I’m Adi from UniAdmissions. We help hundreds of students with their medical school applications each year and have several books on both the UCAT and BMAT. You can check out our bestselling Ultimate UCAT Collection here.
From our years of experience with the UCAT, we’ve put together 8 important tips to follow to ensure you score higher on the UCAT.:
Disclaimer: Previously known as the UKCAT, the exam is now called the UCAT. Thankfully the tests are completely identical, so almost everything you read online regarding the UKCAT can be applied to the UCAT.
1. Pick your date carefully
Unlike the BMAT, the UCAT can be taken from the 1st of July 2019 until the 2nd of October 2019. You should use this date range to your advantage!
The A-Level and AS results day in 2019 is the 15th of August. AS and A-Level exams start around the first week of May until mid-June.
I would highly recommend that you take your UCAT in early August before results come out. This gives you around 6-8 weeks to get into high intensity preparation after your exams and you won’t be stressing about the results you’ve got for your exams.
2. Give Yourself plenty of time
We mentioned 6-8 weeks of “high intensity” preparation in tip #1.
6-8 weeks is a good amount of time to really get stuck into the UCAT, however, students who begin their preparation even earlier will perform better. This is simply due to familiarity with the question types, patterns that appear for certain sections (namely Abstract Reasoning), and giving yourself more time to iron out any weak areas.
Spending just 20-30 minutes a day from April onwards will put you in an incredible position once your AS and A-Level exams are out the way.
3. Find your weakest section and focus on that
The UCAT is a test that examines very different skills to other exams you may have sat. There is a lot of pattern recognition, critical thinking, logical thinking
and understanding a question from the correct perspective. However, as with other exams, students tend to be stronger on different topics. The best way to improve your overall score is to work on the sections you are the weakest at.
There’s a tendency among students to revise what they’re best at because it feels better psychologically and motivates you. Unfortunately, getting an extra 2/3 questions right on a section you’re great at won’t have nearly as much impact as getting an extra 7/8 questions right on a section you aren’t as good at (and probably don’t love either!).
4. Get familiar with the Onscreen test
The UCAT is a computer based exam. You’ll have some familiarity with the test centre if you’ve previously taken your car or motorcycle theory test.
No amount of revision notes, flashcards or books can adequately prepare you to take the test on screen. When you do practice tests you should try and do them on a UCAT simulator.
Be wary of running out of simulated tests though – if you do too many practice tests early on and run out of these papers, you won’t get an accurate impression of how much you’ve improved. Paper tests and practice questions just don’t have the same effect as an on screen test.
The on screen test also gives you access to an on screen calculator which is an extremely important tool to get used to. It can be controlled by keyboard shortcuts which you should absolutely use as it will save you a ton of time!
5. Use different types of preparation
Although slightly contradictory of tip #4, you should also try and use a wide range of revision methods and resources. It’s easy to get burnt out when revising for a test in repetitive conditions.
When revising for Abstract Reasoning, write down all of the pattern conditions that can appear e.g. number of shapes, types of shapes, number of corners, number of sides etc. Put these on a flashcard in an order that works for you and stick that flashcard somewhere prominent.
Read the GMC guide thoroughly to help prepare for the SJT section. Practice speed reading to improve your comprehension and save time.
There are a ton of different things you can do to improve your UCAT performance. Practice questions are great but don’t rely solely on them!
6. Practice under timed conditions
The UCAT is a very time-constrained test. It’s imperative that, when you do practice tests, you do them under timed conditions. This is much easier when using a UCAT simulator as the timer should already be integrated.
However, if you’re creating your own exam using various practice questions, be diligent and stick to the time allowed for each section! It’s easy to go slack on yourself when revising but this won’t help you if time is a factor that’s holding you back from a higher UCAT score.
7. Structure your Preparation
We mentioned in tip #2 that you should start thinking about your UCAT preparation nice and early.
Even if you’re only going to spend 20-30 minutes a day for a few months, pencil in some time every day that you’ll spend doing this. It could be when you’re on the bus, eating breakfast/dinner, just whenever is convenient for you. You should also set out what you’re going to focus on each day.
Try to flit around the topics quite a lot early on so you get a good feel for each section. Structuring your preparation will ensure that everything gets equal coverage (until you realise where you need to begin investing more time anyway).
8. Stick to your Revision Schedule
Now you’ve made your revision schedule, stick to it!
This is easier said than done but if you are in the mind-set that at 8:30AM you will knock out a little revision, then you’re likely to do it. Sticking to the schedule will give you peace of mind when it comes to the ramp up time after your AS and A-Level exams, knowing you’ve got a very solid foundation to work from.
As the saying goes “How do you climb up Mount Everest? … One step at a time.” Small steps will have a huge impact on your overall UCAT score, and sticking by those small planned steps will go a long way.
There we have it – my top 8 tips on scoring higher in the UCAT.
Of course, you can apply these tips to almost any other revision process. The key takeaway is just to be consistent and you’ll be guaranteed a higher score!
If you feel like extra support would be beneficial to you (and many, many students do) then I’d recommend you check out UniAdmissions UCAT Intensive Course. This is a solid 8 hour day course which walks you through each aspect of the UCAT with expert guidance from a UCAT expert. You also get access to their bestselling resources, like 10 hours of HD lectures, and books. Well worth a look!