To select students for their medical and dental school programmes, the majority of universities in the UK employ the UCAT or University Clinical Aptitude Test.
As you might expect, the test can be a formidable challenge. However, if you find yourself unprepared, try not to worry, as we’ve put together five top tips for UCAT success for you to take on board. Let’s get started.
1. Practice, practice, practice
Time management skills are crucial for the UCAT. Many students find the most difficult part of the test is not answering all of the questions correctly, but doing so in a very limited period of time. For instance, you have 12 minutes to complete 50 multiple-choice questions on the abstract reasoning section of the exam — a mere 14.4 seconds for each question.
If you haven’t yet taken advantage of the official practice tests that are available, do so as soon as possible. They will help you become used to working without breaks for two hours, which is necessary to deal with the tight deadlines you’ll be facing. To gain confidence, you may want to go through the papers without a timer first and then come back to them under test-like conditions.
2. Enrol in a prep workshop
If you are really feeling the pressure, enrolling in a revision course might help you feel better prepared, familiarise yourself with the style of the exam, and allow you to develop strategies to answer the questions in each separate subtest.
There are a lot of great tutors out there, but you’re best off working with a teacher who has scored top marks on the exam. 6med, for example, provides a number of UCAT courses run by experienced current and former students from prestigious universities. Their “tuition is tailored to your specific requirements”, focusing on “the areas you need support with – not the areas you perform well in!”
3. Improve your speed reading
Speed reading is an essential skill to learn for the verbal reasoning section of the UCAT — a highly time-pressured comprehension exercise that will assess your ability to draw conclusions from unfamiliar passages of information with speed and pinpoint accuracy.
Speed reading is not about consuming every word, but scanning and extracting the information you need. You should always carefully read the question before the text, so you’ll know where to focus your attention, looking for any key phrases or words. Is the question about a particular person or topic discussed within the text? If so, scan using the zig-zag method for keywords to direct you to the information you need.
4. Memorise the keyboard shortcuts
Every second counts in the UCAT. If you find yourself frantically racing against time in your practice tests, keyboard shortcuts might just be the answer. Although this method will only trim a few seconds off your time on each question, it can make a huge difference overall, especially in the quantitative reasoning part of the exam — giving you the chance to gain as many precious marks as possible.
Here are seven time-saving keyboard shortcuts to memorise:
- Ctrl + C = Open the calculator
- Alt + N = Move to the next question
- Alt + P = Go back to the previous question
- Alt + F = Flag the current question
- Alt + A = Review all questions
- Alt + V = Review flagged questions
- Alt + I = Review incomplete questions
5. Get in the zone
By the time your UCAT rolls around, you should have several months of solid revision under your belt — six to twelve, ideally speaking. With test day looming on the horizon, it’s all too easy to buckle under the pressure, but if you’ve put in the hours and keep a cool head, you will almost certainly do well.
The night before the exam, stop revising. It might seem counterproductive but in fact, too much last-minute cramming is one common mistake that many students make. Plus, if you aren’t ready by now, a few minutes of intense revision won’t make a difference! Instead, spend some time doing whatever puts you into a relaxed and positive frame of mind, be it working out, cooking something delicious, or watching a movie.
Though many find the UCAT to be daunting if you put in the time and effort to prepare you should do well on the test. We wish you the very best of luck!