The Ultimate Guide to the AAMC SJT in October 2020

Updated: October 21, 2020


The newly introduced AAMC SJT pilot assesses the qualities, values, and behaviors of potential medical students. According to the AAMC, this new test will allow admissions committees to evaluate pre-professional competencies that have an impact on students' long-term performance as medical professionals. In this blog, you will learn what the exam is, how it is structured and scored, what the testing experience is like, and how you can prepare. I will also provide you with sample scenarios, responses, as well as the reasoning behind each rating. 

Here’s What I’ll Cover:

What Is the AAMC SJT?

AAMC SJT Structure and Scoring

Requirements For the AAMC SJT Exam

The Testing Experience

Strategy For Rating Your Responses

Sample Scenarios and Responses

FAQs

What Is the AAMC SJT?

The Association of American Medical Colleges Situational Judgement Test (AAMC SJT) is a newly introduced online exam that assesses your suitability in 8 core competencies important for future physicians. These include:

  • Service orientation
  • Social skills
  • Cultural competence
  • Teamwork
  • Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others
  • Reliability and Dependability
  • Resilience and Adaptability
  • Capacity for Improvement

These competencies were identified by medical educators as important for students to be successful in medical school. In its core, AAMC SJT aims to evaluate your non-cognitive and soft skills. You do not need any health care experience or clinical knowledge to do well. At the moment, the AAMC and two pilot schools – the University of California Davis School of Medicine and the University of Minnesota Medical School Twin Cities campus – are working to evaluate the AAMC SJT exam. If you're applying to these two schools this application cycle, you are strongly encouraged to complete the exam. If the test proves to enhance the admissions process, American medical schools may incorporate this exam as a permanent part of their admissions process. However, the test is still a work in progress. Currently, only students applying to these two schools can write the AAMC SJT exam. If you are not applying to either of these schools and want to test, you must request a special permission to take the exam. You may request permission by completing the Request for Special Permissions to Take the AAMC SJT Exam and emailing it to [email protected] at least four weeks before the registration deadline. Your request will be reviewed and you may be asked to provide additional information.

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There are only 3 exam windows for this year’s application cycle. Testing will be offered on the following dates:

Window 1: Sept. 1, 2, and 3

Window 2: Sept. 8, 9, and 10

Window 3: September 25

The exam will be delivered beginning at 8 a.m. local time and will end no later than 10 p.m. local time. Appointments will be offered every 15 minutes, and each test date has a limited number of available appointments. Preregistration is required. Registration for Window 1 ends on August 7 and registration for Window 2 ends on August 14th. Individual test dates and appointment times will be available on a first-come, first-served basis until they reach capacity. Therefore, you should register as early as possible to have the best opportunity to choose your preferred test date and time slot.

AAMC SJT Structure and Scoring

You will be presented with scenario sets that deal with real-life dilemmas linked to the 8 core competencies I listed above. They are set in health care, educational, or other settings common for medical school students. The good news is that you will not need to write out your answer: after each scenario, you will be given several options that describe actions you could take in response to the dilemma presented in the scenario. You will be asked to rate the effectiveness of each answer using a four-point scale: 1 = very ineffective, 2 = ineffective, 3 = effective, and 4 = very effective. The test is composed of 30 scenarios with 186 answers in total – some scenarios will have 4 responses, while others may have 6 or 8 responses to rate. Since the test is brand new, there is no full-length practice exam available at the moment. A version of the practice test may become available soon, so make sure to check AAMC’s website regularly for a full-length practice test. I include some sample questions later on in this blog. 

When you finish the exam, you will be asked if you would like to void or score your exam. Void exams are not sent to medical schools but will appear on your score report as “VO”. In future application cycles, void exams will count towards the total number of times you can take the test but no other information will be provided on your score report about your performance on the exam if you choose to void it. Remember, this year’s application cycle you will only have one attempt to write the AAMC SJT. If you want the score for this application cycle, be aware that you cannot retake the exam this year.

If you choose to score your test, you will receive a single, total score for the entire exam. The score will range from 1 (lowest) to 9 (highest). You will be evaluated based on how well your responses (1-4 effectiveness rankings you assign to each answer) match the medical educators’ response to the same scenarios. Full credit is awarded if your response matches the medical educators’ response, while a partial credit is awarded if your response is close. There are multiple AAMC SJT test forms, so there will be variations between question sets students get. All test forms are meant to assess the same qualities and behaviors, but each form is different in specific items it presents. While the test administrators try to make sure that test forms are equal in difficulty, inevitably, one form may be slightly more difficult than another. A conversion system called equating is applied to turn raw scores to scaled scores to compensate for small variations in difficulty between test forms. Additionally, a confidence band will be reported along with your converted score. Confidence bands show the accuracy of your final converted score as scores can be affected by many factors. Confidence bands mark the ranges in which your “true score’ likely lies and help signal the inaccuracy of test scores. They are intended to discourage distinctions between examinees with similar scores. You will also be given a percentile rank along with the total score. The percentile shows how your score compares to the scores of other examinees.

When the scores become available, the AAMC will send you an email with instructions on how to access your score report. Your exam cannot be re-scored. All examinations are reviewed and validated by a representative panel of medical school educators and their evaluations are final. When you choose to score your exam, you will select the school(s) to receive your score report. You will not need to personally ensure that your exam score has been received by the schools. The AAMC will send your score report directly to the schools you indicate. If you are still wondering "How many medical schools should I apply to?", make sure to read our blog.

Let our video tell you what you need to know about the AAMC SJT:

Requirements For the AAMC SJT Exam

The AAMC SJT exam is administered through a secure online testing environment. You can choose your own location and use your own computer, as long as your workplace and computer meet the specified technical and settings requirements described below.

Web Camera: minimum 640x480 resolution, recommended 1280x720 resolution

PC users: minimum Windows Vista, recommended Windows 10 (10 S not supported)

Mac Users: minimum OS X 10.5 or higher, recommended OS X 10.13 High Sierra

Internet download speed: minimum .768 Mbps, recommended 1.5 Mbps

Internet upload speed: minimum .384 Mbps, recommended 1 Mbps

RAM: minimum 1024 MB, recommended 2 GB

Ports: 1935, 843, 80, 443, 61613, UDP/TCP 

Additional Technical Requirements:

  • Test your equipment.
  • A functioning microphone (some web cameras have a built-in microphone).
  • A compatible browser: Google Chrome (preferred) or Mozilla Firefox. Ensure that your browser is up-to-date, and you have the ProctorU extension installed.
  • Download ProctorU Extension: Chrome or Firefox.

Do not use the following to take the test:

  • Google Chromebooks.
  • Tablets (Nexus, iPad, Tab, Note, etc.).
  • Cell phones.
  • Linux operating systems.
  • Windows 10 in S mode or Surface RT.
  • Running inside a virtual machine — you will be asked to reconnect using your host operating system to take your exam.

Setting Requirements

Unless you have been pre-approved for special accommodations, the AAMC requires you to remain in your seat for the duration of the exam. Taking a break, standing up, or in any way leaving your seat will result in possible AAMC action. You must also remain silent during the entire exam. Do not read the questions out loud or speak to yourself. Leaving your seat or speaking during the exam may result in an investigation. When you take the test, make sure you’re in a private, well-lit room. You should clear your workspace and have your photo ID ready. Close all other programs on your computer and remove any additional monitors from the room as dual monitors are not allowed during the exam. Please remove all non-religious head coverings.

The Testing Experience

Registration begins on July 1st. To register for the AAMC SJT, you will need an AAMC ID and an associated username and password. If you already have an AAMC ID, you must use the same username and password when registering for this exam. If you have purchased any AAMC products, including the MCAT, MCAT Official Prep Products, the Medical School Admissions Requirements (MSAR), the AAMC Fee Assistance Program, and the AMCAS application, you already have the necessary registration information. If you do not have an existing AAMC ID, you will need to create an account and establish a username and password before using the exam scheduling system. If you cannot remember your username and/or password do not create a new AAMC ID. The login page will allow you to reset your password or request your username if you cannot remember your login information. If you encounter any difficulties logging in, please contact the AAMC. You may not create multiple AAMC IDs under any circumstances.

You will need to provide a valid identification to take the exam. Make sure that the name on your ID and the first and last names you entered in your AAMC ID match. The most common IDs that are accepted are state driver's license and passport. Even if an ID is valid for flight travel or to vote, it may not meet all the requirements to take the AAMC SJT exam. To ensure your ID meets the exam-day requirements, please review this list:

1. The ID was issued by a government agency.

2. The ID expiration date is printed on the ID — not extended by a sticker or a similar mechanism. Exceptions include:

  • Military personnel and dependents stationed outside their home state may present a state-issued driver’s license with extension stickers or paperwork that meets all other AAMC-accepted ID conditions along with their expired Uniformed Services ID card.
  • If your ID has the word “temporary” printed on it due to your current status within the country, you must contact [email protected] for instructions before the registration deadline for your exam window. Your temporary ID will be accepted on exam day only if the AAMC preapproves the exception.

3. The ID expiration date is after your test date. If your ID will expire before your scheduled test day, you are responsible for obtaining a renewed ID before your exam.

4. The ID includes your visible signature, which you will be asked to duplicate on test day.

5. The ID contains a photo that can be used to positively identify you.

6. The ID is tangible and whole, with no evidence of tampering (clipped corners, holes, etc.).

7. The ID is in English.

Before you take the exam, you will need to download ProcotorU browser extension using your username and password. There will be a real-life proctor present during your examination. A proctor will log into the scheduled exam session with you and will communicate with you and monitor your exam through your computer’s video camera and microphone. The proctor will check you in and then disappear from your view so as not to distract you from taking the exam. You will continue to be in the proctor’s view, and you will be able to contact the proctor at any time if you need assistance with the system. Additionally, if at any time during your exam the proctor has reason to believe you are breaking the exam rules, he or she may interrupt to ask for clarification of your activity, and if necessary, terminate your exam.

Before the proctor can allow you access to the exam, you must provide access to your computer’s camera and microphone, share your screen through LogMeIn file, and share your photo ID on camera. The proctor will use your ID in conjunction with biometric facial-recognition software to authenticate your identity. ProctorU has an online resource center to assist you with the test system and workplace requirements. If you run into any problems connecting with a proctor or other issues that prevent you from taking the exam, you can access live support by logging into your account, clicking "Chat Now" and filling out the form provided. You will be connected with a support specialist immediately.

The following steps outline the examination process:

Before you begin your test

1. Install the ProctorU extension if you have not done so already.

2. Test your equipment one last time.

3. Optional: View the tutorial one last time before beginning your exam.

15 minutes before your appointment time

4. Check your appointment confirmation for instructions on how to log in to your appointment. Once logged in, select “Write Exam”, which will begin your exam session. On test day, you are required to log in and begin your appointment 15 minutes before your exam time. The proctor will be there to guide you through system requirements, identification authentication, exam rules, and the process of securing your testing environment. If you have trouble connecting to your session, use the Chat Now feature I mentioned above.

During the Exam

5. Once Step 4 is completed, the proctor will grant you access to the exam.

6. You will need to agree to the AAMC Examinee Agreement and Yardstick Assessment Strategies terms and conditions.

7. You will have 75 minutes to complete the exam.

8. Choose whether you want your exam voided or scored. If you choose to have your exam scored you will select the schools that will receive your score report. You may not revoke this decision later. If you choose to void your exam, the AAMC will receive your exam data, but neither you nor any schools will receive this information.

9. You will be asked to complete a post-exam survey and check out. Your proctor will confirm the successful submission of your exam, direct you to the post-exam survey, and help you to complete the check-out process. The AAMC will send you an exam submission confirmation email with information on how to access your exam score report when it's available.

Do you want to learn more about situational judgement tests? Watch our video:

Strategy For Rating Your Responses

As I mention above, the AAMC SJT exam claims to measure your non-cognitive professional skills and abilities that are important for your success as a medical school student and future medical professional. You do not need any prior clinical experience to do well. The test is comprised of 30 scenarios with 4 to 8 responses in each. The scenarios are not related to each other, so do not consider any information from earlier scenarios when you rate a new one. In each scenario you will assume the role of a medical student. You will be presented with situations and a range of options for how one could respond to the situation at hand. You will rate each response with one of the following: 1 (least effective), 2 (ineffective), 3 (effective), and 4 (very effective). Before you rate the responses, make sure you read the scenario and each response very carefully. Remember that each scenario can have more than one possible effective or ineffective response, but you must use your judgment to evaluate which of the responses are more or less effective. Make sure you do not rank the responses, i.e. you can give a score of 3 to several responses and not give a score of 4 to any of the responses. Likewise, you can decide to give a score of 1 to several responses because you think that the responses are completely inappropriate for the situation you're facing. Each scenario may include several effective and ineffective responses and you can assign the same rating to as many responses as you see fit.

As with all situation judgment tests, it is not easy to prepare for the AAMC SJT. Its novelty also adds to its difficulty, since at this point no student has actually taken the test and shared the experience with others. However, every such examination can be aced with the right approach. We at BeMo have coached thousands of students to excel at scenario-based tests and I am here to give you some tips about how you can approach the AAMC SJT scenarios.

The number one step in responding to any scenario question is identifying your own role in the situation you're presented with. The AAMC SJT already does this for you – in every situation you are to assume the role of a medical student. Your next and most crucial step in analyzing a scenario is identifying its most pressing issue. If the scenario allows, try identifying the most vulnerable party in the situation. As a future physician, you must always prioritize the well-being of those under your care, so make sure you identify those who are most affected in the scenario at hand. You must also consider all the involved parties. Remember to always remain non-judgmental to everyone in the scenario and do not dismiss any of the responses rashly. Read each response and examine whether the response takes care of the vulnerable party, whether it stays non-judgmental towards involved parties, and whether it is within the ethical and legal boundaries of your situation. You might personally think that someone's behavior in the scenario is outright terrible and infuriating, but when you rate a response try to keep your judgment at bay and stay professionally cool. It is a tough balancing act, but the test is meant to evaluate how you would respond in a variety of professional and educational situations, including those that may personally offend or disturb you. Giving a high rating to a response that includes a dismissive attitude, indifference, rash judgement, violence or outright conflict will not result in a good score.

Sample Scenarios and Responses

The following sample scenarios give you an idea of what to expect from the test. Make sure you read each prompt and response carefully before you rate. I have rated each response according to the strategy I outlined for you above:

Sample 1

During class, your professor observes you participating in a role-play exercise with one of your classmates. You are acting as a doctor, and your classmate is acting as an angry patient. The roleplay is tense but stays on course. You think you performed well, but, after class, your classmate gives you unexpected negative feedback that you missed several opportunities to comfort the patient and calm the situation. You are now expected to attend a debriefing session with your professor and classmate. Please rate the effectiveness of each response to this situation.

1 = Very Ineffective 2 = Ineffective 3 = Effective 4 = Very Effective

1. Tell your classmate that only the professor is qualified to provide feedback. 2

2. Tell the professor you understand that you missed some opportunities during the exercise. 2

3. Ask your classmate about how you could improve your performance for the future. 4

4. Explain to your professor why you were satisfied with your performance. 2

5. Ask your classmate if they would be willing to practice role playing in advance of your next exercise. 4

6. Ask your classmate not to bring up the negative feedback during your debriefing session. 1

Why this rating? Let’s identify the most pressing issue in this scenario. Your classmate gave negative feedback about your performance, so what do you do? Is it their problem or yours? Should you just ignore the feedback and defend your performance, i.e. responses #1, #4, and #6? No, this would be a rash and judgemental response. Remember, you must consider all parties involved in the scenario, including your unsatisfied classmate. Though you do not have to admit that you failed your performance, you should do something proactive to avoid negative feedback in the future and show initiative for improvement. This is why responses #3 and #5 seem like very effective reactions.

Sample 2

You are leading a study group with some classmates when two classmates begin arguing about one of the course topics. The argument is tense but stays on-topic until one student insults the other's religion, and the other responds by insulting the first student’s intelligence. Please rate the effectiveness of each response to this situation.

1 = Very Ineffective 2 = Ineffective 3 = Effective 4 = Very Effective

1. Begin a discussion about the importance of tolerance for different religious beliefs. 2

2. Ask another classmate to diffuse the argument. 1

3. Let the two classmates handle the situation themselves, as you were not directly involved in the argument. 1

4. Tell the two classmates that personal attacks are not acceptable, and they need to stop insulting each other. 3

5. Re-focus the discussion on course content. 2

6. Ask the two classmates to resolve their issue privately. 3

7. Tell the study group to take a short break and speak to the two classmates privately. 4

Why this rating? Let’s identify the pressing issue. Who is most affected in this scenario? Is it the majority of the class whose study has been interrupted? Is it you whose authority has been undermined? No, it is the two conflicting students who managed to hurt one another’s feelings by throwing personal insults at each other. As a future physician, you need to demonstrate leadership and objectivity. You need to address their conflict, but not embarrass them any further. This is why response #7 gets the highest rating. Choosing to help your classmates in private is a sign that you care about their confidentiality and their personal feelings – it shows compassion. Though response #1 may seem like a good choice, don’t forget that the other student’s intelligence was also insulted in front of the whole class. Responses #2, #3, #5, and #6 demonstrate indifference or fear to take on responsibility for those around you. Response #4 is an assertive reply, but it lacks action and compassion towards the vulnerable party.

Sample 3

You are a student during a clerkship on duty at the local ER. A 'scruffy' looking middle aged man, dressed in sweatpants and an old sweater walks in complaining of severe back pain. While taking the history, the man kept insisting that the only thing that helps his pain is a very strong painkiller. A nurse quietly tells you that this gentleman frequently visits the hospital and gets prescribed painkillers. Please rate the effectiveness of each response to this situation.

1 = Very Ineffective 2 = Ineffective 3 = Effective 4 = Very Effective

1. You politely explain to the patient that you cannot help and tell him to leave. 1

2. Ask the patient about his medical history and whether he has considered other options for pain management. If not, suggest physiotherapy or surgery as a long-term solution. 4

3. Vehemently deny the patient any painkillers because, clearly, he is a drug addict. 1

4. Tell the nurse to look after the patient while you attend to other, easier cases. 1

5. Try to gather as much information about the patient as possible. Clarify if the patient has another physician who looks after him. If he does, contact the physician and ask for patient’s history with the prescription. 3

Why this rating? The lowest rating of effectiveness is given to responses that are rash, judgemental, and outright cruel. Remember, you must stay non-assumptive and non-judgemental towards the patient, who is the most vulnerable party in this scenario. Trying to gather information about the patient’s history and giving him alternative remedies is a great response to the situation. Not only are you actively trying to help, but you’re also showing that you truly care about his well-being by providing long-term solutions.

Sample 4

You have been offered a competitive, two-week volunteer opportunity at a well-regarded local clinic. When you receive your course schedule, you realize that your shift at the clinic conflicts with your weekly required chemistry lab. This is the only time that the lab is offered this semester, so you are not able to make up the lab. Participation counts toward your grade. Please rate the effectiveness of each response to this situation.

1 = Very Ineffective 2 = Ineffective 3 = Effective 4 = Very Effective

1. Skip your lab for two weeks to attend the volunteer opportunity. 1

2. Ask the clinic whether you can reschedule when you volunteer so that it does not conflict with your lab. 2

3. Decline the volunteer opportunity this semester so that another medical student can take advantage of it. 3

4. Tell your professor in advance that you will miss two of your scheduled lab sessions. 2

5. Ask the clinic if you can share the volunteer opportunity with another student so that you only miss one lab session. 2

Why this rating? Notice that I do not give any response a 4 – this is normal. I do not think any of these options are viable. Response #1 is absolutely irresponsible and only signals that you are capable of neglecting your academic responsibilities. Responses #2, #4, and #5 show that you attempt to accommodate and forewarn the parties involved in this situation, but they are fairly weak responses. Response #3 shows that you are able to clearly see the situation and consider others in your decision-making. 

FAQs

1. Why was AAMC SJT developed?

The AAMC developed this SJT exam with the support of medical schools to help the schools more easily identify the applicants who demonstrate the core pre-professional competencies for entering medical students: Service Orientation, Social Skills, Cultural Competence, Teamwork, Ethical Responsibility to Self and Others, Reliability and Dependability, Resilience and Adaptability, and Capacity for Improvement. You might also notice that this test is very similar to CASPer and medical schools need to pay for CASPer in order to use it in the admissions. The AAMC SJT will provide similar services to American schools for free, since it’s their own creation.

2. What is the purpose of the AAMC SJT exam?

This exam is meant to help the admissions committees more easily identify applicants who demonstrate AAMC’s core professional competencies for entering medical students. In addition to demonstrating that you possess some of the competencies in the AMCAS Works and Activities section, AAMC SJT requires you to demonstrate what kind of moral and ethical lessons you learned throughout your personal life, academics, and your exracurriculars for medical school

3. How much does the exam cost?

The AAMC SJT exam is free in this application cycle.

4. What is the exam format?

The AAMC SJT exam is a 75-minute test with just one section. The total time, including the check-in and check-out procedures, is approximately 90 minutes. The exam is delivered online so you can use your own computer in a location of your choice. Please make sure your device meets the technical and security requirements. Your access to the internet, applications and software, and files on your computer will be disabled while you are taking the AAMC SJT exam, so that the exam can be delivered with a high level of security.

5. How do I download the ProctorU extension for my browser?

A ProctorU browser extension is required for your remote proctor to monitor your exam. This is easily downloadable via Chrome or Firefox. Ensure that your browser is up to date so that the extension can be supported properly.

6. How do I schedule and access the exam?

You will use your AAMC username and password to log into the exam delivery platform (Yardstick Assessment Strategies) which you will also use to schedule an exam appointment. Once you log into the platform you will have unlimited opportunities to familiarize yourself with the functionalities and features of the platform before you take the exam. A tutorial on how to take the exam will be available on the platform starting July 1st.

7. Can any prospective medical student take the exam?

Currently, the exam is open only to students applying to the University of California Davis School of Medicine and the University of Minnesota Medical School Twin Cities campus. If you are not applying to these schools but want to take the AAMC SJT exam, you may request special permission by completing the Request for Special Permissions to Take the AAMC SJT Exam and emailing it to [email protected] at least four weeks before the registration deadline.

8. Can I reschedule my exam appointment?

You may reschedule your exam appointment before the registration deadline associated with your current exam date. You must cancel your existing appointment before you may schedule a new one.

9. Will I get to see my score?

If you choose to score your exam, rather than void it, you will be able to access your score. When it is released, the AAMC will send you an email with instructions on how you can access your report.

10. How will the schools I apply to get my score?

The AAMC will send your score report directly to schools you identified in your exam.

11. Will AAMC SJT become a permanent part of the medical school submission application procedure?

Future test dates are not yet determined, so it is unclear.

Do you want us to help you get into medical school?

To your success,

Your friends at BeMo

BeMo Academic Consulting

Source:

AAMC Situation Judgment Test Sample