Niel Bohr, Danish Physicist and Nobel prize winner in 1922 once said that ‘An expert is a man who has made all the mistakes which can be made, in a narrow field’. I took the exam THREE times before scoring in the top 10%. In this article, we will discuss the five mistakes I made when preparing for the exam.
The UCAT was one of the most challenging things I’ve ever had to overcome. I failed to get an offer for medical school twice before finally succeeding on my third attempt. Part of my success was because I was able to significantly improve my UCAT average and score in the top 10% on my third try.
Like many students that apply to Medicine, I got too caught up in the prospect of applying that I wasn’t as thorough as I could have been with my preparation for the exam. These are five common mistakes to avoid when preparing for the UCAT.
1. Not thoroughly researching how the UCAT is used
It is not enough to know the entry requirements. Go deeper, how do your choices assess the UCAT? Is there a cut-off mark? Do they look at the individual score of each subtest? Or use a point-based system? Most candidates aren’t fully informed about how the UCAT is used and end up applying to courses where they might not stand a chance. Call the respective admissions office if you have to and make sure you have a rough idea on the score you need to be invited for an interview.
2. Not learning the exam theory
I made the mistake of jumping into UCAT practice without learning the exam theory. This was a HUGE mistake because I didn’t understand the underlying principles behind questions which made it harder to pinpoint weak areas effectively. But more detrimental, I missed out on leveraging such insight to play the exam (i.e. making highly accurate logical guesses by knowing the type of options that tend to be correct).
3. Leaving the official questions too late
I remember when I first took the UCAT, I attempted the official practice tests towards the end of my preparation. I thought it would be a good idea to save them for later. But unfortunately, I didn’t perform too well on them, and it was too late to do anything about it. I strongly recommend that you take the official questions early. Take at least one official paper as a diagnostic test before intense preparation.
4. Lack of organisation
Organisation is key. I didn’t realise it at the time, but I was really disorganised. I didn’t plan study sessions nor track my performance. I didn’t even have a well-thought-out study plan besides “practice loads of questions”. In hindsight, it’s no surprise I didn’t do too well. I recommend using a calendar app and having a designated planner (or diary) for UCAT revision.
5. Lack of Introspection
I fell into a routine of only practising questions and learning from my mistakes. However, there wasn’t much reflection on how I would go about attacking each subtest on the big day. I should have taken the time to reflect on my study plan, study habits and overall game plan. I recommend you do the same.