I took my UCAT in September 2015 and scored a total of 3050, which placed me in the top 10% for that year. Achieving such a high score in the UCAT wasn’t something I had anticipated, however looking back, I can see that I had prepared very methodically. Therefore, I have some advice to share.
Firstly, realising (and accepting) the difference between the UCAT exam and your school exams is crucial. The way you studied for your GCSE or A-Level exams won’t necessarily work with this exam format. Don’t be afraid to experiment with different techniques than you normally would do and remember to keep an open mind.
Additionally, you need to accept that the scoring system is quite different from your school exams. In 2018, the top percentile scored 2810 out of a possible 3600 – that is an average of 702 out of 900 in each section.
It might be necessary to lower your expectations. Full marks (900 in a section) is probably not achievable and certainly not required to be considered an outstanding UCAT candidate.
Often students can become discouraged by their performance when preparing for the exam, leading them to lose their overall motivation. This won’t happen to you if you understand that performing well does not require you to score over 800 in every section!
While you shouldn’t be aiming for over 800 in every section, it’s still important to have an achievable goal in mind. Start by looking up the averages in each section of the UCAT from the previous years. Research how the universities you’re applying for use the UCAT, and whether they have published any ‘cut-offs’ from previous years.
Combine this information and choose a ‘minimum’ UCAT score to keep in mind that you would be happy to achieve. Set this as just above the average from previous years, or as the ‘cut offs’ used by the medical schools you are applying to – whichever is the highest. Then, choose an ‘optimistic’ UCAT score you’d like to achieve. It doesn’t matter if you don’t end up reaching it, but aiming for something a little higher will help you reach your full potential.
Preparation is the true key to success when it comes to the UCAT. The year I took my test, I was on an international scouting trip for three weeks out of the six week school summer holiday. This meant I had to make smart decisions when it came to booking my UCAT test date. I sat the test the day before school started, which gave me two and a half weeks at home before I had to sit the test.
Two weeks can be enough ‘focused’ revision time. It is recommended that you spend three to four hours a day on your UCAT prep for about a period of two weeks. However, before you can start this ‘focused’ preparation, you need to be familiar with the exam format, content and make sure you have selected which resources you will be using to study.
Finally, it is encouraged that you ensure your UCAT is taken during the summer holiday. Once Year 13 begins, your time can get very hectic very quickly with school work and personal statement drafting to juggle; make the most of your free time whilst you have it!
Keep a track of your performance and progress every day. Every time you practice for the UCAT during your ‘focused’ period, it is recommended that you take note of your scores for each section in a notebook.
Either make a note of your performance by percentage (60% on abstract reasoning, 52% on verbal reasoning etc) or use a UCAT score conversion table to convert your raw score into a scaled UCAT score. These conversion tables are available freely on the internet if you search for them, and while they are just estimates, I found them to be fairly accurate.
Keeping track of your performance, on a daily basis, will also allow you to identify areas that you need to improve on. You’ll be able to focus your time on sections you may need to work on. Additionally, by noting your scores every day, you will hopefully be motivated by seeing an improvement in your scores over time!
Keeping track of your scores in the lead up to the test can also help you to feel calmer on the day of the test. You’ll be able to reassure yourself that you have been performing well over the last few weeks or so.
Hopefully, this advice will be helpful and you’ll be able to implement it as part of your preparation strategy. Good luck!