Situational Judgement Test (SJT): Everything You Need to Know

Situational Judgement Test (SJT): Everything You Need to Know

Situational Judgement Test (SJT): Everything You Need to Know

Situational Judgement Test (SJT): Everything You Need to Know

What is the SJT?

The AAMC’s new test was beta tested in the 2019-20 cycle by two medical schools (University of California, Davis and University of Minnesota). It expanded in 2020-21 to include Geisinger, Morehouse, and University of Alabama, Birmingham (UAB), and this cycle also includes the University of Minnesota Twin Cities, and Des Moines University. The SJT is required at Morehouse and UAB, and strongly recommended at the other three. Each school will decide to what extent it uses the SJT in its admission decisions. It is considered a tool to help admissions committees assess pre-professional competencies of their applicants.

What is the format of the SJT?

The SJT is a 75-minute test (90 minutes including pre and posttest procedures) that is monitored by a remote proctor. Applicants must show a photo ID and have their identity verified by the proctor. Each applicant is presented with a series of written scenarios and must decide on the “effectiveness” of possible responses or behaviors. 

The four answer options are: 

Very ineffective   Ineffective   Effective   Very effective 

The tricky part is that some scenarios have more than 4 responses (items), which means several responses can have the same answer. For a single question, you might decide that 2 responses are effective, 2 responses are ineffective, 1 response is very effective, and 3 responses are very ineffective. You will get full credit when you match the best response and partial credit for being “close to” the best response for each item. For example, if the right answer is “effective,” you can get partial credit for choosing “very effective.” Each test includes 30 scenarios and 186 items. the exact questions vary between test dates, for fairness. Your total score is ranked on a scale of 1-9. 

When do I take the SJT?

There are 4 test dates offered in June, and 2 test dates every month from July-September. Only students who plan to apply to schools that require the SJT should take it. 

How and when are scores released?

Scores are released approximately 1 month after taking the exam. Scores will only be visible to schools participating in the SJT. Scores are not expected to expire, but it will be up to each participating school to decide how many years a previous score will be valid. Since the SJT is new, it is possible some schools will use it on a test basis, or a limited basis, i.e. to help manage their wait list.

Why did the AAMC come up with the SJT?

The AAMC took 8 years to plan and create the SJT, with the goal to help medical schools identify applicants who possess strong professional and interpersonal skills. These are attributes that are felt to be just as important for future physicians as the more commonly assessed skills of scientific inquiry, critical thinking, quantitative reasoning, and communication (which are measured through the MCAT and GPA). The SJT identifies the following 8 core pre-professional competencies:  

  • Service Orientation: “Demonstrates a desire to help others and sensitivity to others’ needs and feelings; demonstrates a desire to alleviate others’ distress; recognizes and acts on his/her responsibilities to society; locally, nationally, and globally.”
  • Social Skills: “Demonstrates an awareness of others’ needs, goals, feelings, and the ways that social and behavioral cues affect peoples’ interactions and behaviors; adjusts behaviors appropriately in response to these cues; treats others with respect.”
  • Cultural Competence: “Demonstrates knowledge of socio-cultural factors that affect interactions and behaviors; shows an appreciation and respect for multiple dimensions of diversity; recognizes and acts on the obligation to inform one’s own judgment; engages diverse and competing perspectives as a resource for learning, citizenship, and work; recognizes and appropriately addresses bias in themselves and others; interacts effectively with people from diverse backgrounds.”
  • Teamwork: “Works collaboratively with others to achieve shared goals; shares information and knowledge with others and provides feedback; puts team goals ahead of individual goals.”
  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others: “Behaves in an honest and ethical manner; cultivates personal and academic integrity; adheres to ethical principles and follows rules and procedures; resists peer pressure to engage in unethical behavior and encourages others to behave in honest and ethical ways; develops and demonstrates ethical and moral reasoning.”
  • Reliability and Dependability: “Consistently fulfills obligations in a timely and satisfactory manner; takes responsibility for personal actions and performance.”
  • Resilience and Adaptability: “Demonstrates tolerance of stressful or changing environments or situations and adapts effectively to them; is persistent, even under difficult situations; recovers from setbacks.”
  • Capacity for Improvement: “Sets goals for continuous improvement and for learning new concepts and skills; engages in reflective practice for improvement; solicits and responds appropriately to feedback.”

How does the SJT differ from the CASPer?

The CASPer was developed by Altus Assessments to assess applicants for non-academic or “people skills.” It is used by a variety of health professional programs (physical therapy, dental, veterinary medicine, nursing, and occupational therapy). In the CASPer you will see video or written scenarios, then have 5 minutes to respond to 3 open-ended questions. Your answers are scored by raters trained in each area. The CASPer takes 60-90 minutes and, like the SJT, it is monitored remotely. The SJT was developed to assess skills that med schools care more about, so it is possible that it will replace the CASPer over time. 

What is the cost of the SJT, compared to other tests:

In its first two cycles, the SJT is free.

The CASPer is $10 to take the test and an additional $10 for every school it is sent to. 

How do I prepare for the SJT?

  1. Sign up for a test date once you have decided to apply for one of the participating schools. You can change this date at any time, as long as other test dates are still available.
  1. Review the AAMC SJT examinee preparation guide. Understand what the 8 core competencies are and how they can impact decision making.
  1. Complete the full-length practice exam. This is a critical step! While each scenario may have several responses that seem effective, only some of these will earn full points. For example, a response that might be “very effective” to the person doing it, might be scored as “ineffective,” if it means putting a burden on someone else, or creating a problem in the future. Read the rational for each answer to better understand what they are looking for. You might want to interpret “effective” as a response that promotes the common good, rather than what is good for the individual. Ultimately, the only way to truly understand what the test considers “effective” is by taking the practice test and reviewing the answer rationales.
  1. Do the online testing system tutorial (this allows you to test your equipment) as many times as you want before the exam.
  1. Arrive 15 minutes early, with a clean workspace and no applications open on your computer.

The SJT was designed to help schools identify candidates who can do the right thing when faced with a difficult situation. As with every aspect of applying to medical school, it is just one piece of a complex puzzle. Make sure you understand the 8 core competencies and why they are important. This is accomplished through doing the practice exam and studying the rationale behind each answer. As a side benefit, the SJT might even introduce you to skills you can use in your future practice as a physician! 

Maximize your chances of getting accepted to medical school by working with a medical school admissions expert who will guide you through acing every step of the application process. Check out our Medical School Admissions Consulting & Editing Services to find out how we can help you get ACCEPTED.

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Dr. Suzi Schweikert has served on the UCSD School of Medicine’s admissions committee, and has mentored students in healthcare programs for over 20 years. She holds a BA in English Lit from UCLA, an MD from UCSD, and an MPH from SDSU. Want Suzi to help you get accepted? Click here to get in touch with Dr. Suzi Schweikert.

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Situational Judgement Test (SJT): Everything You Need to Know

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