Published on 4th September 2018 by lauram


Our new blog and video series is created by Alex, who applied to medical school for 2018 entry and is now a medical student at Leeds. In this series he will share his tips for each stage of the medical school application process.

The UKCAT is a test used by most medical schools as one of the methods for comparing applicants, so it’s essential you score as highly as you can. Below are my top tips to help you along the way whilst preparing.

1. Familiarise yourself with each section of the test

Each section is designed to target skills which are useful to have as a medical student and doctor. There are five sections, these are: Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement.

Most people find some sections easier than others and it’s important to target your weaker areas relatively early on in your preparation. Once the test is started, it cannot be paused and takes roughly two hours! It is very fast paced as I’m sure you will already know or will soon find out. The timings for each section are as follows:

Before each section there is one minute to read the instructions (or have a break..!)

  • Verbal Reasoning: 44 questions in 21 minutes
  • Decision Making: 29 questions in 31 minutes
  • Quantitative Reasoning: 36 questions in 24 minutes
  • Abstract Reasoning: 55 questions in 13 minutes
  • Situational Judgement: 69 questions in 26 minutes

For UKCATSEN times visit the UKCAT website.

Read 5 Time-Saving UKCAT Strategies>>

2. Create a strategy on how to approach each question type

There are many ways of tackling each question, a good idea is to try a few different ones and stick with what gives you the best results for each subtest. Then practice practice practice! The questions on TMP are great for this.

Read 60-Second UKCAT Tips: Verbal Reasoning and Decision Making>>

3. Do little and often

Long stints of practise can be tiring (and boring…). Break up your practice into shorter, intense periods. This is also good practice for the nature of the exam.

See an example of one student’s UKCAT prep timetable>>

4. Don’t get caught up with the questions which take a long time

The exam is fast-paced and it is essential to simulate this time pressure when you are preparing. In each section is a type of question which will take much longer than the others – yet only have the same points up for grabs. If you’re finding finishing in time a challenge (most people do!), a good strategy is to flag the long questions (these will become obvious), skip them and give them a go when you have finished all of the quicker types. This maximises your opportunity to score valuable points!

Read our 8-point strategy for Verbal Reasoning success>>

5. Learn the keyboard shortcuts

Anything to save a little time should be used as much as possible! These include the keyboard shortcuts:

  • alt+p for previous question
  • alt+n for next question
  • alt+f to flag the current question

It’s also really important to practice using the online calculator. You aren’t allowed to take a physical calculator into the test with you. Make sure you spend some time getting used to using the numerical keypad for calculations as this is often the quickest way. Alt-c is the shortcut to bring up the onscreen calculator.

Read Top Abstract Reasoning Mnemonics>>

6. Try a few mock exams before the real thing

The UKCAT is very different to most exams you’ll have done in the past. By ensuring you’ve done one or two practices means you’ll know exactly what to expect when you sit down at the computer on the day – this should help settle those nerves a little.

Try The Medic Portal’s UKCAT mock exams>>

7. Relax

The UKCAT is a challenge. The majority of people will find preparation stressful at times. Make sure you find the time to take yourself away from preparation and relax… At the end of the day, remember whatever happens, it’s only one part of the application stage!

Good luck!

Words and video: Alex Randall

You can follow Alex on Instagram here.

Want more UKCAT tips?


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