23rd May 2024
As you prepare for the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test), it’s important to have a strategy for test day that maximizes your performance and reduces stress. This brief guide will cover essential tips to help you navigate the day effectively.

What is the UCAT Exam?

The UCAT exam is a computer-based test used in the admissions process when applying to certain Medicine and Dental programs. It is used by a number of Universities in the UK to assess an applicant’s suitability for a medical degree program alongside other criteria such as grades and interview performance. In recent years, it has become increasingly popular and is currently used by 36 Universities in the UK. There is another version (UCAT ANZ) used for some Universities in New Zealand and Australia. 

The UCAT is a key opportunity for applicants to increase their chances of successful entry to competitive Medical courses. Whilst there are no official UCAT score requirements, each university has a different ‘cut-off score’. A low score would significantly decrease your chances of getting into Universities with a mid-higher cut-off score which could severely limit your options when applying. That is why it is vital to make sure you are fully prepared before sitting the UCAT by studying effectively and following a focused revision plan. 

Preparing for Test Day

What is in the UCAT Exam?

The UCAT is made up of 5 sections listed below and is scored out of a total of 3600 spread across the different sections. Each section has its own time limit and number of questions to be answered.            

What Is Being Tested In Each Section?

Each section of the UCAT is unique in terms of what skills are being tested. See the table below for a short breakdown of each component: 

Unlike in the now discontinued BMAT, questions in the UCAT are very different to the content encountered by most applicants taking A-level/IB courses. In your revision for the UCAT, it is therefore important to familiarise yourself with the questions in each section before your exam. In our comprehensive UCAT guide there is a more detailed breakdown of what is required to excel in each area.

Where To Begin With Your UCAT Test Prep?


It can feel overwhelming to know where to begin with your UCAT prep given the amount of skills that are assessed. That’s why an effective revision plan is crucial in allowing yourself enough time for each component. Taking our free practice test would be a good place to start in your UCAT journey to understand what your benchmark scores are in each area. You can then begin to think about how much time you need to allocate to your weaker areas. 

A very challenging aspect of the UCAT exam is the time limit of only 2 hours to complete all 5 sections. To get used to the intense time pressure, UCAT practice tests and questions under timed conditions should be a key part of your test preparation.

Additionally, make sure you don’t forget to actually book your UCAT test! Keep all details of your test date and location secure so that you know exactly when and where you are going – this will avoid a last-minute panic on the day.

Managing Test Day Anxiety

Hopefully, with enough solid revision, you’ll be feeling confident in the run-up to your UCAT exam. However, taking such an important exam can still be stressful even with all of the right preparation behind you. Luckily, there are many ways to reduce anxiety on test day and in the run up to the exam:

Deep Breaths

Focusing on deep breathing can help centre your mind and calm your nervous system so that you can focus on the questions in front of you with a clear mind. Try breathing in for 4 seconds, holding for 4 seconds, and breathing out for 6 seconds the next time you feel nervous in a test situation.

Positive affirmations

Try repeating to yourself some powerful impact statements each day including test day such as ‘I am as prepared as I need to be’, ‘I am ready for whatever comes my way’. This can help shift your mind into a more positive mindset.

Physical Wellbeing

Your mind and body are intertwined – you must look after both. Ensure you are looking after yourself ahead of the exam by getting adequate rest at night and fueling your body with the right foods – try to avoid late night cramming!

Test Day Strategies

Taking the UCAT exam can feel like a marathon – the best test strategy is effective time management. Make sure you keep an eye on the timer – you’ll only have a certain amount of time for each section so pace yourself. Additionally, don’t get caught up on one question. If you are struggling with a question, move on and return to it later.

If you are still stuck, make an educated guess rather than leaving a question blank – that way there is still a ‘chance’ you could get a mark. Don’t be disheartened if you have to make a few ‘guesses’ – remember that the UCAT exam has many sections and a few guesses won’t jeopardise your score – keep a positive mindset as you make your way through the whole paper. 

Practical Tips for Test Day

  1. Arrive at the test centre with plenty of time to spare to allow you time to check in and settle before you sit the exam.
  2. Practise deep breathing before you go into the exam room.
  3. Compile relevant documents needed the night before your test so you don’t have to worry about it on the morning of your exam. 
  4. Fuel yourself – ensure you eat a nutritious breakfast (porridge, fruits, toast, eggs) ahead of the exam. Avoid sugary foods or caffeine – you don’t want to crash!
  5. Remind yourself that you have done all of the preparation necessary to succeed. 

Post-Test Reflection

Once you have finished your UCAT – firstly, congratulate yourself – you have come a long way! Secondly, use this as a time to reflect on your test-taking and study skills. Try to identify two things that went well and two areas of improvement which may help you in the future. Lastly, spend time relaxing – you’ve earned it! 


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