Jason’s UMAT Hacks: How I got 100th Percentile in UMAT
Posted on October 12, 2017 by DJ Kim
UMAT is a skills-based exam and demands lots of practices. As such I approached my UMAT exam preparation as it was another 2 unit subject. Read on to learn the UMAT Hacks that helped me score in the 100th percentile in UMAT.
How I approached the UMAT Study
Step 1: Develop a UMAT study rhythm
Having a solid UMAT study rhythm was crucial to my success in achieving 100th percentile in UMAT. Throughout the week, I would allocate 15-30 minute blocks every day to practicing UMAT sections through the drills available on the Matrix LMS (through Matrix’s UMAT course).
The drills I did ranged across all sections, and I chose to split my time evenly. In the latter stages of my preparation, I focused on Section 2 and 3 drills, as these were my weaker sections.
Table: Jason’s UMAT Study Rhythm
On the weekends, I adopted a two-pronged approach towards exams. On Saturdays, I would go through my previous week’s exam and the mistakes I made. This acts as a way to warm up your own exam technique and bring your focus towards doing a mock exam. On Sundays, I would complete a full Matrix UMAT exam under timed conditions.
Step 2: Practice under strictly timed conditions
It is very important that you adhere to the time conditions.
“I was able to generate around 15 minutes spare time in the actual UMAT exam simply because I forced myself to practice under strict 3-hour time periods.”
The only way to build up your speed and accuracy is doing drills and exams under strictly timed conditions.
- You must get accustomed to the real exam conditions – get used to having a sore neck, reading pages of text and maintaining your exam technique until the end. Personally, I locked myself into my room with water, a pen and some paper, before doing an exam in a single 3-hour sitting.
- A skill you should develop is knowing when to “cut your losses.” Being able to recognise questions which require more than 80 seconds of thought will save you so much time in the long run. For your reference, completing 134 questions in 180 minutes gives you about 80 seconds per question.
- A general rule of thumb I follow is: “If you can’t see a possible solution in the first 40 seconds, move on.” For example, in Section 3 Pick the Middles, you should have 5 or 6 possible patterns in your head. If none of them work, you should register that question in your head and move on.
Step 3: Develop Your Problem Solving Skills
Problem solving has always been a stronger side of my UMAT preparation. I did not struggle significantly with the statistical side, however I did have problems with some of the logical reasoning: questions which involved complex inclusions and exclusions (e.g. A can be either B or C and B is sometimes C, can A be C?). As with all UMAT preparation, these problems can be fixed by trial and error. Namely, doing questions, getting them wrong and learning from the solutions. This process will always work if you follow it well.
One of my earlier weaknesses was patterns, whether it be Pick the Middle, Pick the Fifth, 5-way Smiley Face Matrices, etc. I overcame this through a repetition of Matrix UMAT drills and exams. I made sure that once I got a question wrong, I’d never repeat that mistake again. To do this, you must not only learn the solution, but also learn the thought process which goes into generating that solution.
As an example, for Pick the Middle questions, I found that “brute-forcing” (using trial and error) 3 or 4 pre-set patterns seemed to work early on, but not for the harder questions. For these rarer occasions, labelling elements of the pattern and following their individual paths proved to be a better way of solving the problem. This technique was only made clear to me as i worked through many past drills and questions.
Step 4: Work on Your Critical Thinking Abilities
Critical thinking often involves taking given information and generating some conclusion which is unequivocally true. To improve on your critical thinking, you must learn to remain calm and assume nothing.
UMAT is not an assessment of your prior knowledge. The only resources they expect you to use are the ones they give you – that is, the words within the passage, or the lines on the graph. Therefore, judge each multiple choice option purely based on the information given, and not your previous biases. Learning to remain objective at all times will help your understanding and formulation of the correct answer immensely.
Often there is a temptation to extrapolate from the data you’ve been given to assume a future outcome.
“In my experience, 90% of these types of answers are wrong – they prey on your inherent biases and these conclusions are often never unequivocally true.”
A great way to check your answers is to play Devil’s Advocate – focus on finding scenarios or situations where your answer/conclusion is false.
The Matrix UMAT course was great for introducing me to UMAT and sustaining my practice throughout the year. I was lucky to be taught by past UMAT participants, who had achieved outstanding scores, and learn their personal techniques for various questions. The course has a ton of online resources which you can peruse at your leisure.
I was not able to finish all the drills even with my weekly schedule, so there are enough drills to keep you occupied and busy. Matrix’s UMAT course also provided 10 practice exams – I highly recommend you complete 10 practice exams before your actual UMAT test, it will boost your exam technique and result.
How to tackle the sections:
Section 1: This was my favourite section as it is logical reasoning – something which I enjoy. If you enjoy numbers or statistics, this is the section for you. Practice makes perfect here – learn how to read graphs, pie charts, statistics, etc. Ensure that you know what you are trying to find.
Often, they will flood you with data and ask you to compare 4 options. It is crucial that you pinpoint the relevant data and focus only on those numbers. You must also double-check that you are looking at the right scale or numbers. Some graphs use two different scales as a common way of throwing you off.
Section 2: I learned to read fast and thoroughly. A good way of tackling Section 2 questions is to read the question and passage once, thoroughly, before starting your skim-reading. It is important to get the ‘feel’ of the passage and question, something which you cannot get by skim-reading. Skim-reading is for finding those small bits of evidence which support your answer, or positioning yourself in the passage’s context.
Again, the most efficient way to improve Section 2 is to do more drills and questions. Learn to empathise with the characters and almost role-play as those people. My personal advice would be to earnestly connect with the passage and trust your first instinct – this section is about ‘Understanding People’, not ‘Analysing People’ (although this does help).
Section 3: I would personally recommend spending your first few weeks memorising and learning common patterns and questions. My initial Section 3 Drills for “Picking the Middle” or “What Comes Next” were terrible. However, after realising that there are a finite number of patterns, I was able to improve my results. Learn simple patterns and what they look like.
As I’ve said, I also improved my Section 3 by adopting various techniques for each type of question. The pattern based questions can be solved by tracking individual components and finding common patterns among these respective components. This technique can fail when components ‘go into hiding’ behind one another, forcing you to guess. However, this technique does work most of the time and is highly effective if done correctly and quickly.
Another technique is to quickly overlay some common patterns onto the question to see if they work. These patterns include:
• Movements in multiples of 45 degrees, a simple 1234 pattern, stop and start, clockwise and counterclockwise movements, etc.
• These patterns can be quickly tested if you learn their distinctive features, and will work for ~50% of the questions.
Balancing it All
You need to find balance with things, or they will get on top of you quickly. The hard part about balancing UMAT practice is making time for it. It is incredibly easy to skip one night’s practice and put your whole week in jeopardy.
“Force yourself to allocate time every night for at least 15 minutes practice – treat it like a game of mental gymnastics.”
That made the practice seem like some down-time and relaxation for me. There were times when I was so busy throughout the week that I was not able to complete daily practice. We all have these moments, and it’s important to take a step back and regroup.
The most crucial part of your practice should be your weekly exam. Daily drills are your skill-building exercises, while the practice exam is your weekly checkpoint – it updates you on how you are going and what you need to work on.
“I actually remember thinking ‘This UMAT thing is pretty simple’ at the start of the year, and it was, for the most part.”
To successfully achieve a balance between UMAT and school, it is vital that you create a plan now. 10 exams means at least 10 weeks of practice. You can do that over a longer period of time, however I timed my practice so that my final practice exam was the weekend before the actual UMAT. The week before my actual UMAT was spent doing lighter work, but mostly preparing your mind for the real thing.
Stay on Top of Stress
For me, the stress of UMAT was not as great as the stress of normal school work. However, everyone is different and you may find that UMAT is a highly stressful exam. You would be quite justified in having that opinion – it is designed to challenge your logical reasoning and critical thinking under timed conditions.
One of the most helpful things you can do to assist your future self is to plan, plan and plan. 10 exams means at least 10 weeks of practice. That’s at least 30 hours of UMAT practice. Spread over 10 weeks, it is a much less daunting task than if it were spread over the last 3 weeks.
In some cases where you do feel stressed by UMAT, such as poor results or frustration over questions, remember to take your time and relax. Step away for a few hours, take your mind off things. UMAT is a mentally draining exam, so it should be common that you feel exhausted or overwhelmed. Your stamina will come over time – just remember to persevere and work hard, as you will be rewarded for your efforts.
At the end of the day, UMAT is just another exam. Don’t let it define you as a person. Just like how the ATAR is just a number, so is a UMAT result. All you can expect from yourself is to work hard, and to try your best. The Matrix UMAT course was essential in helping me locate UMAT resources with which I could hone my skills. I had a plethora of drills and exams at my fingertips on the Learning Management System (LMS), which proved to be incredibly useful in patching up my weaknesses and developing my strengths.
You should make it part of your schedule to do additional practice and preparation materials. These materials can be gained from Matrix’s UMAT course. While I had 15 minutes available every night, you can customise your schedule – it is your own time which you need to fill. Aim for around 1.5 hours every week with an exam. Treat UMAT drills like a game! Do one drill if you’re bored and wasting time on the internet – it will keep you occupied and, hopefully, be a little fun.
Three things UMAT Students MUST DO:
- Make a plan!!! 10 exams, 10 weeks. Get your calendar and find the date of the 2018 UMAT exam. Find a 10-15 week chunk where you can sit down, every week, and complete a 3 hour exam. Remember to factor in your trials and the study time required for that.
- Find resources! While UMAT is an aptitude test, you can still develop your problem solving and critical thinking. Matrix offers an amazing UMAT course which will connect you to past UMAT participants who know what you’ll be up against. Hone your skills through drills or example questions.
- Adhere to your time restraints. 3 hours, 180 minutes. At the 3 hour mark, force yourself to stop work. Identify where you lost time, and where you could gain time. UMAT is as much a test of your mental abilities as it is a test of your time management and temperament.
- Remain calm and stick to your personal strategy.
- If you struggle for time initially, implement a technique where you only give yourself 80 seconds per question. You may not complete every question, but also remember that when you run out of time, you fail to even look at the last few questions.
- Have a solid go at all 134 questions instead of nitpicking the first 90.
Three things UMAT Students MUST NOT DO:
- Don’t leave it to the last minute. A common mistake is to put UMAT in the background while you study for your trials or other school examinations. UMAT will creep up on you as you will not be constantly notified about its presence. Teachers will not necessarily check up on you every week – you must make an effort to actively prepare for UMAT. Each practice exam takes 3 hours, and 10 exams take 30 hours – you cannot generate this amount of time during a routine Year 12 all-nighter.
- Don’t assume anything. This is a two-fold point. Firstly, do not assume that your innate problem solving prowess or critical mind will transfer perfectly onto UMAT. UMAT combines problem solving with strict time conditions. You must do at least one practice exam to experience the mental strain of a 3 hour examination.
Secondly, do not assume anything in the exam. Your logical reasoning should be based purely off the information they give you. Apart from your ability to perform basic maths and understand the meaning of select words, prior knowledge does not play a significant role. You also cannot assume that this year’s UMAT exam will be the same as last year’s. They can change significantly over time. Learn common patterns and questions, but be prepared to improvise and think in your seat.
- Don’t treat it as a life-death situation! At the end of the day, UMAT is just another exam. Like the HSC, it seems daunting and world-changing, but ultimately it is a small road-bump through your journey in life. Sometimes there is an element of luck – you either see the solution or you don’t. Either way, the lesson you should take away from UMAT is the logical reasoning and critical thinking skills which will be necessary throughout your future career paths, wherever they lead. Regardless of your result, life will go on. Try your hardest and let the numbers do their thing.
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