You’ve made up your mind that you want to pursue undergraduate study in medicine or a health-related program. You’ve also decided that Australia is the place where you want to fulfil your dreams. So what’s the next step? What lies between your wish and your entry into the school of your choice? The answer is just one exam: ISAT. And so, here is a peek into what the ISAT is all about.
Taking the International Student Admissions Test (ISAT) is a mandatory requirement for all international applicants applying to medicine and related programs at many Australian universities. Developed by the Australian Council for Education Research (ACER), ISAT is a computer based multiple-choice test that aims to assess the candidate’s ability to understand and analyze written passages, mathematical relations and tabular/graphical data. There are 100 questions from a variety of sources, ranging from mathematics to humanities, which need to be answered within a time limit of 3 hours. For a group of questions (at most five), referred to as “unit”, a stimulus is given that contains all the required information needed to answer the given questions; prior knowledge of the topic is therefore not necessary. Furthermore, ACER categorizes the questions into two types:
Critical Reasoning (CR)—involves comprehending and analyzing information; understanding, applying and extending ideas; drawing appropriate conclusions; and evaluating arguments. These questions use material from the humanities and social sciences.
Quantitative Reasoning (QR)—involves analysis and application of information; drawing conclusions and making decisions; and solving problems. These questions use material from the mathematics and sciences.
As such, remember that while you might be acing Science and Math at school, aptitude tests such as ISAT do not test your subject knowledge. To prepare for this test, you need to hone your critical reasoning skills. Critical thinking can be developed with practice; apart from assimilating information that you come across, you should try to analyze facts, understand arguments/assumptions, and connect apparently uncorrelated events. By solving logical puzzles and reading articles critically, you can keep your brain more active, which is certainly essential for the 3 hours non-stop ISAT marathon.
Now, needless to say, you are likely to feel the time pressure, but the redeeming feature is that there is no negative marking for an incorrect answer. Hence, if you are stuck at a question, avoid spending too much time on it; move on by taking a guess. In addition, bear in mind that ISAT scores candidates for Critical Reasoning (CR), Quantitative Reasoning (QR) and Overall score on a scale which ranges from 100–200 where the Overall score is an average of the CR and QR scaled scores. In addition to scaled scores, percentile scores are also given that indicate the percentage of candidates whose scores are lower than yours. You can expect to receive your result within one week of the test. Candidates can take the test in 9-day cycles that occur once per quarter of the year, and the scores are valid for a period of two years.
Good luck and happy preparing!