Yes! Even high achieving students can stumble in the UMAT.
Some students with perfect GPAs (For New Zealand Universities) or year 13 scores (for Australian universities) have missed out on a place in medicine and related courses due to their low UMAT scores. In some cases, your UMAT score is more important than your first year university or year 13 score in securing a university place in Medicine or the health sciences.
Research shows training can significantly improve UMAT score by familiarising you with the types of questions that will be asked and developing strategies to tackle them. Even ACER now admits that training for UMAT helps. (Please see the FAQ: Why is there contradictory information from ACER regarding the value of UMAT training?)
An all-too-common fallacy about preparing for UMAT is that all you need to do is 'familiarise' yourself with the test by doing some practice questions. That's like saying the way to become a great basketball player is to familiarise yourself with a basketball court and practice taking a few shots.
You might be familiar with the quote by Benjamin Franklin: "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". These words definitely ring true for the three-hour, gruelling marathon that is the UMAT.
"Kids take prep courses to ace tests that are supposed to measure inborn aptitude," (page 100, Time Magazine, December 20, 2004).
The UMAT is a skills based test: you cannot ‘cram’ information the night before. You have to overlearn the strategies to solve UMAT style problems so that thinking becomes automatic and fast.
So start preparing now!
You may find opinions expressed on forums and by some organisations that UMAT preparation may not help. They are mainly from:
Research and other evidence overwhelmingly backs our claim that UMAT preparation helps:
1. Feedback statistics show that 99.1% of our customers would recommend MedEntry’s services to their friends. Here at MedEntry UMAT Prep, we are result orientated.
2. A 2011 survey of a random sample of students who have been through our full training program showed that 92% were offered interviews, and 88% were offered places in one or more medical schools.
3. Research on students re-sitting UMAT has shown that UMAT Preparation results in an average improvement of about 35 percentile points in UMAT results.
4. An AMSA (Australian Medical Students' Association) survey in 2008 found that most students found preparation helpful.
5. Evaluation by an independent statutory organisation, RDWA, carried out every year, has shown that students found MedEntry courses extremely useful. You are welcome to look at these at our business premises.
6. There have been many published research papers which indicate that the reason for better performance of certain groups is due to such groups participating in preparation courses, such as that offered by MedEntry (eg BMC Medical Education, 2013, 13:155).
7. The oft quoted 'research' published in some journals claiming UMAT Preparation may not help is done by those who are funded by ACER and they don't declare this conflict of interest, which is unethical. An organisation which does not have such conflict of interest, Irish Universities Association (http://www.iua.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/HPAT-report-July2012.pdf) found that coached students did significantly better in the test.
8. Emeritus Professor Max Kamien (Australian Doctor 26 July 2012): "If you are going to play in a tennis tournament, attend an interview or sit an exam, it is obvious that you will do better if you know the rules of the 'game' and have had practise in applying them. To test the obvious requires a much more sophisticated approach than statistical correlations or an opinion based questionnaire."
9. If preparation does not work/help, the organisations which offer UMAT coaching services would cease to exist. As a practicing doctor pointed out: "If UMAT preparation does not work and is not effective, UMAT courses such as MedEntry would cease to exist. The fact that an increasing number of students undertake the MedEntry UMAT Course is in itself evidence that it is beneficial and works."
10. MedEntry UMAT Prep will also significantly improve your school / university score for several reasons: it will enhance your motivation to study; hone your thinking skills and it will make you a more efficient and effective learner which is invaluable for high school, university and throughout your life. It is a fact that each year, most students who obtain perfect NCEA Score have done the MedEntry course. MedEntry UMAT Prep also helps with two sections of GAMSAT. We don't coach to the test; we teach to the constructs.
11. Psychometric tests (such as the UMAT) rely on the fact that the candidates do not prepare, so testers actively discourage the candidates from preparing. They do this by propagating various myths such as: preparation does not help; it will be a waste of resources; preparation may hinder your performance; coached students may misapply simplistic rules etc. Accredited testers know that such organisations go to great lengths to place fear in the candidates to ensure they do not prepare, precisely because preparation works! If it is really true that you can't prepare for the test, ACER and universities should have no objection to UMAT preparation (rather than actively discouraging students from preparing).
12, In fact, all psychological tests and experiments involve deception (eg placebo). All national and international professional organisations in psychology (eg. Australian /American /British Psychological Societies) approve of deception in psychological experiments and tests.
13. The government also feels "rural students got a raw deal as most coaching and training centres were in cities". It is one of the reasons given for much lower entry standards into Medicine for rural students and quotas for them (ie., they don’t have access to UMAT Prep which city students have: Deans of UQ, Adelaide Med Schools). It is also claimed that coaching ‘compromises’ the validity of the test. The issue of equity is also raised i.e. UMAT coaching benefits those who are able to afford it. These three claims again imply that UMAT Prep helps.
14. ACER’s stance is the pre-neuroplastic paradigm, ie., the brain is hard wired, the brain’s anatomy is fixed and unchangeable, the brain’s function can’t be altered etc. It is also a contradiction for ACER to run a conference on ‘Neuroplasticity of the Brain’ (5-6 August 2013) while claiming UMAT training may not help: many ACER staff at the Conference agreed as much! The ‘real’ reason as an ACER staff pointed out, is the concern about test ‘security’. That is, they are worried about the ‘leakage’, and difficulty of creating new questions (there are only a certain number of strategies to solve such questions). The more you know about the test, the harder their job becomes in creating the test questions!
From the above Conference Proceedings:
- p. 12: “Brain change translates into measurable change on standardised test measures; it is not just due to practice effect”, ie coaching increases actual cognitive ability (Barbara Arrowsmith Young).
- p. 118 “Practice testing improves learning: more and longer is better. Repeated testing improves test performance more than further teaching. Students overestimate the durability of memory and underestimate the benefits of practice. Benefit of practice is greater for harder tests.” (O Lipp, S Develle).
15. Rob Urstein, of Global Innovation Programs at Stanford Graduate School of Business, found a powerful way to help students from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds succeed academically (published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016). The students who were exposed to the idea that intelligence, rather than being a fixed trait, is something that grows over time and can be developed with effort, were much more likely to be successful. This concept, also known as having the ‘Growth Mindset’ has been popularised by Carol Dwerk. ACER, which claims ‘to support every learner’ is doing a disservice to low SES students by promoting the opposite myth: the fixed mindset.
16. Research presented by K Lochner and A Preuss at the 9th ITC Conference in San Sebastian, Spain in 2014, also showed that (p 251): 'performance in cognitive tests can be improved significantly' and 'Training caused a significant upward trend in performance'.
17. There are also several published articles providing evidence that MedEntry UMAT preparation will significantly improve your score. They are under the ‘News’ section in the “Resources” tab on the website.
Some further points to consider:
1. Any rational decision making should be based on decision making theory (Probability x Benefit). However, “humans are terrible at dealing with probabilities” (p68 ‘This will make you smarter’ by J Brockman).
2. What is important in UMAT is not the percentage of questions you get right, but your percentile ranking. If you only use the ACER practice tests, you will never know your percentile ranking (how you are performing in relation to other students), your strengths and weaknesses.
Some Universities require that you need a minimum of 50 in each section of the UMAT to be eligible. Without doing MedEntry Course, there is no way for you to identify your likely score in the actual test.
Because most students who prepare for UMAT do MedEntry and most students who get into Medical schools do MedEntry, you will be able to compare your performance with the best students in Australasia. You will also be able to interact with the best students on MedEntry Forums, during the workshop etc. When you do MedEntry, you can be confident that you are learning with the best students in Australasia.
3. The simple fact is: If you do not undertake quality UMAT Prep with reputable organisation with proven track record (MedEntry), you will be disadvantaged because those who are competing with you for the limited medical school places are getting this advantage.
Please also read the information under ‘About Us'.
Over the years, ACER has dramatically changed their stance regarding the value of preparation for UMAT
When UMAT started in the early 1990s, ACER did not provide ANY information regarding the test, not even a single example question, and no information regarding the types of questions and number of sections in the test. In the following years, they provided one sample question from each section, and gradually began providing more information and practice questions. ACER has changed its stance from stating that training is of no help, to admitting that training is useful. In the future, it is likely that ACER will go the way of many similar testing organisations in the US, and encourage training for UMAT by providing further resources.
ACER's stance on training in 1998: ACER Information Booklet 1998, page 3: "Training and practice in the test items is neither necessary nor advantageous. Accordingly, sample questions will not be made available prior to the test sessions." Not a single practice question provided to candidates.
ACER's stance on training in 2011: ACER website 2011: "As with any test, some practice in answering questions of a similar type, and under similar time constraints as those found in the real test is helpful and reassuring to most candidates." Two full length practice exams available for sale to candidates.
ACER says the same thing about GAMSAT Preparation, claiming that it is an ‘aptitude’ test and you can’t prepare for it. However, most graduate entry medical students have done UMAT and/or GAMSAT preparation.
Flaws in UMAT 'research' (eg. Dr Griffin et al)
There were letters sent to some schools by above authors trying to damage the credibility of UMAT preparation. Their research findings are flawed for several reasons, but some of the more important ones are:
1. Their research has been funded by ACER (this conflict of interest has not been disclosed in their letter) which administers UMAT and has a vested interest in promoting the myth that coaching is not effective. This is analogous to research funded by drug companies showing their products are superior. An Irish Universities consortium which does not have such a conflict of interest found significant improvement in scores of coached students.
2. There are inherent difficulties in conducting research on the usefulness of UMAT / GAMSAT preparation, because of “students' reluctance to admit to having done such courses” (Prof Ben Canny). In fact, the majority of students who undergo coaching do not admit to have done the course for various reasons (for example, students are often advised not to admit to have been coached). Such published ‘research’ sponsored by ACER is therefore fundamentally flawed, and the results are meaningless. It is estimated that due to factors such as errors in regression analysis, half of published research will eventually turn out to be wrong (p 223, 'Statistics' by Charles Wheelan)
3. UMAT preparation course providers strongly advise their clients not to disclose their degree of preparation in questionaries after the test. Therefore, the advantage gained by undertaking a preparation course will be significantly higher than it appears in the literature.
4. Claim: Which coaching organisation you use is irrelevant. Fact: This is analogous to claiming that which school/university you attend is irrelevant to your future job prospects or that which teacher/lecturer you have is irrelevant to your learning. Given the researchers set out to deliberately damage the credibility of UMAT coaching, it is clear why they make this illogical claim. Their research topic title itself gives away their intent: "Threats to the Validity of the UMAT".
5. The authors ‘controlled’ for NCEA, which is a dodgy means of manipulating the results to get what one wants. In fact, UMAT preparation helps boost NCEA scores because the generic skills and the test taking strategies are useful for high school and university exams as well.
6. Another flaw of the study is incorrect sampling methodology. This is best explained with an analogy. Let us say a comparison was made of the health status of those who see a doctor often with those who see a doctor rarely. The results of the study might indicate that the difference in the health status of the two groups is negligible or even that the health status of those who see doctors often is slightly worse. But, it is incorrect to then conclude that there is no benefit in seeing a doctor. This is because the people who see doctors often and those who don't are completely different populations and have different characteristics. For example, those who see doctors often may do so for several reasons (for example they may be sicker to start with).
7. The authors admit that coaching improves the ‘test wiseness’. Just as elite athletes need to know the rules thoroughly and have any ‘inside’ information so that they can perform at their peak level, so it is with high stakes tests such as UMAT.
8. Claim: Even if coaching were to result in a student getting a higher score on an intelligence test, the student’s actual level of intelligence is unchanged. Fact: This is the pre-neuroplastic paradigm. It is now accepted that brain is highly plastic and you can grow any part of the brain with practice.
9. The data presented by them show that those who undergo coaching do not do as well in the medical school. This fact, an inadvertent admission by them, alone proves that UMAT coaching works, by adding ‘value’. This claim is no different to oft-repeated claims that students from state schools perform better at university than their (well-coached) private school counterparts.
10. Claim: Interviewers are trained to identify faked answers. Fact: Personality tests (such as the interviews) and aptitude tests rely on the fact that the candidates do not prepare, so interviewers actively discourage the candidates from preparing. They do this by propagating various myths such as: preparation does not help; there are some questions in the interview which are designed to detect if you try to second guess; preparation may work against you etc. Accredited testers know that such organisations go to great lengths to place fear in the candidates to ensure they do not prepare, precisely because preparation works! If it is really true that you can't prepare for interviews, universities should have no objection to preparation (rather than actively discouraging students from preparing). Even if there is evidence that the answers come across is rehearsed, interviewers have to give you the benefit of the doubt (assume you are smart/motivated to prepare and think about the issues). “It is difficult to tell whether applicants genuinely held the views they express or whether they have been coached” (Dean of UQ medical school, quoted in Australian Doctor 21 Feb 2014, page 39)
11. Claim: Interview questions are changed every year. Fact: Even for MMI, the themes they use are the same; scenarios used are often the same. The questions asked are very similar for panel interviews. The difficulty is knowing the rationale behind those questions and what the interviewers are looking for. Universities are big bureaucracies and coming up with new questions is not easy for them!
12. Regarding interview training, if it does not work or unfair, why do universities train their graduates for job interviews? Universities benefit by training graduates for job interviews so they can claim that higher proportion of their graduates are employed. Another example: many universities train students for tests such as IELTS. It seems ‘unfairness’ only applies when universities themselves are not benefiting from the training/coaching.
13. Claim: UMAT test developers have endless possibility of questions. In fact creating questions is very complex, difficult and expensive process, so expensive in fact that they charge up to $2000 per question if an organisation wants to buy them. Every lecturer/teacher/assessor knows how difficult it is to create good quality questions. It is even harder with 'generic skills' tests such as the UMAT. There are only certain number of strategies to solve them.
Claim: Coached students risk misapplying rules. Fact: We do not and have never offered simplistic rules: our focus is on developing better thinking skills which are useful for UMAT, high school/university exams and for future careers.
14. The authors engage in ‘fear mongering’ as a last resort by claiming there may be a potential disadvantage; it distracts them from study, etc. This is analogous to claiming that obtaining a university degree is a potential disadvantage. UMAT preparation is also ‘education’ (more useful than learning subject knowledge at university, which most never use).
15. A quote from the article: “The industry being created around trying to gain entry [to medical programs] is inherently unfair — because it attempts to tip the scales towards those with resources”. This is contradictory to the claim that UMAT coaching does not work. If it does not work, why would it be unfair?
By claiming that ‘the bright will get into medicine anyway’, the authors are implying that if you don’t choose your parents carefully, well it is just bad luck! What is the purpose of education then? Is it not to improve students’ thinking skills (that is what UMAT Prep does)? Knowledge is freely available on the internet these days! The authors are also implying that there is no point in working hard and working smart.
Some other points
1. The whole process (eg marking scheme, no appeals) is shrouded in mystery. If they have nothing to hide, they would be transparent and not so secretive. Coaching for Debating/Public Speaking/Sport/Music/English etc is not a concern for the organisations which are involved in the competitions/tests for them, so why is UMAT coaching a concern for ACER?
2. While ACER/Universities have certain 'stance' regarding UMAT preparation, many of the students who do MedEntry course are children of staff who work there!
3. It is also amusing that ACER, while claiming that you can't train for aptitude tests such as UMAT, sells through their bookshop, numerous books on 'Passing psychometric and aptitude tests' for recruitment.
A final word
While you may hear conflicting views from MedEntry and ACER regarding UMAT preparation, the ultimate test is: ‘Do students find the course useful?’. Over 99% of the students who do our program emphatically say “YES”.
We admit the underlying ‘ability’ (both IQ and EQ) cannot be changed overnight, but it can be changed gradually over a period of time, which is the whole purpose of education! We at MedEntry have always emphasised the importance of distributed and consistent practice to maximise the benefits of our UMAT Preparation program.
Please also read the previous FAQs in this category.
Please also read the articles under ‘News’ section of the website, where articles published by MedEntry staff on these matters are listed.
When you purchase the MedEntry UMAT package, you will get numerous resources for your use. You will also get additional recommended reading in the MedEntry UMAT workshops. This is definitely much more than you need, if you use it properly. How to efficiently and effectively use these resources is also discussed in the MedEntry UMAT workshops.
MedEntry constantly updates and adds new and relevant materials to the LMS so that you get the best quality resources. Most students do not use all of the materials on the LMS. Most do only the practice exams: remember there are many more resources on the LMS. Therefore, if you have used all the resources on the LMS, you can be assured that you have plateaued in terms of your UMAT skills required to ace the test. In the highly unlikely event that you have managed to complete all the resources in the way suggested in the workshop, we can recommend additional readings for you.
We also recommend that you obtain the ACER's three practice exams that you can buy when you register for UMAT.
Apart from these, we do not recommend any other courses or programs. We suggest that you do not waste your time and money on other UMAT programs because you will not end up using them since they are not relevant, too easy, outdated, contradictory, confusing, not good quality or you don't have time. Virtually all of our past students who bought another course (as well as MedEntry) regretted doing so for several reasons. There are also many scam websites spruiking UMAT products. They are likely to mislead you.
Virtually all medical school lectures at all universities are now ‘Online’, so there is no need to attend the classes every week and only a small minority do!
We encourage you to attend a UMAT Course even if you have to travel a long distance. Many students from other cities, interstate and overseas attend our UMAT Courses as well, because of a wide range of benefits.
Students say that they learn how to use the LMS efficiently and effectively in the MedEntry UMAT workshop. Invest in your future by enhancing your thinking skills.
At the UMAT Course you will also be given the opportunity to sit a trial UMAT exam under simulated conditions, based upon which you will receive predicted UMAT scores. Students find this information extremely valuable in planning their UMAT preparation, including which sections to focus on.
Examples of students’ comments:
“I am a visual/auditory learner, so hearing different strategies helped me a lot.
“The course is very group oriented, requiring much audience preparation, anticipation and participation, enabling all students to pitch in, in a ‘no-pressure’ environment and hear/share their ideas/opinions.”
If you think of UMAT, think MedEntry!
Yes! Interviews are a crucial aspect of the selection process for entry into health science courses. In some Australian universities, interviews are weighted at more than 50% of the total selection criteria. Most people focus on their NCEA scores, study for the UMAT but do not prepare for the interview.
However, knowledge of the types of questions asked, coaching on interview technique and enhanced communication skills can dramatically improve your performance. You should not go into an interview unprepared or not having an understanding of what you will be asked.
Personality tests (such as the interviews) rely on the fact that the candidates do not prepare, so interviewers actively discourage the candidates from preparing. They do this by propagating various myths such as: preparation does not help; there are some questions in the interview which are designed to detect if you try to second guess; preparation may work against you etc. Accredited testers know that such organisations go to great lengths to place fear in the candidates to ensure they do not prepare, precisely because preparation works! If it is really true that you can't prepare for interviews, universities should have no objection to interview preparation (rather than actively discouraging students from preparing). Even if there is evidence that the answers come across is rehearsed, interviewers have to give you the benefit of the doubt (assume you are smart/motivated to prepare and think about the issues).
Graduate entry route in NZ requires you to resit UMAT after your degree, but if you intend to apply to Australia, you will need to sit the GAMSAT.
The graduate medicine entry route requires that you complete a degree first before applying for Medicine. This means studying hard for an additional 3 or 4 years (and paying the fees), to maintain high grades with no guarantee of getting into Medicine. So you will have exams for at least 7 years: three years of first degree and 4 years of condensed medical degree. Undergrad medicine, for eg at Monash, is far less stressful because in the first year they ease you in, and in final year you are working as an unpaid intern (so no exams).
You also need to sit a test called the GAMSAT, which is a six hour test (compare this with UMAT which is a three hour test) as well as doing well in the interview. The preparation courses for GAMSAT are also far more expensive, in the range of $1500 plus.
The GAMSAT has been described by most people as ‘the most horrible thing I've ever had to do in my life’. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you do a Biomedicine or Biosciences degree, you will automatically be offered a place in Medicine, as some universities misleadingly make you believe. If you miss out on a place in Medicine, you may end up with a degree that is not useful for your future, and a waste of several years of your life.
The median age of students entering graduate medical programs in Australia is 25.4 years. By that age, you would have completed your medical degree and probably working as a Registrar in your chosen specialty if you choose the Year 12 entry (UMAT) route. Imagine entering medical school at 25 via graduate entry, then trying to study for the specialist training exams in your early thirties with a family to care for!
Further, when you apply through the graduate entry pathway, you can only apply to one university (with only three preferences) and you will be interviewed only by one university. The universities have colluded to make it this way, so that it is less work for them and easier for them to select students (although it imposes harsh restrictions on aspiring doctors).
Some people think universities are education oriented organisations, but in reality they are massive businesses with annual income of each university around a billion dollars - they earn about $30,000 per year of study at university for each student they enrol (about $10,000 from you, and the rest from the government). This means that the longer you study at university, the better it is for them. This is the reason why some universities are moving towards graduate-entry medical programs. It is to increase universities' income, not because it is good for you! Furthermore, universities are prohibited from charging full fee for undergraduate medicine, but they can charge full fee for graduate medicine!
Some people feel that they want to go to so-called "prestigious" universities (eg. Sydney University) which offer only graduate medicine. However, unlike other disciplines such as law, in medicine it does not matter which university you graduate from.
Perhaps 15 years ago, when GAMSAT was new, it was easier than UMAT but now most medical students who sat both tests claim GAMSAT is harder. GAMSAT is getting much harder for several reasons (eg many professionals wanting to change careers, the 'late bloomers', many school leavers putting off the hard work and the difficult decision).