Whilst it may sound obvious, you should begin your prep by understanding what the UCAT involves and what skills each section is designed to assess. This is vital because the test can initially seem overwhelming.
Unlike other exams, there is no specific content to memorise, as it is an aptitude test. Overall, the test lasts two hours and is conducted in an assessment centre on a computer.
The UCAT is broken down into five sections:
Understanding each section and the types of questions within them will help you to plan and structure your UCAT prep.
One of my most important UCAT preparation tips is to use online resources to do as many practice questions as possible. Utilising the UCAT website, plus a UCAT question bank for a few weeks before my exam, was pivotal to my UCAT success. Exposing yourself to different styles of questions will prevent panic on test day and give you the best chance of achieving a high score.
Unlike most exams you have sat before, the UCAT is an online test. As such, you will rely on using a keyboard, a mouse and an online calculator. This is why practice using a computer is vital. Familiarising yourself with the controls will make you feel more comfortable on test day and improve your speed.
Although the test is conducted on a computer, you will be given several whiteboards and a whiteboard pen. I found that drawing Venn diagrams, creating tables and jotting down notes on the whiteboard greatly improved my overall UCAT score. It allowed me to work through problems with all of the necessary information in front of me, without being confused by long, wordy blocks of text on the screen.
I strongly recommend practising with a whiteboard and pen before the exam to get used to writing down information at speed and to improve your score. However, it is worth noting that when I sat the exam I was not given a whiteboard rubber – so it’s important that you draw small diagrams to save space and make sure you have enough room to write down notes for future questions.
The UCAT is incredibly time-pressured, so answering questions quickly is vital to complete the test and maximise your chances of success. Each section is allocated a different amount of time. For example, in Abstract Reasoning, you will have 12 minutes to answer 50 questions.
Initially, working through practice questions at your own pace is important for understanding the test. After this, implementing timed practice will help to replicate the conditions of test day and improve your speed.
Not all questions in the UCAT are of equal difficulty. Within each section, there will be a mix of longer, more complex questions and shorter, more simple ones. There will also be some that you’ll find easier or harder depending on your own skill and ability.
Consequently, it is important to flag or skip a question which is taking lots of time and return to it later if time allows it, so you’ll avoid missing out on easier marks later in the test. Similarly, if you are unsure of a question or are running out of time, just select an answer and guess. There is no negative marking and there is a chance you will select the correct answer.
How long you prepare for the UCAT and how you structure this prep will be different for everyone, depending on your other commitments and how time-pressured you would like your prep to be. Regardless, planning out when you are going to dedicate time to the UCAT and committing to it is vital for success.
Whilst some may claim that the UCAT can’t be revised for, I disagree and have personally seen how practice can dramatically improve your score. Therefore, sticking to a plan is vital for success. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn’t work hard!
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