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21st May 2021
Laurence Wesson is Deputy Head (Academic) and teaches Biology at James Allen’s Girls’ School, where he was previously Head of Biology. Over a number of years as a sixth form tutor, he’s become experienced in helping students aspiring to study Medicine.

How long have you been helping students with their Medical School applications?

In the region of 15 years.

How do you advise that students prepare for the UCAT?

Attending a Medic Portal UCAT course is a good start. Aside from that, plenty of practice!

How are you currently supporting aspiring Medics?

It makes sense to start preparation sooner this year, and that’s certainly something that I’ve recommended to the students I advise. Our preparation courses have gone online and that’s made it possible to spread them out and to drip-feed practice questions to the students.

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How are your students preparing for the UCAT?

Careful preparation is key – with and lots of opportunities to practise UCAT questions. There are various books containing UCAT style questions and lots of them online, too. The Medic Portal website is a good source of useful information and resources.

Developing a good technique for the abstract reasoning questions takes time, but there are useful online resources, including videos that give examples of patterns to look for.

What do they find most difficult about sitting the UCAT?

It varies from student to student, but typical comments are that the quantitative reasoning section is quite time-pressured and the onscreen calculator takes some getting used to. In general, they find the timing challenging, as it is easy to fall into the trap of spending too long on a difficult question and so leaving too little time to complete a section.

Do you have any other advice for teachers?

Meeting students regularly in order to make sure they understand exactly what is required is the key thing. Getting them thinking about preparation right from the beginning of year 12, or even earlier will allow them to prepare calmly and that will give them the best chance of making a successful UCAS application. Check the Medic Portal’s website or emails – they offer lots of advice and resources that can be used to inform meetings.

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