10 mistakes students make on the UKCAT

James ChoiGeneral Advice, Homepage4 Comments

This is a compilation of the 10 most popular UKCAT mistakes – PLEASE don’t make them!

1. Fixating on one question

You’re intelligent. You want to beat the UKCAT. You think you can answer any question the test throws at you. This is probably the case. HOWEVER, the UKCAT isn’t just testing how many questions you get right. It’s testing how many questions you can get right within the timeframe. The time pressure is great and keeping to stringent timings is an invaluable technique and those who do this get the highest score!

2. Making silly mistakes

It’s all too easy to make a silly mistake. Classic silly mistakes stem from misreading or over-complicating a question. Making sure you understand what the question is asking; if that means taking 2 seconds to reread the question so be it. This is especially important in QR, where most questions require simple mathematics and most mistakes are due to panicked test-takers not fully comprehending what are often easy questions.

3. Verbal Reasoning – Reading the passage

NEVER read the passage in VR. It is a complete waste of precious time and you will ALWAYS perform better across the entire section if you don’t try and read the passages. The first step in VR should always be reading the question and picking out what to search for in the passage. Then you should skim quickly through the passage glancing, NOT READING, the words trying to pick out the relevant pieces of information. Our course will show you the techniques required to answer all aspects of VR.

4. Quantitative Reasoning – Trying to understand the data

This is often a pointless endeavour; just like in VR, your first step should be to read the question (NOT THE DATA) and then pick out the key pieces of information. This is all you need to answer that question and there is no need to start looking at irrelevant pieces of information that the data often contains. In the past, I’ve seen students doing unnecessary calculations (eg averages of a dataset) before they’ve even looked at the first question in the set. This is a complete waste of time, and in the UKCAT – Time is Marks.

5. Abstract Reasoning – Looking for overly complicated patterns

Surprisingly, most AR questions are quite straightforward (despite what you might think from doing the 600 UKCAT Questions book). They often contain just one simple rule and once this has been found the Set A/Set B questions can be answered. Although some books suggest all the questions that are presented require you to find long and convoluted rules, in reality this isn’t the case. Once you’ve found a rule for Set A and a rule for Set B which fits every box in the set, run with it and apply it to your test shapes. Don’t waste time looking for complicated things!

6. Decision Analysis – Not looking at the examples

This is a common mistake made by several students. However, the examples offer invaluable support for many of the ambiguous codes. You have over a minute per question in DA and thus it is well worth spending 1 minute looking over the examples and the codes so you know how to apply the rules. An example of this is the code ‘increase’ which can mean plural, make bigger, increase number etc depending on the context. The examples will illustrate how such codes should be used in the set.

7. Trying to attempt every question on the first run through the exam

There are certain questions which you can tell will take a long time to complete; as we will demonstrate on the course. When you get used to identifying these, you learn that you should guess an answer for these, flag them for review and then come back to them in your remaining time. This is how you maximise your score and that is the aim of the exam. The exam isn’t just testing how many questions you can get right, but how many you can get right in the allotted time. Thus, attempting a question which you know will take you over the suggested time; will be detrimental to your score. So, get used to question spotting!

8. Missing the word NOT in a question

This is a mistake over 70% of students make when practicing and doing the UKCAT exam. ‘Not’ appears in QR and VR and missing it when reading a question will result in completely the wrong answer. Thus, please make sure you read the question carefully. Every mark counts!

9. Lack of familiarity with the UKCAT computer platform

Many students are unfamiliar with the UKCAT platform. Please complete the official practice tests that are provided through the UKCAT website (www.ukcat.ac.uk). This is the best way to get used to the platform you will be using on test day. Make sure you’re comfortable with the online calculator, flagging questions for review, the reviewing screen, the position of the timer etc. Familiarity is reassuring on the day of your UKCAT test, so the more familiar you are the less likely you are to panic!

10. Panicking

It’s easy to panic. TRY NOT TO DO IT. Sit down. Familiarise yourself with your surroundings. Take a deep breath. Begin. All that panicking does is waste time and make you doubt yourself. Neither of these things are useful to your UKCAT score. Just remember that you’re good enough to get into Medical School, you have prior achievement which supports this and the UKCAT is just another exam that you can and will conquer.

About the Author

James Choi

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I'm a fourth-year medical student at University College London, and co-founder of 6med. I currently head up everything UKCAT-related and have been doing this for over 4 years. Let me know if you have any questions!

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4 Comments on “10 mistakes students make on the UKCAT”

  1. Natalie


    I wonder how you would study for the UKCAT if you have about a month left with no additional books to study. Due to time constrains, I’m not able to buy the study books so all I’m doing right now is to do practice questions online. Do you think this will be sufficient? If not, how would you make it more sufficient?

    Thanks! Much appreciated!

  2. Gwen

    Most people who did really well at the UkCat say online practice is the best
    No need for books really

    Haha I take mine in three weeks
    But I’m not seeing an improvement in
    my scores at all…I never cross to a seventy except maybe once in a while in decision analysis
    Any advice? Do you really get better with practice? Cos I’m not..and it’s making me so frustrated and sad.medicine is my entire life…UkCat is just a nightmare right now.


  3. Jasmine

    Hi, I’m doing my AS levels right now and I was hoping to sit my UK Cat in summer 2016. I want to do dentistry at uni and was confused on how to apply for the Uk Cat and if there are different ones for medicine and dentistry?

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