3rd May 2024
The UCAT exam is extremely time-sensitive with only 2 hours to answer a total of 228 questions across all of the 5 sections. It is therefore vital for you to be able to make the best use of your time throughout the test – one way to ensure that is to have the right tools at your disposal! This article will talk you through a few key tips to help increase your confidence (and speed!) for your upcoming UCAT. 


The computer-based nature of the UCAT test is an important aspect to familiarise yourself with. Whilst traditional hand-held calculators are not allowed, there is an on-screen calculator available for the Decision Making and Quantitative Reasoning sections.

The on-screen calculator available in the UCAT is different to the scientific calculators most students are used to (it doesn’t have a square or power button!) and so practising using this type of calculator is essential ahead of your exam. You can practise  for free in our Decision Making and Quantitative Reasoning question banks.

Effective use of the on-screen calculator can save you some much-needed time on some numerical questions. There are several ‘Keyboard Shortcuts’ you should be familiar with:

  • Alt + C to open the calculator
  • Num Lock to activate the number keypad
  • Backspace to clear all digits

There are also several shortcuts for when needing to ‘save’ a number for future use which can help speed up calculations:

  • Click M+ (or type P) to save a number
  • Click MRC (or type C) to recall this number.
  • Click MRC twice (or type C twice) to clear the memory

*IMPORTANT NOTE: The UCAT calculator is brought up in a separate screen to the test so clicking off the calculator to go back to the question will require you to re-open the calculator for future use.*

Keyboard and Navigation

You’ll complete your UCAT exam on a traditional desktop with a mouse and keyboard which can feel more cumbersome to use quickly if you are accustomed to a laptop! There are a lot of questions to get through in the UCAT – you don’t want to waste any time by painstakingly clicking through each one. Our advice would be to ditch the mouse and use these time-saving ‘Keyboard Shortcuts’:

  • Alt + N (move on to the next question)
  • Alt + P (go back to the previous question)
  • Alt + F (flag a question)
  • Alt + V (review all flagged questions)
  • Alt + I (review incomplete questions
  • Alt + A (review all questions)
  • Alt + E (end a review)

Unsure of what it means to flag or review a question? Read on!

Flagging and Reviewing

The ability to ‘flag’ and ‘review’ questions are arguably the most essential tools to get right for success on your UCAT exam. Using both of these tools correctly can help you immensely in managing your time through the different questions.

Flagging questions is the ability to highlight questions you are stuck on to come back to later. You can flag questions in two ways: 1) by using the keyboard shortcuts (which we would recommend) or 2) by using the mouse. You can press Alf+F to flag questions using the keyboard or click the ‘flag for review button’ on the blue toolbar at the top of the screen using the mouse. 

To review questions you’ve flagged at any time in the test you can press Alt + V using the keyboard. Alternatively, they will be brought up automatically when you reach the final question of the subtest and click ‘next’, provided you have time left.  We would suggest reviewing flagged questions only after you’ve completed all questions in the subsection so that you don’t run out of time.

You also have the option to review all questions (Alt + A) not just the ones you’ve flagged. Again, we would recommend waiting until you’ve reached the end of the subsection before using this shortcut. 

To maximise efficiency through your UCAT Test we recommend: 

  1. Going through each subsection as quickly as possible (without rushing!) whilst flagging the questions you are stuck on 
  2. Reviewing flagged questions at the very end 
  3. Lastly, reviewing all questions

You can get used to the method of flagging and reviewing on some of our free practice UCAT tests

Laminated Whiteboard

It is important to note that you cannot highlight passages in the UCAT exam which can make the Verbal Reasoning section of the test particularly challenging. You are given a laminated whiteboard and marker pen which you can use to take notes as you go (in all sections). Our advice would be to get used to not being able to highlight very early on and start using a whiteboard in your own practice tests. 

Timer and Progress Indicator

We cannot emphasise enough how important it is to be aware of your timing when completing the UCAT exam. Each section has its own time demands and you should spend most of your preparation learning to answer the questions within these time limits. Click here for a detailed breakdown of how much time you should be spending on each question. 

There will be a countdown timer in the top right of your screen which will turn yellow when there is less than 5 minutes remaining in the subsection. It will also notify you when time is up and you should move on to the next section. If you don’t stick to the timings of the test, you may end up running out of time and automatically losing a lot of valuable marks that will negatively impact your final UCAT score – so stay focused! 

The on-screen progress indicator can help you stay on track. It is located below the countdown timer and shows you how many questions you have left to go in each subsection.


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