Published on 9th May 2019 by lauram

5 First Steps UCAT Prep

If you are currently in Year 12 and considering applying to medical school, the likelihood is you will need to take the UCAT.

Preparing to sit the exam can be quite overwhelming as it can be hard to know where to start – so here’s our five-step guide to starting your prep.

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1. Book your test date

Registration for the 2019 UCAT is open now, and the window to take the test is between 1st July to 2nd October 2019. I would recommend booking your test date now if possible.

Test centres can fill up quite early, and ideally you want to be able to take the test at your nearest centre. Choose a test date which allows you to have at least one week free directly before it – and six weeks of prep time before. I would advise against choosing a test date in the few days after returning from your summer holiday, for example.

When registering, consider whether you are eligible for a UCAT bursary or special educational needs adjustments. Details about both of these are available on the official UCAT website.

Read When Should I Book My UCAT?>>

2. Start early

The questioning style of the UCAT is quite different to GCSE and A-Level exam questions. Some candidates can UCAT questions difficult to adjust to, so it’s a good idea to start your preparation early.

You don’t need to spend hours on it for months, but starting with 15 minutes of daily practice, about one month before your test date, is ideal. Starting your revision early also means you will have covered more practice questions by the time you take the exam.

Read 5 Most Common UCAT Queries Answered>>

3. Familiarise yourself with the exam format

As I mentioned above, the UCAT questions are a different style to those in school exams. The UCAT exam format is also different – the exam is taken on a computer!

Familiarising yourself with the exam format and timing is a great place to start your preparation. The Medic Portal has a fantastic free guide to the UCAT which explains the different sections, timing of each section, as well as an explanation on how different medical schools use the UCAT.

Another useful resource is the official UCAT website, which has a great page on the “Test Experience”. This explains the type of calculator available during the exam, and the keyboard shortcuts you can use.

Try some practice UCAT questions for free>>

4. Take a look at UCAT resource options

There are many UCAT study resources and, however you prefer to learn, there will be an option which suits you best. The UCAT website offers three official practice tests. However, I would advise you ‘save’ these until you have done some independent practice.

These practice tests are very useful to replicate the exam experience, and it can be a waste to use them too early in your preparation. Instead, why not consider the range of resources available through The Medic Portal? These include a UCAT question bank, UCAT book, online UCAT course and an in-person UCAT course.  

Find out more about our in-person UCAT Course>>

5. Time yourself while you practice

My final piece of advice is to try and complete your practice questions in timed conditions. This helps to replicate the exam environment and makes it less likely that you will run out of time in the real exam.

So regardless of the resources you use to prepare for the UCAT, ensure you are completing the questions at the speed you will need to in the exam.

Timed practice also allows you to build your confidence with using the ‘flagging’ tool. This is where, if you are unsure of an answer, you guess an answer, flag the question, and move on to the next question.

The use of this tool can feel uncomfortable at first but using it appropriately will boost your UCAT score and ensure you focus your time on questions you are able to answer.

Good luck with your UCAT preparation!

Words: Kirsty Morrison


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