How to do Section 2 UMAT questions

How to do Section 2 UMAT questions: Understanding People

Section 2 questions are the most straightforward and easy to do out of the three sections, however it appears there is the most misunderstanding about how to ‘understand people’ in UMAT. Everything in the UMAT exam is about logical reasoning, even in section 2. Your answers should always be based off evidence and there is always a logical and structured way of thinking to arrive at the correct answer. We will dive into how to do section 2 questions, but before that, we will clear some common misconceptions.


What Section 2 is NOT about

We have heard many strategy and approaches on how to do section 2 UMAT questions in UMAT. There are some which are slightly off the mark and some which are completely ridiculous. Here is a list of myths about UMAT section 2 that you should avoid:


·         Myth 1: Read psychology books.
You do not need to be a psychologist or psychotherapist to understand people in UMAT. ACER has designed UMAT for undergraduates and it doesn’t expect people to know psychology. In fact, over analysing some questions will lead to incorrect answers and this section is a lot more simple than it may first appear.


·         Myth 2: Put yourselves in the perspective of the character and choose what you feel is right.
UMAT does not want you to put yourselves in the shoes of a character and answer the question subjectively. It is a logical reasoning test and it wants you to objectively look at all the facts in order to select an answer. If everyone would choose what he or she feel is correct, then everybody would be correct. However there is only one correct answer that follows from the evidence that is given in the text.


·         Myth 3: Get in touch with your emotional side.

People have been told that reading books that heighten your emotions, such as raunchy romance novels, is a great way to develop you skills in understanding people. This is a myth, it is does not target UMAT development and it is a complete waste of time. Reading English books in general may help by improving you English but this does not directly teach you how to do Section 2 questions correctly.

·         Myth 4: You need to speed read.

You do not need to speed read or skim through the text first. Whilst being able to read and comprehend English is a desirable skill to have, it is more important to read and understand a piece of text by only reading through it once. If you have to read through a text more than once, it becomes very time inefficient because there is a lot of text. If you are trying to read the text as fast as possible and find that you have to go back and reread the text, then you need to slow down and spend more time understanding the text the first time you read it.


Here are some of the common myths we have heard. Please feel free to post up some of the things you may have heard in the comments below. We are always interested to hear any strategies people have heard or done and we can give some constructive feedback.


What Section 2: Understanding People is about

Section 2 is just like any other section in UMAT – it is a logical reasoning test. You need to be able to logically arrive at your answer using the evidence that is presented to you. In section 2’s case, all the evidence is presented in a large piece of text that writes about the interactions between characters. This text is typically in the form of a novel, a play, an excerpt or a cartoon. Your task is to play detective and observe the characters in the text.


The types of questions you will be asked in this section are:

1.      WHAT questions

What happened in the text? What are people’s opinions towards certain events? Give summary of what happened.

2.      HOW questions

How are people feeling? What are people’s emotions, feelings and state of mind?

3.      WHY questions

Why are people doing the things they do in the text? Why are people feeling the way they feel? What reasons are motivating the characters?

4.      ADVICE questions

What should the person do next? What should the person have done instead?

5.      Cartoon questions

Given a cartoon, identify the sarcasm and find the deeper meaning in the cartoon. Cartoon questions are typically easier and much quicker to do compared to the other question types.


The key to answering these questions is realising that all the information is given in text with a narrator. There is no need to guess how someone is feeling, all the answers should be clearly given somewhere in the text, usually through the narrator. That is why you are playing the role of a detective rather than a psychologist; you have to find the pieces of evidence in the text to support your answer. In section 2, the text is usually very large, so what are the things that you should take note of that could be really useful evidence in answering the questions?


What evidence do I need to know?

A section 2 question is typically quite long and a lot of the text is not important in answering the question. Ideally, you do not want to read a piece of text more than once because in your first time reading through the piece of text, all the valuable pieces of evidence should be highlighted. So when you answer questions, all the evidence is nicely laid out, which makes it much easier and quicker to do. Please note that a lot of the information is gathered form the narrator of the passage.


Things to highlight:

·         WHAT - Body Language, facial expressions, notable actions (e.g. punching, trembling, slamming).

·         HOW - People’s emotions and state of mind

·         WHY - Reasons for actions or feelings.


You do not need to read between the lines in Section 2. All the evidence that you need to answer questions is explicitly written in the text, you just have to find it. Highlighting these three types of evidence is really all you need to answer the questions.


Understanding people based off the evidence.

As we gather the evidence about people, we can begin to understand the characters. UMAT is a multiple-choice test so the words they use to describe a person will be different from the words you may use. Sifting through answers can sometimes become confusing and time-consuming. A method is needed to quickly eliminate wrong answers and simplify what the answer should be. Typical a UMAT question and answers may look like this:


How is Bob feeling towards Claris?

A.      Happy

B.      Attracted

C.      Ecstatic

D.     Uncomfortable


We will be continuously looking back on this example. If we look at the answers here, they can be split into different categories.


Category 1: Positive or Negative

When you arte highlighting evidence in the text, every piece of evidence can be split into either being positive or negative. For example, if Bob and Claris shook hands. Is that positive or negative? It would be positive if they are meeting each other for the first time and they are trying to be polite. It would be negative if Claris was the boss of Bob and he felt uncomfortable because he knew he was about to be fired from work. 


After identifying whether it’s positive or negative you can immediately cross out certain answers. If Bob was negative towards Claris then the answer is “Uncomfortable” because all the other words are positive. If Bob was positive towards Claris, then the you can immediately eliminate “Uncomfortable” from your answer without much thinking.


There are certain words which are neither positive or negative but rather neutral. An example would be “surprised”. Is it a good surprise or a bad surprise? These words require more context to support whether they are positive or negative so be sure to find more evidence to support your answer. 


Category 2: high intensity and low intensity

If two words are both positive, for example “Happy” and “Ecstatic”, we can tell the difference between the words by looking at its intensity. In this case here, “Happy” has a lower intensity compared to “Ecstatic”. Now when you are looking at your evidence, you need to determine whether someone is at a high intensity or a low intensity.


In the example above with Bob and Claris, how would you tell which intensity someone is at from reading a text? High intensity is usually very obvious as it is depicted by actions such as crying, hitting or some action that is uncontrollable. If Bob was jumping for joy or rolling on the floor laughing, he was probably “Ecstatic”. If there are no signs of high intensity, then he would be classified as low intensity. So the answer now could either be “Happy” or “Attracted”.


Determining your final answer

After eliminating answers using the categories technique, we look at the definition of our remaining answers (sometimes there’s only one answer left, so we don’t even need to do this step).


In our example with Bob, if he was happy and at low intensity, the possible answers are “Happy” and “Attracted”.  There will always be something in the definition of our remaining words that will set them apart, which is very obvious to find within your evidence. In this case here, it is the word “Attracted”. Attraction implies that there is some romantic inclination Bob has towards Claris. So now, in your evidence, you look to find any romantic thoughts or actions from Bob. If you find some, then you answer is “Attracted”. If you don’t find any, then your answer is “Happy”.


These techniques sound simple and it really is. Determine the categories of your characters: Positive or negative, low intensity or high intensity. Eliminate the answers with the wrong categories and then look at the definition of the remaining words to find evidence to support your final answer. This strategy works well with WHAT, HOW and WHY question types, which is the bulk of UMAT section 2 questions. The other question type simple need an extra step to determine the answer.


Advice Question Type

This question type will ask what a person should or will do next, or what should a person have done instead. There is no real trick to this one, the key to answering these questions is look at the WHYs which should already be highlighted if you have been highlighting your evidence.


You answers in this section should always somehow include or address the reason why people are doing things. If someone is feeling sad, and you are asked to give advice, you need to look at the reasons why that person is feeling sad. You can always find that reason why in the text. There will always be one multiple-choice answer that will include or take into account that reason.


Cartoon Question Type

This question type is often much quicker to do compared to the other question types because you don’t have to read much. All you have is a cartoon or drawing with a simple caption. To do cartoon question types, you need to remember the essence of what you are dealing with – a cartoon to make people laugh. Often, this humour is achieved through sarcasm.


When doing cartoon question types, always be aware of the sarcasm and do not take things literally. You must always try and find the deeper meaning that the author of the cartoon is trying to convey. Don’t be too fixated on the characters, but remember that it’s the author that’s trying to convey a message. Cartoon question types are much easier to do compared to the other question types.


There you have it. All the strategies you need to do well in section 2. It is actually a lot more straight-forward than what many people think. After using these techniques, some people even question whether UMAT should be so easy. I hope it helps and if it does, check out our other strategies and articles in the links below.