In our most recent hangout on the UCAT Situational Judgment Test (SJT) (check it out here if you missed it!) we discussed, amongst a variety of tips and questions, the subject of medical ethics and what you need to know for the UCAT.
It’s essential to have a strong knowledge of the ethical basics and I’ll cover that in this blog.
However, it’s not just useful to know in order to get a “Band 1” SJT score; medical ethics is a core foundation of your future education so naturally it can crop up in your personal statement and will almost certainly appear in your interview/s in one form or another. Yes, even Oxbridge interviews!
Read on for a quick summary of the ethics you need to know and how it might be asked.
Why is medical ethics important?
If I say to you “the Hippocratic oath” I’m sure you’ve at least heard of it.
For me, it brings to mind countless TV scenes of sharp new doctors swearing to protect their patients from any and all harm (and somehow never having a bad hair day?!).
In the less-polished real world, not a week goes by without an ethical topic in the news; abortion, medical malpractice, discrimination and even the ongoing pandemic provide us with a constant reminder of one fact:
Understanding and applying ethics is crucial for good medicine practice.
Medical ethics encompasses the spectrum of pregnancy and birth, to death and euthanasia and everything in between. With such prevalence in everyday healthcare scenarios, it’s no wonder Universities want to know whether you possess the basic knowledge and can apply it to common scenarios.
Some of you may even find it a particular skill or passion and may pursue medical ethics as a career choice!
Ethics and the SJT In The UCAT
For a full discussion and approach to the SJT, I highly recommend you watch our latest Hangout here.
|SJT In The UCAT||- Last section of UCAT |
- 22 "stem" scenarios
- Total of 69 questions
- 26 mins to complete
|Topics||- Professionalism |
- Consent and integrity
- Team-work and commuication
|Scoring||- Band 1-4 (1 being the best) |
- Your answers are compared to the model answers (panel of doctors and ethics specialists)
- 2019 scoring: Band 1 (17%), Band 2 (40%), Band 3 (33%), Band 4 (10%), average=Band 2
What should you cover in your SJT ethics revision?
- The 4 pillars of medical ethics: autonomy, justice, beneficence, and non-maleficence.
Don’t just memorise the definitions- know how they apply to situations and how to use them to guide ethical problem-solving (featured in our hangout!)
6med tip: When revising specific ethical scenarios, try to think which of these principles are being challenged or ignored.
Our expert tutors have taken the guesswork out of the SJT, including discussions on practical ethics tips, example ethics questions and the basics that you’ll need to know for your application as a whole
There’s no need to revise this in great detail, but as the guiding document produced by the overall governing body, the General Medical Council know a thing or two about the ethical principles every medical student should be familiar with
6med tip: Make brief bullet-point notes on each section and keep them in a safe place because these guidelines will feature through your whole medical degree!
It goes without saying that the best way to apply this knowledge is active revision- questions, questions, questions!
6med tip: Ethical discussions/debates with peers can be a great way to apply your knowledge and expose yourself to new viewpoints, whilst also practising your critical thinking skills. Just make sure not to get too heated- the GMC frowns upon throwing things at your friends.
The personal statement and ethics
I know, I know- it’s only July. However, one of our 6med tips that you’ll hear ad nauseum is “prepare early, space it out and retain the skills”.
The Personal Statement serves as a literary cross-section and so, if you enjoy medical ethics, this is a great platform to show your interest.
Medical ethics in the personal statement can be in the form of:
- Posing a medical ethics question and discussing it
- Referring to any particular books, papers or scenarios you’ve read about and your reflections from it. Popular ones include “A Very Short Introduction to Medical Ethics” for the basics and, for more creative ethical situations, “Bad Science” by Ben Goldacre and “This Is Going To Hurt” by Adam Kay.
- A discussion of how medical ethics has brought you into medicine- but make sure not to lie (professionalism and integrity!)
Our next hangout is all about the Personal Statement so now is the perfect time to start reading, researching and noting down what you want to include in advance of our expert session.
The interview and medical ethics
Medical interviews are an assault course – they test you in different ways, they’re tiring and you somehow end up with thorns in your back (that’s just Oxbridge though). One key test at interview is ethical situations.
The difference between the interview and the previous hurdles is that the medical admissions tutors can hear you talk through your process- there’s no guessing and no blagging. They will know if you’re aware of basic ethical principles and have thought about common ethical scenarios.
They may ask you in several different ways:
- They may refer to your personal statement, especially if you have mentioned an interest in ethics or a book you have read.
6med tip: Discuss the book with a peer or family member, get them to challenge your viewpoints and never lie about reading a book – you will be found out!
- They may give you a common “medical” scenario such as abortion or euthanasia.
6med tip: Get familiar with common ethical scenarios in medicine and browse the news leading up to your interview.
- They may give you a common “general” ethical scenario such as an issue with a team member, a mistake that was made or a colleague who is struggling
- In an MMI (multiple mini interview- stay tuned for a future hangout on these!) they may get you to physically act out an ethical scenario.
6med tip: practise conflict resolution and showing empathy.
Hopefully, you now have an overview of how ethics will feature in your application and so it’s time to take action.
We suggest that at this stage you are familiarising yourself with basic ethical principles and using the resources named above to practise ethics for the SJT.
Remember, the SJT score is separate to the others, so universities will see the band as a standalone measure of your “non-cognitive” skills.
It’s therefore important to place as much, if not more, emphasis on the SJT (depending on how your universities use the SJT and UCAT scores- make sure to look that up!)
From now you can start to read up on common ethical scenarios and decide on a resource to use for the “basics”. As you get closer to the end of the year, you can start to explore ethics more if it interests you, or just crackdown on your basic principles for the interview.
Remember, ethics is not only interesting – it is crucial to being a well-rounded, empathic doctor.
Keep that in mind when you’re losing motivation and if all else fails, remember the Hippocratic oath.
If you’re looking for support with Ethics in the SJT or your medical interviews, we are here to help.
The UCAT Bundle gives you all the tools you need to get a Band 1 score on the SJT and boost your score in all other areas.
If money is an issue – this need not be the case. We offer very generous bursaries to level the playing field for everyone – don’t let money be the thing that holds you back! Look at our bursaries here.