3rd August 2023
Kirsty, a Med student at the University of St Andrews, has some top tips to help you manage stress and avoid burnout while you’re preparing for the UCAT.

The lead-up to the UCAT test can be a stressful time. After all, getting a good UCAT score will really help your Medicine application and open up the options when you’re choosing a Med School.

However, you need to understand that the quality of your UCAT prep is more important than the quantity. It’s vital to look after yourself and stay in a positive mindset.

Here are my top tips for managing stress while preparing for the UCAT – which will hopefully lead to better performance on test day!

Schedule Your UCAT Prep Into Your Routine

It’s important to make a UCAT timetable that works for you and fits into your routine.

Plan out your prep over the number of weeks that you want to study for. Usually around 6-8 weeks before your test is a good amount of time. By allocating certain blocks of time in the morning, afternoon or evening each day, your prep will become a lot more organised and manageable.

Sustained bursts of revision over several weeks are more effective than panicked cramming in the days before your test. It should also allow you to take time off for rest and other fun activities. If you plan your prep well, there’s no reason why the UCAT should consume your entire summer! Planning will make you feel more in control and less worried.

Practice Makes Perfect

Don’t be disheartened, especially during the early stages of your UCAT preparation, if you can’t answer practice UCAT questions within the allocated time or if your score for a given section is lower than you are happy with.

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

It’s also important to remember that the UCAT has different sections, and naturally we all have our strengths and weaknesses. After you’ve identified your weaknesses, concentrate on improving these areas – but don’t worry if your score isn’t perfect in every section.


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Don’t Be Overly Critical Of Yourself

The summer before you submit your application to Medical School can be a stressful time – and comparing yourself to others will only increase this pressure.

Remember that you are doing what you can to prepare, and everyone will be doing things in their own way. Whilst it might 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.

Don’t waste your time or your energy comparing yourself to other candidates. It will only make you feel worried or panicked if someone else is doing more than you, and this will probably affect your mindset for the UCAT test.

Know When To Call It A Day

The UCAT might be important, but remember that nothing is more important than your wellbeing and your mental health.

It’s vital to take regular breaks in your UCAT prep and to know when it’s time to stop. If you’ve given yourself plenty of time to prepare, you don’t need to spend all day every day studying. With frequent breaks to rest and recharge, you will feel a lot more focused and avoid burnout.

Make sure you also eat well and get plenty of sleep to stay on track. Sleepless nights will have a bad impact on your revision and ultimately your test performance!

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 be-all and end-all of your application to Medical School.

The summer also presents an opportunity to start drafting your Personal Statement, get some work experience, do some volunteering, and prepare for the BMAT if you’re planning to take this test too.

Whilst the UCAT is important, don’t put yourself under unbearable pressure to secure maximum marks and spend every waking hour preparing. Dedicate some time to the rest of your application too, so you don’t end up falling behind and having to rush later on.


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