The AAMC Situational Judgment Test: What to Know

New in the 2020 medical school application cycle, the Association of American Medical College’s Situational Judgment Test, or SJT, assesses medical school applicants’ abilities to distinguish effective from ineffective responses to scenarios they may encounter in med school.

The test is meant to measure whether applicants meet pre-professional competency standards set forth by the AAMC, which include service orientation, capacity for improvement, resilience and adaptability, reliability and dependability, ethical responsibility to self and others, teamwork, cultural competence and social skills.

[READ: 5 Ways to Develop Cultural Competence in Preparation for a Career in Medicine.]

Though only six schools require or strongly encourage the SJT as of June 2021, it’s likely that the test will become a more common part of the med school application process in the future.

Nuts and Bolts of the SJT

The total seating time for the SJT ranges from 90 to 105 minutes. The exam itself, which lasts 75 minutes, is administered via secure software and with a virtual proctor.

Test-takers use their own desktop computers or laptops in a location of their choosing.

There are five testing windows from which applicants may choose, Dates for 2022 have not been announced yet, but the AAMC has announced that the exam will be free of charge next year. In 2021, registration opened in March, a practice test was available on the AAMC website in April and exam dates ranged from June 8 and 9 to Sept. 16 and 17.

The test poses 30 written scenarios followed by hypothetical actions one might take in response to each scenario. Test-takers are asked to rank the quality of the behavioral responses on a scale of 1, or very ineffective, to 4, or very effective.

In total, there are 186 individual items to which applicants must respond. Like many other tests, some scenarios are considered experimental and do not count toward the final score. Since test-takers will not know which scenarios are experimental, it is in their best interest to consider each one with the same care.

[Read: Medical School Rolling Admissions: What to Know]

The SJT is scored on a scale of 1 to 9, and test-takers also receive a percentile rank that indicates the percentage of test-takers who score the same or lower.

The Difference Between the SJT and CASPer

While the SJT was designed by the AAMC and targets the AAMC’s recommended pre-professional competencies closely, CASPer, or the Computer-based Assessment for Sampling Personal Characteristics, was developed by an external party and evaluates related but not “official” competencies. CASPer has been around longer than the SJT and is required by more med schools.

Both tests begin in the summer just as the medical school application cycle kicks off. Unlike the SJT, CASPer requires written responses to hypothetical dilemmas. Applicants are given a predetermined amount of time to respond to the questions before the next scenario begins. At the end of the test, applicants have the opportunity to record answers to three interview-style questions.

Overall, CASPer’s format may feel more like a pre-interview to applicants, while the SJT’s format makes it feel like a typical standardized test. Yet both tests have a similar goal — to help medical schools select ethical, team-oriented, resilient, flexible and sensitive applicants for their next classes.

[READ: Why Resilience Is Key to Medical School Success.]

Preparing for the SJT

Since the SJT is a relatively new test, there are not many third-party preparation resources available yet. However, the AAMC provides ample preparation materials on its website. Test-takers should familiarize themselves with the Examinee Preparation Guide, which offers preparation advice.

There are also sample questions to orient test-takers to the exam’s question styles and format, as well as a full-length practice test with explanations to answers. Test-takers should start preparing for the SJT two weeks to a month prior to sitting for the exam so that concepts are fresh in their minds.

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