UCAT Q&A with Omar Tabaqchali – Episode 008

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We reach out to past candidates that took the UCAT to get their thoughts on the test and give their insight into how to prepare for the exam. Today’s Q&A session is with Dentistry offer holder at King’s College London, Omar Tabaqchali, he offers advice and insight into how he prepared for the exam to achieve an overall score of 2960.

Short Bio: Omar is a Year 13 student, who took the UCAT last year in 2019, and has a conditional offer to study Dentistry at King’s College London. You can find him on Instagram as @the.medic.mindset where he posts tips about the medicine/dentistry application process, and answer questions from prospective medics and dentists.

Q1. What year did you take the UCAT?

2019

Q2. What was your overall score, and score in each section?

VR – 580
DM – 770
QR – 740
AR – 840
STJ – Band 2
Total – 2960

Q3. From a scale of 1 to 10, 1 being ‘really easy’ and 10 being ‘very hard. How did you find the UCAT?

When I was preparing, I would have said 10, but by the time I took the exam, I felt more confident and would have said 7. I would say that this was mainly due to the sheer volume of questions I did while preparing. Although there is an aspect of luck in the UCAT, the more you prepare, the better the chance you are giving yourself of succeeding.

Q4. What was your strongest subtest and what advice would you give to other students preparing?

Even from early on in my preparation, I found that Abstract Reasoning came more naturally to me than the other subsections. However, I had never scored as well in it as I did on the day of the exam, and I was shocked myself! The most important strategy to prepare for this section would be to practice as much as possible so you expose yourself to the widest variety of patterns, and make a list of every pattern that you come across that you get wrong or don’t notice straight away, and consistently read over that list. This will keep the patterns fresh in your mind and make it easier to spot new ones.

Q5. What was your weakest subtest and what mistakes would you recommend students avoid?

My worst score was in Verbal Reasoning, and it disappointed me to be honest, as it really lowered my average. Nonetheless, when looking back, I realised there was a lot I could have done. In this section, it’s really important that you can read quickly while remembering the key points from what you’ve read. I didn’t practice this enough, and I could have practiced making bullet-point summaries of texts that I skim-read. This is something I would recommend if you are struggling too.

Q6. What free resources did you find most helpful in preparing for the UCAT? And why?

I used the UCAT website’s question bank and mock papers to prepare, as well as watching all of KharmaMedic’s YouTube videos, where he does questions live on camera. I found this really useful because to many people the UCAT’s style of questions is very unfamiliar, so these videos helped me get used to it.

Q7. What books did you use to prepare for the test? Which one did you find most helpful and why?

I only used the “Score Higher on the UCAT” book by Kaplan. I used it to give me an introduction to the different types of questions within each subsection and do my first mock paper. It was very helpful as it had example and explanations for all of the question types and encouraged timed practice.

Q8. What online resources did you use to prepare for the test? And how did you find it?

I used Medify, and I found it extremely helpful since there are more than enough questions on the site, and many mock and mini-mock papers which I completed. Also, Medify shows you how well you score relative to other candidates using Medify so it helped me to focus my preparation in different sections. Here is where I spent the majority of my preparation time.

Q9. How did you go about preparing for the UCAT overall?

To begin my preparation, I completed the Kaplan book I mentioned above in about 10 days. I then purchased a month on Medify, and that is where I spent the majority of my time. Once I got Medify, I was used to the types of questions thanks to the Kaplan book, so all of my practice was done under timed conditions. As the exam drew closer, I began completing questions from the UCAT website, as I had heard from friends that took the UCAT exam earlier that they were more difficult than the Medify questions. The reason I did this was that I wanted to be prepared in case there were some difficult questions in the real exam. During the last week before my exam, I did one mock paper each day, except for the night before my exam, where I only did a few questions on Medify, to keep my stress levels down!

Q10. How long did you prepare for the test?

I spent a total of around 6 weeks preparing, where the first 10 days I was completing the Kaplan book, and the remaining month watching videos by KharmaMedic, and completing questions and mocks on the UCAT website and Medify.

Q11. How did the official question banks and practice tests compare to the real test?

For the most part, the questions on Medify were similar in difficulty compared to the real exam. However, I found the Situational Judgement section more difficult in the real exam, and this also showed in my score, where I achieved Band 2, compared to my practice where I consistently scored Band 1.

Q12. In hindsight, is there anything you wish you could have done differently during revision?

I definitely feel like I could have spent more time on Verbal Reasoning. It wasn’t necessarily a lack of practice questions where I made a mistake, but I think that if I spent more time developing the skill of skim-reading then I could have achieved a higher score

Q13. What key advice would you give future candidates taking the exam?

I would say that the most important skills that the UCAT really tests are resilience and time management. When I did my first mock paper, I did not get anywhere near my score on test day, and this will be the same case or most people, but you need to have the drive and the grit to do as many questions as you can. Not only that but doing questions under test conditions is crucial too so you become used to the different pacing of each section.

Q14. How many interviews did you get for Medicine/Dentistry and where were they?

I only applied to the two dental schools in London, King’s and Bart’s, and got interviews from both.

Q15. For more specific advice where can students reach you?

I have an Instagram account where I post tips about the medicine/dentistry application process, @the.medic.mindset . You can send me a DM on there, where I’d be happy to answer any questions.

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