weaknesses in tackling each separate UMAT construct. This will be done by jumping straight in and tackling some general examples of UMAT style questions that are to follow in the next few pages of this book.
2. Secondly, once you know where your strengths and weaknesses lie, prioritise your time accordingly. Where necessary, review or read the relevant curriculum and finally, get started on as many practice questions as possible.
3. Finally, tune your UMAT test-taking strategies and skills by putting your preparation to the test against the clock. As time goes by you should slowly decrease the amount of time given for each group of questions until you are achieving a satisfactory accuracy rate whilst at least equalling, if not bettering, the actual time allocated to the UMAT.
Prioritise and maintain an excellent and consistent general study ethic to maximise your year 12 scores.
- Year 12 will be one of the toughest years that you will face with continual assessments and extreme pressure to maintain elite level grades. For success at this level, you must have well thought-out and strict prioritisation skills. Maintain a constant and steady study ethic, ensuring that you do not fall behind or come under any undue stress or time constraints. Once again, UMAT is conducted once a year during the week when your trial HSC is on (NSW schools). The last thing you need during the crucial period of the ‘trials’ is the stress of preparing for the UMAT. Prepare yourself for the UMAT well in advance, and gain an edge over other UMAT candidates.
Start UMAT preparation as early as possible. Identify your strengths and weaknesses, prioritise and peak your preparation for the UMAT test date.
- The NIE material can be started at any time. Maximise your potential by getting as much work done as early as possible. The NIE material is also specifically designed to quickly highlight your strengths and weaknesses and to fit in with your own busy schedule. The curricula are diverse and comprehensive allowing them to be adaptive to your needs. Start where you need to start and take only what is of benefit to you from them.
- There are no assignments or assessments other than the one UMAT. You have a single opportunity each year to sit UMAT and the nature of the test is highly difficult and competitive. Start with basic practice questions and then possibly put yourself to the test with a few more against the clock. This will identify your strengths and weaknesses and quickly allow you to plan and prioritise the extent of practise, preparation and learning that you need for each UMAT section. Your course materials will arrive in time for you to either start or continue with your preparation. Spread the load out, remaining familiar with all areas of the UMAT, but do try to have as much done before attending the NIE PreMed Workshop. The workshop will serve to hone and assess your preparation and set you on a defined course to peak for the real thing. Continue as necessary with your preparation and remember that NIE is with you all the way. If you need assistance, then phone or email NIE without delay.
Strictly limit UMAT interview preparation to before the commencement of Year 12 and until after the UMAT or until you are notified of any invitations for interviews.
- Year 12 is busy enough without the UMAT, but you do have to excel at both. Attempting any interview prep in the lead up to the UMAT could cost you an interview all together. Focus on the first hurdle, the UMAT, and maximise your potential by focussing your prep on the UMAT alone. How silly would you feel being well prepared for the interview, but at the expense of a few marks on the UMAT and ultimately being offered no interviews at all? Prior to year 12, you have more time to explore the interview options and after the UMAT, you will still be busy with year 12, but when offered an interview, you will have no choice but to fit the interview prep in. The NIE Interview Manual will serve as an excellent stand-alone course covering all the required aspects of the interviews. Most will find the NIE Interview Manual to be all they need for successful preparation. As with the UMAT prep, do not underestimate the interview and take your preparation seriously. Some of the interviews will be conducted before the end of your year 12 and some after it. Know what you are up against and be prepared.
The National Institute of Education (NIE) was founded in 1999 and our highly experienced staff were quickly called upon to resolve some of the myths, disappointment and trepidation relating to the UMAT. NIE rapidly established itself as a unique educational service provider and as such we have partnered literally thousands of students successfully through the UMAT maze.
NIE is the only UMAT tuition organisation who is a member of Australian Tuition Association (ATA). This is important and is recommended by the Department of Fair Trading when looking for a legitimate tuition organisation and services.
In our 16th consecutive year of specific and specialist UMAT preparation, this book serves as a further statement of NIE’s commitment to providing the most up-to-date, relevant and applicable UMAT preparation material available.
NIE can provide specialist and expert support, advice, materials and courses to cater for every UMAT candidate’s needs. We can do this because we:
- Understand the UMAT.
- We employ expert teachers who are accredited by the Department of Education and Training. NIE teachers are also part of Accredited Tutors Association.
- Review our material to include new, UMAT-relevant practice questions each year.
- Provide full curricula for each section of the UMAT.
- Understand the needs of prospective UMAT candidates.
- Are test preparation experts.
- Conduct continues research and development in the area of UMAT preparation.
Our base UMAT NIE PreMed program alone offers far greater textual material and relevant content than any other provider could come close to. Our sound educational ethos of specific distance education supported with ongoing teacher access and finalised with the excellent NIE face-to-face workshop and tuition, has been proven year after year as a well-structured, clear, concise, practical and effective preparation tool.
With NIE, you have options! You can partake in one of our proven highly intense short course programs, or you can spread your preparation over a number of years (if enrolling early enough). You will also have access to thousands and thousands of practice questions. Because NIE creates new questions each year, we easily have access to the largest bank of UMAT specific questions.
Also with NIE, you are guaranteed that our questions, materials and courses are up-to-date, fully relevant and 100% authored by our own staff (a very important point if you do your research).
For more information about the UMAT, undergraduate / postgraduate medical interviews, universities and selection criteria visit www.nie.edu.au or call 1300 974 187.
This is a sponsored post from the team at UMAT NIE / UMAT Australia.
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