Section 2: Understanding People

36 questions
45 minutes

Section two of UMAT is titled Understanding People for a reason. Here you are supposed to put yourself in someone else's shoes and react as they would. You will find double entendres, complex vocabulary and ambiguous social situations.

Double Entendres

In section two a lot of people get stressed for time. This doesn't matter. You are not trying to get 100%, just trying to beat the person next to you. That is one reassuring thing in a percentile test. In the case of double entendres, you have a very high chance of getting the question wrong if you skim read. Instead of skim reading, we would recommend you to read two questions fully and slowly, rather than eight skimmed/rushed.

Here is an example (taken from Wikipedia, which took it from Hannibal)

Hannibal has strange dieting habits. He eats late and often with one person present, but only partially. He likes to invite people over to dinner often, yet these people never have anything to say about his food nor cooking. Ever again. Hannibal says he is "having an old friend for dinner"

This means that:
A) Hannibal is having a friend over for dinner
B) Hannibal is an excellent cook
C) Hannibal likes to cook for his friends
D) Hannibal intends to eat this "old friend"
E) Hannibal is a terrible cook and his friends never want to talk about it again

The answer is D. Hannibal is a cannibal. The point made here is that upon simply skimming the question and reading the last line would mean that you may miss the subtlety of the question. The exact literal interpretation is A, but the second meaning, D, is correct.

Be careful to read the questions properly!
Double entendres

Reading comprehension
To break it down, we look at section two as basically a reading comprehension test. This involves reading in to how the characters might be feeling and what an appropriate response might be. Because of this approach we suggest you cater your study to this somewhat. See more at the end of this article in "preparation for UMAT"


As outlined earlier, the UMAT test is trying to test what they deem to be appropriate ideals suited to a professional in a set situation. You can only ever interact/choose the answer which represents the most professional and appropriate response.

Never assume

When we say never assume, we are especially emphasising not assuming about how the patient may feel or what they may be thinking.

When the Doctor says "I know..." the answer is already wrong. You do not know anything. You can say, "I hear that can be very difficult". By working like this, the idea goes, you are able to open up the patient to ideas about how they are feeling without telling them.

This is often referred to as the difference between sympathy and empathy. Sympathy is bad in this case, and empathy is good. The difference here is that sympathy is basically personal. You hear about the patients illness and say "oh yeah, that's terrible - I had that last year". This is not a professional interaction. Instead we want empathy, which entails understanding, acknowledging and helping the patient without telling them about your own life. The patient has come in to talk about what is bothering them. They want to be acknowledged and know that the professional will help them out in what way they can.

To help produce a positive interaction you must be able to "get the patient on your side". This means that you must make everything go as well as possible. You should not show embarrassment when they present to you with something horrible. Chances are that they are already very embarrassed and how you deal with that can either make things better or worse.

What not to do:

  • Never assume - "I know that is hard"
  • Never ignore the problem
  • Do not show embarrassment

What to always do:

  • Acknowledge - "I hear that can be difficult..."
  • Show you understand
  • Be confident
  • Address the issue, but do not promise

Heirarchy, Honesty & The Law


  • Life or death situation
  • Patient safety
  • The law
  • Loyalty to your workmates/family

Unless someone is about to die or there is an emergency procedure that requires immediate attention then you cannot break the law. Basically, being a Doctor gives you no special powers nor does it exclude you from any law. The only reasonable time that a Doctor can break the law is when it is reasonable for any citizen to break the law.

Never break the law
Never break the law
Never break the law!

You may require permission to do some procedure which is very dangerous and could go wrong. If you are in the middle of the jungle and the patient will die without it then you should do what you can to the best of your abilities. This is an example of where you should break the law/rules. Where it says "the patient will die without it" is a bit of a hint.

UMAT will question your morals. You should be prepared to do what is right!

When you are working with someone, you may feel a sense of allegiance to them, but deny that and report them if they screw up! If someone steals, lies, cheats, does anything morally questionable then report them. What you would personally do in reality is irrelevant.

You should be in favour of sending granny to the gallows for going 61 kms per hour. Get your best friend and boss fired for pocketing a syringe to take home - even if he claims that it is to help someone. You are not there to make judgements about the judicial system and the penalties that will be enforced. You are not there to remain loyal to your partners no-matter-what.

The point is that you are not supposed to be making complex moral judgements, you are there to report wrongdoing and then move on. The appropriate medical councils will deal with your friend who pocketed the syringe, and they may let him go. The police can deal with Granny. You are there to lump things into appropriate or inappropriate response.

UMAT will not give you black and white. There will not be a setting where someone is running rampant around the hospital with a machette and ask you if this is wrong or right. The questions will be much more subtle, in that gray area between "clearly right" and "clearly wrong". But remember this is a MCQ. There are no half answers. A few possibilities may make sense to you, but there is only ONE answer. Choose the one your morally superior, compassionate, yet stingy, and unloyal and law-abiding boss would choose.