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We’ve gathered together a bunch of useful tips for the UCAT (formerly known as the UKCAT) with the aim of helping to improve your chances of getting a great score on the UCAT! All of our tips are written by medical students who obtained high scores on the UCAT. If you have any tips of your own please leave them in the comments and we’ll incorporate them into the article. Good luck guys 🙂
Practice, practice, practice!
UCAT stands for the University Clinical Aptitude Test where aptitude means ‘innate or acquired capacity’. This means despite the UKAT being perceived as an ‘IQ test’ it is very much possible to increase your marks by practising – in fact preparation is recommended by the UCAT Consortium!
Start Preparing Early
A ‘Preparation Plan’ can be found on https://www.ucat.ac.uk/ which encourages you to start preparing 4 weeks before your test date and states that the highest scoring candidates did 25-30 hours of preparation for the test on average.
Take your UCAT before school starts
You can take your UCAT anytime between 2nd July and 2nd October. It is best to do your test in the summer holidays to prevent the difficulty of balancing UCAT preparation with A2 work and UCAS applications. It is also cheaper to take the test in July or August due to reduced demand – most people leave it until the last minute!
Familiarise yourself with the format
The UCAT consortium provides a Tour Tutorial which shows you how to effectively navigate a computer-based test and a Question Tutorial which provides detailed information about each of the sections, including what they aim to test in candidates and strategies to perform well on the day.
It is also good to know keyboard shortcuts in the UCAT exam due to the time constraints for example Ctrl + C for calculator and Ctrl + F to flag a question.
Get enough material for your preparation
A good place to start is the UCAT preparation page on https://www.ucat.ac.uk/ which contains free official practice material as well as a preparation plan which organises a schedule for preparing for the test. The official practice material includes a question bank, 3 practice tests and a mobile app.
Most people also purchase a UCAT practice question book. There are lots to choose from so it is best to ask older years for recommendations and look at reviews. Personally, I used Kaplan and found it very good, the ‘Get Into Medical School’ series by Picard and Tighlit is also popular amongst students. It should be noted that some of the questions in the books can be harder than the examination questions.
Practice under timed conditions
The UCAT examination’s time constraints are likely to be very different to what you have experienced before and are one of the factors that make the test challenging for students. Each section is designated a specific amount of time which can not be carried over to other sections. The number of questions and minutes given for each of the sections is written below. They range from 15 seconds per question to nearly 1 minute per question. Hence, it is very important when you are preparing (especially in practice tests) to stick to these time constraints and remember there are no penalties for wrong answers so make educated guesses!
Verbal reasoning – 21 minutes to answer 44 questions
Decision making – 31 minutes to answer 29 questions
For verbal reasoning, always read the question before reading the text, so you can look for keywords. Some find it useful to regularly read broadsheet newspapers in the months before the exam to familiarise themselves with more complex grammar.
It may be obvious, but for quantitative reasoning use the whiteboard and don’t be shy to ask for one if you are not provided with one, as the staff at your test centre may not have facilitated a UCAT examination before.
Most people find abstract reasoning the hardest, so it is important to develop a strategy that is suitable for you (practising will help). These can be as simple as taking a step back and looking for patterns from a distance or more sophisticated methods like memorising the possible patterns they could throw at you (these can be found in practice books).
The day of the exam
Common things to do before an exam also apply to the UCAT! Get a good night’s sleep, eat a good breakfast, stay hydrated and don’t stress out!