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16th April 2021
Amalia is re-applying to Medicine this year, which means taking the UCAT for the second time. She’s kindly shared where she think she went wrong last year – and how she’s planning to boost her score – to help anyone who’s preparing for the UCAT.

I Didn’t Get Interviews Because Of My Score

Despite all my effort, I only managed to score a 2140 and a Band 2 in Situational Judgement last year. This is a pretty low UCAT score and I knew it was almost impossible to get an interview invitation, let alone a place at Medical School.

I had almost everything that Graduate Entry Medicine is asking from the candidates: work experience, very good university grades, references from Doctors and nurses; so I thought I would apply. But by December, I found myself with four out of four unsuccessful applications and all of them because of my low UCAT score.

I will never forget the disappointment and the frustration I felt. Before my Medicine applications, I thought that Schools wouldn’t rely much on my UCAT score because I have experience working in the NHS. I also thought that after everything I’ve been through in the last year (pandemic, stress, panic, fear); I deserved a place at Medical School.

But after the negative responses, I realised how competitive Medicine is – especially for Graduate Entry – and how important your UCAT score really is.

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Why I Decided To Try Again

The first few months after my unsuccessful applications were really hard. Many of my colleagues asked me how my applications went, and I had to tell them that I wasn’t successful. But what everybody said was that no matter how frustrating it is, it’s not the end of the world; I am still young and more than capable to succeed if I really want it.

What I’m Doing Differently This Year

I realised that I didn’t approach my UCAT preparation properly, and I was really stressed throughout my whole practice and on the test day.

I was doing everything at the same time: work, UCAT preparation, ward rounds with Doctors, and more. That was probably the biggest mistake I made. I didn’t giving time to myself to rest and do things that could really help me clear my mind or boost my confidence. I wasn’t even sleeping or eating properly.

Of course, this lifestyle made me so exhausted a couple of months before the test day. That meant I stopped paying attention to my preparation: I wasn’t checking my mistakes, and I thought I didn’t need to keep preparing.

Another mistake I made was that I started without any UCAT course teaching. I used UCAT books by myself instead of using a computer. I only started practising UCAT questions on a computer a month before the exam day. This was a mistake because paper-based exams are completely different and I needed more time to get used to the experience of taking the test on a computer.

How I’m Planning for Success

I’ve already been using the Medic Portal’s online UCAT course, and I’ve already seen a massive improvement both in my understanding of test strategy and final scores.

I finally understand how I should approach the Verbal Reasoning questions, how I should deal with syllogisms, probabilities, and puzzles in Decision Making, what techniques I should follow in Abstract Reasoning, etc.

Doing the course meant I knew how to apply the strategies to each section, which immediately boosted my confidence and lowered my stress level.

I cut my work hours so that I have more time to prepare for the test; even reducing one shift a week can make a big difference.

I’m also trying to focus on my well-being: I decided to take one whole day a week to work out or walk outside when the weather is nice. I sleep more, and I’m reading my favourite book. I find that after a day off, I always perform better and I’m more focused on my preparation.

I also never forget to eat before my prep, to hydrate and to stop studying when I feel tired or unable to focus. Through this process, I understood that quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to the UCAT.

My UCAT Tips

  • UCAT is important and many UCAT Universities place a lot of emphasis on your score. It’s helped me to frame this test as a challenge that I can overcome.
  • Don’t forget to take care of yourself. You can’t expect your brain to perform complex tasks if you don’t provide it with basic things such as food, water, sleep and regular breaks.
  • If you get easily stressed, it can help to work to a prep schedule and focus on just doing one thing at a time. Don’t do what I did, which was trying to do everything at the same time. You’ll lose the meaning of what you’re doing and your motivation will evaporate.
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