Our first UCAT Preparation Blog post contains what we feel are the 10 top tips you need to know if you’re taking the exam. We’ll be adding more section-specific articles over time, but we thought we’d start with the very basics. So without further ado, here are our “10 Top UCAT Tips”. Enjoy!
Buy the 600 UCAT Practice Questions book.
It’s the most useful resource available on the shelf so far, and it’s especially invaluable when preparing for verbal and abstract reasoning. However, it is very hard in places, especially Quantitative reasoning. When you’re starting out then, do not be put off if you don’t do well. There’s a reason it’s the best-selling book out there, so stick with it. It’ll pay handsome dividends in the end.
You can purchase the book at Amazon and other major retailers.
Take your exam before school starts.
You can take the UCAT any time from 1st July to 4th October, but since everyone else is likely to be in a last-minute nervous rush (and possible meltdown), the later slots will likely all be taken up. Our advice is to do it in the Summer Holidays. If you think your AS results might not be suitable for Medical School, wait till after Results Day (so you don’t waste your money on the test should that unfortunate scenario arise). If you’re semi-confident that you’ll be able to apply, then we’d recommend taking the test in mid-August. This way, you can still enjoy your summer, as well as stopping your UCAT preparation from clashing with your schoolwork. See? Best of both worlds.
Allocate time to study.
In our experience, 2 hours a day of preparation, starting three weeks or so before the exam should be enough. Split the two hours between two sections – and alternate sections every day. Another useful sub-tip would be to have breaks between your study sessions. The biggest enemy of anyone preparing for anything is burnout: if anything killing yourself with 2 hours solid work will likely make you lose focus and tire you out. Your ability to apply the skills you’ve learned will be greatly improved on the day if you practise in short focused bursts.
Stick to your study routine.
With regular practice, your skills will only improve. Think of it like training a muscle or practising the instrument. There’s no use being aimless in both when and what you study. Like the previous point, stay focused. Keep a daily log of your weaknesses and prioritise the questions you find hard during your practice
Learn to manage your time.
Most of you probably know them by now, but just in case, the section question and time breakdowns are as follows:
Section Items to Answer Question Set Up Time for each section Verbal Reasoning 44 11 Vignettes: 4 items per vignette 21 minutes Quantitative Reasoning 36 9 Vignettes: 4 items per vignette 22 minutes Abstract Reasoning 65 13 Vignettes: 5 items per vignette 13 minutes Decision Analysis 28 1 Code Set: 28 questions 31 minutes
As you can see, you have to answer more than a question a minute in three of the four sections, so when you practice, keep an alarm at the ready to stop you running over. This should teach you two things: first of all, prioritise – if you can’t do a question, move onto the next – and second, don’t panic. While time might seem against you, with a clear head you can finish all the sections with time enough to look back over what you’ve done. On the day, you can flag any questions you find difficult, so you can return to them after finishing the rest.
Speed up your mental maths.
You can do this by looking over GCSE material. Look in particular at fractions, percentages and conversion calculations. These are the most important kinds of data that you’ll be dealing with in Medical School – calculating patient drug dosages is a prime example of how such knowledge is applied – so that explains why the exam assesses it. Seriously, do it. You’ll thank yourself when you get your Quantitative Reasoning score.
Read broadsheet newspapers.
The rest are too mind-numbing for intelligent people like you. The Independent, Guardian and Telegraph are your best bets here, but topical magazines like The Spectator and New Scientist are also worthwhile. Naturally, if you’re too attached to your bed or chair, visiting the websites achieves the same end. The aim of reading such material is this: to condense the content you find in articles into single sentence take-home messages. This is a great skill for the Verbal Reasoning section, and generally too. After all, you will be reading scientific papers all the time once you get to Medical School, and the knowledge you gain will definitely help you in your interviews.
Do as many questions as you can.
The UCAT Ultimate Guide book will only last you so long, so make the effort to go out and get some more practice questions. However to help give you the best chances make sure to check out our free UCAT Ninja testing platform that provides you more than 1300 practice questions and 2 full mock exams to maximise your score. Oh, and did I mention it’s free to get started.
On exam day, don’t stress out!
This is quite obvious, but you’d be surprised – make sure to get to bed early the night before so you aren’t tired out by the time you reach the test centre. A hearty breakfast and lots of water should keep your brain energised. If you’ve taken the time to practice, there’s no reason why you can’t be confident of getting a high mark. Go in there with your head held high.
Don’t worry if you don’t do as well as you’d have liked.
Nobody wants to be in this position, but in life, you can’t always have it all your own way, unfortunately. What you can do is not let it get you down, so keep practising. We know many people who were accepted into medical school the second time around, with higher UCAT scores to boot.
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