The pitfalls of using a UCAT book to study for the exam

Michael, THE MEDIC BLOG

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In this article, we will explore some of the pitfalls of using a UCAT book for revision. This is not to say they are not worth the investment, but it’s important to consider their cons before buying any book. 

Generally speaking, UCAT books are an affordable option for most students, and they still do provide a lot of value. So what is the issue? To help explain, let’s first explore the different types of UCAT books that exist.

Types of UCAT books

There are three main types of books in the market at the moment.

1. Practice books: These were the first type of UCAT books, and they focus on providing practice questions.

2. Question strategy books: These type of books focus on teaching strategies to solve the different types of questions in the exam.

3. Preparation strategy books: These books focus on structuring preparation and designing a study plan for the UCAT.

We still believe UCAT books are a good investment, you can find an in-depth review of our recommendations here. However, it comes down to the type of book and how it’s used to prepare for the exam.  Let’s run through the cons of using a UCAT book to revise.

Cons of using a UCAT book

Pitfall #1: The exam is not paper-based

The UCAT is a computer-based exam, so using a book as the primary source for practice questions is probably not an effective strategy. Things like stimulus interpretation and time management in a computer-based environment can’t be mimicked using a book. Thus, you run the risk of scoring poorly due to a lack of familiarity with the testing conditions.

Pitfall #2: Slow to update when the exam changes

There is a lot of work and time that goes into publishing ebooks and paperbacks. Furthermore, the most popular books are all paperbacks, which can take months to update. Every time the exam board releases an update, these changes tend not to be included in these books on time. Thus, students end up buying outdated material. 

We saw this when the UCAT changed from Decision Analysis to Decision Making in 2016. The most popular books at the time didn’t reflect the changes until 2017. If you go on Amazon, you will probably still find books being sold titled ‘UKCAT’ (previous name of the exam).  

Pitfall #3: Not endorsed by the exam board

This isn’t unique to books. No commercial resource is endorsed by the exam board. This means students run the risk of scoring poorly due to practising questions that are not to the same standard to what they can expect in the exam. 

What can you do to mitigate risk?

1. Use the official website and resources

The official website should be your primary resource. It contains over a thousand practice questions and additional resources to prepare. Plus, it will consist of the most up-to-date information and questions.

2. Follow the exam board

Follow the exam board on social media for exam updates. If you have any questions, drop them a message directly. Their social media team are very helpful and tend to get back to every student in good time.

3. Do your research

Before buying any book, take to time to read reviews and get feedback from customers. Ask in forums and study groups for unbiased recommendations. However, do keep in mind that the most significant factor in determining the right book to use is you, so any advice you get from the blog, or any other past candidate will vary in effectiveness with your circumstance. To help you make an informed decision, read our in-depth book review.

4. Always use as a secondary (or complementary) resource

As previously mentioned, no commercial resource is endorsed by the exam board. So never use a book or course as your primary resource. However, they can be used to supplement revision by giving you more exposure or solutions to difficult areas that you have identified from using the official questions.

Our proposed strategy for using UCAT books

We recommend the following:

Primary Resource = Official UCAT website and questions. Visit UK site / Visit ANZ site

Secondary Resource 1 = Online course to practice questions and mimic test conditions. See our picks

Secondary Resource 2 = An ebook or paperback to structure revision or learn techniques for each type of question. See our collection

If you find you that your performance on certain questions do not improve despite your best efforts. Then, it may be worth getting a practice book for additional targeted practice. We wouldn’t recommend going through it cover to cover. Instead, pick out the questions you find difficult.

Not sure where to begin UCAT preparation? Take the FREE 30-day UCAT study challenge.

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Formats: Standard ebook (free), Premium ebook (£2.99) and Premium paperback (£6.99)
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