When I first started my UCAT revision, I was often tearful and felt very stressed – but I made it through using my own methods, combined with UCAT Course techniques. In the end, I came out with a UCAT score of 763. So let me tell you about my prep, the test, and tips you can use!
My first tip is to start your UCAT preparation early. I allowed six weeks of preparation time. This meant that if I had a day where my brain decided not to work, I could just take the day off – which was important in preventing me from totally losing my mind!
The Verbal Reasoning time limit worried me for all six weeks of revision. I remember reading the text and it just wasn’t going in. I found that reading the questions first and trying to find the keywords in a block of text with dyslexia was unrealistic, because I struggle to read instructions at the best of times.
My advice here is to skim read the whole paragraph, only reading the key words of each sentence. I found missing out the connectives really useful to get the gist of what the text was about (hint: they often ask you to pick a statement that best summarises the text).
Another technique is to read the opening paragraph and then the last one or the summarising line to get a feel for the tone of the text – for example, if it is critical or explanatory.
Guess and flag! I often found a really wordy text about 4 or 5 stems in. This is designed to hold you up. The flag is your new best friend: leave nothing blank and guess each question before moving on, by reading and choosing one that sounds plausible.
I also found that by reading just the answers, I could often eliminate one of them through guesswork – although this isn’t guaranteed!
As for Decision Making, practice makes perfect. For wordy “does the conclusion follow?” questions, go with your gut feeling.
I found that the more times I read the paragraph, the more I questioned the meanings and read the words wrong (a classic dyslexic mistake) and wasted time!
With Quantitative Reasoning, my dyscalculia and dyslexia really proved an issue. Although a lot of questions can be done mentally, don’t be afraid to use the calculator! This was my saving grace for percentage changes and there were a lot of them in my actual exam.
Rather than wasting time in the test wondering if you need to use the calculator, try to become familiar with which style of question you need it for. Again, if you’re struggling, use the guess and flag function and come back to it.
My dyspraxia really threw me with Abstract Reasoning. My biggest piece of advice here would be to cover as many patterns as you can during your weeks of prep. The more patterns you see, the more likely you’ll recognise them in the exam.
Write down the patterns you struggle with or get wrong. I kept a wall of post-it notes with different patterns on them! Begin by looking at the simplest box.
I found that when I couldn’t spot a pattern immediately, it was often an arrangement one, which does make sense with dyspraxia (this won’t be the same for everyone, but it seemed to be the ones I frequently missed).
It’s a really good idea to know where your weaknesses are. When I sat the UCATSEN, I found that so many points were gained by knowing my weaknesses and allowing for them.
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