As a former UKCAT candidate that took the exam three times I know a thing or two about the best time to take the exam.
If you plan on taking the UCAT (formerly known as UKCAT), you should already be aware that you are free to take the test anytime between July to October, but when is the best time to take the UCAT?
The Short answer: It depends
Most students take the UCAT at the end of the Summer, in either August or September. This is probably due to the fact that summer is a busy time. Many students will either be working or enjoying a break from their studies. Some students might be travelling, for part or all of the summer. Depending on your personal plans, there are any number of factors that could impact your decision on when to sit the UCAT. You can select any date from July 1st to October 5th to take the test, depending on availability at your preferred test centre. Thus, the choice is really up to you.
My advice is to consider factors that might affect your preparation or performance on the test day, and schedule your test appointment appropriately. Since you can choose any available test appointment, there is no reason not to choose the appointment that will give you the greatest advantage.
Factors To Consider Before Booking Your Test
The following are factors to consider before booking your UCAT test
1. Will you be working in the summer?
If you are working or volunteering, then you might need longer time to prepare for the exam. I recommend setting up study schedule, to ensure that you will have sufficient time to revise and practise before your test. Depending on your working hours, you might want to schedule your test for later in the summer
2. Will you be travelling, whether for a week or two or even longer?
If you have travelling plans, how realistic is it for you prepare for the UCAT? You might find it challenging to get a bit of space and quiet to revise and practise for the UCAT whilst on holiday. Taking a practice test in one sitting (and being able to concentrate, even for a bit of quick practice) could be very difficult indeed. If a vacation is on the cards, then you might want to consider delaying your UCAT preparation until after the holiday. Depending how long you are away for you could consider getting up to speed by attending a UCAT seminar upon your return, with your test appointment to follow 2 to 4 weeks later
3. Are You Taking the BMAT or GAMSAT?
If you are planning on taking the BMAT ( in November) or GAMSAT ( in September) then you might want to schedule your test early in the summer to give you time to prepare for the other exams.
4. How Prepared Are You?
I recommend booking your test depending on how easy you find the official UCAT practice tests. If you score well and find it easy I reckon 4 – 8 weeks is enough preparation. However, if you achieve a low score I recommend giving yourself longer.
5. How much time do you need To Prepare?
I personally do not think you need longer than 2 months to prepare for the exam. Typically students take between 2 weeks to a month to prepare for the UCAT. Attempt the official UCAT practice tests first then set a date depending on how easy you find it.
6. What’s the best time of day for your test appointment?
The options to take the UCAT range from early morning – as early as 8am — to late in the afternoon — as late as 3 or 4pm, depending on the test centre. I strongly advise you consider past experiences taking tests, when are you the sharpest? A study recently published concluded that students are at the height of their cognitive abilities in the morning and perform better at exams. Remember, the UCAT will be a very intense 2 hours of staring at a monitor, while working incredibly quickly through a wide range of question types and completing over 200 questions, without a break, so you want to be at your best.