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12th August 2021
Kirsty Dickson has just finished her first year of Medicine at the University of St Andrews and shares her tips on how to manage stress while preparing for UCAT.

It’s true that a competitive UCAT score will help considerably in an application to Medical School, however the lead-up to the exam can be an immensely stressful time and it is equally as important to look after yourself.

Furthermore, remaining calm and implementing some of these tips may help to reduce stress or anxiety, and lead to better performance on the day.

Here are my top tips for managing stress while preparing for UCAT.

Schedule Your UCAT Prep Into Your Routine

It’s important to plan out your UCAT preparation over the number of weeks that you want to work for. By allocating a certain amount of time in the morning or afternoon each day, you can easily see how long you plan to prepare for at a time.

This allows you to be accountable for your revision and promotes sustained bursts of revision rather than panicked cramming days beforehand. It additionally allows you to take days off to rest and plan other nice activities even on days where you are preparing for the UCAT. Planning increases your control and hence reduces feelings of panic.

Practice Makes Perfect

Do not be disheartened, especially during the initial stages of preparation for the UCAT, if you are not able to answer practice UCAT questions within the allocated time or your score for a given section is less than you are happy with.

The UCAT is a very specific type of exam, and it’s unlikely that you have ever sat anything similar. We all must start somewhere and the more you practise and become familiar with the types of questions and the timings, your score will begin to improve.

It’s also important to remember that the UCAT takes four different sections into account, and naturally we all have our strengths and weaknesses. The UCAT is inherently an aptitude test, but feel assured, practice will increase your score.

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Don’t Be Overly Critical Of Yourself

The summer before submitting your application to Medical School can be an incredibly stressful time and comparing yourself to others can increase this pressure.

Remember that you are doing what you can to prepare, and everyone will use their own methods.

Whilst it night be productive to talk about study methods, try not to discuss scores and hours spent revising with others who are also preparing for the UCAT. The time you spend comparing yourself to others and perhaps feeling disheartened or panicked, could be spent preparing!

Each university uses the UCAT score in a very different manner when selecting for interview and with many Medical Schools to choose from, do not waste energy comparing or criticising yourself.

Know When To Call It A Day

I’m sure that you’re constantly reminded of how important the UCAT is. However, nothing is more important than your wellbeing and maintaining good mental health.

The UCAT is very mentally taxing and hence it is important to take regular breaks and be able to shut your laptop or book when it is time to stop. The temptation can be to spend a couple of extra hours preparing, but actually the most productive thing to do is take a step back and rest your mind. This will allow you to approach your preparation the next day feeling refreshed and energised.

Knowing when to call it a day will reduce the chance of burnout and is likely to enhance your performance on the day. Make sure to also implement daily activity and a good sleeping pattern on those busy revision days!

Don’t Forget The Other Aspects Of Your Application

Summer seems a great opportunity to dedicate all your time to smashing the UCAT. However, it’s important to remember that the UCAT is not the complete be-all and end-all in your application to Medical School.

The summer also presents an opportunity to draft your Personal Statement, get some work experience and prep for the BMAT if this is relevant to you, and remember – you already have your GCSE grades. Whilst the UCAT is important, please do not put yourself under unbearable pressure to secure maximum marks and spend every waking hour preparing. Remember to showcase your other strengths in your application.

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