In this post, Jason Wan explains his secrets for scoring 100th percentile in UMAT.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
To help you get prepared, you must read the ultimate UMAT study guide, The Beginner’s Guide to UMAT Preparation. In this comprehensive Guide, we walk you through the best and most effective ways to prepare for UMAT. Remember, you need to do well in UMAT to get into the Medicine or Health Sciences course of your dreams!