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Published on 25th June 2019 by lauram

Time-Saving UKCAT


The UCAT exam is not a test of knowledge but one of aptitude for medicine – and it’s a given that the more you practise, the better you can perform in the exam. The first time I did the UCAT I scored an average of 580 – and my latest score was in the 700 mark. Here, I’m going to share some of the nifty tricks that I used to improve my UCAT score.

1. Learn the shortcuts!

Time is the most precious commodity in the UCAT and so being efficient with it can really help maximise your score.

There are a number of ways to do this – for example, you can try using the keyboard shortcuts:

  • Ctrl + C – to make the calculator appear
  • Ctrl + F – to flag the question

2. Make educated guesses

In my experience the best way to save time is to ruthlessly guess difficult questions and move on – and obviously these should be educated guesses!

This is harder said than done, because during the exam you are focused on getting every question correct but remember to think strategically: saving time on difficult questions gives you more time to work on easier questions which you are more likely to answer correctly.

There have been occasions where I have missed out on precious marks by failing to finish the section on time, so make sure to practice the exam under timed conditions to get you into the habit of guessing difficult questions.

Read more tips on how to manage your UCAT timing>>

3. Develop an Abstract Reasoning strategy

Abstract Reasoning is, for some candidates, the most challenging part of the exam. The usual trick about guessing difficult questions applies, but you might also consider changing your perspective to help you unlock patterns.

Simply taking a step back and looking at the shapes from a distance will reveal patterns, usually shading or positioning, that are difficult to observe when you are up-close and busy counting or applying SCANS.

Challenging questions in Abstract Reasoning are difficult because they have multiple rules. A trick to be aware of is that when you are faced with a challenging set of shapes, you only need to figure out one of the rules to increase your chances of guessing correctly. I have achieved high scores in Abstract Reasoning by quickly figuring out one or two rules, and then using this to make informed decisions. 

Read our top Abstract Reasoning mnemonics here>>

4. Write down unit conversions for Quantitative Reasoning

There are a number of additional tricks for the Quantitative Reasoning section that I have employed to improve my score. Just before the start of the test I wrote down some key formulas for the Quantitative Reasoning section on the whiteboard provided just in case I needed to figure out the volume of a cone or cylinder.

Importantly, I wrote down common unit conversions. This may initially appear to be a waste of whiteboard space but I can testify that in the heat of the moment you can often forget the simplest formulas and conversions, so having them in advance will make a huge difference – even if it is just as a reassurance to calm your nerves.

Read our 5 essential tips for UCAT Quantitative Reasoning>>

5. Read the Verbal Reasoning question first

For the Verbal Reasoning section, you must never start off by reading the block of text. Always read the question first and look for keywords.

Another trick I used for VR was to rule out options that I knew to be wrong. This can be a risky strategy, but sometimes you are given a statement that you are confident is incorrect and you can use this to choose the right answer or make an informed guess depending on the question.

Good luck!

Words: Asaad Qadri

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