Updated: Jun 18, 2020
By Ameer Chowdhury
The UCAT is a tough exam but practising for the UCAT will put you in a really good position as it allows you to become familiar with the layout of the exam, the different buttons, and the type of questions. It also allows you to come up with a strategy that works best for you. The following tips are things that I found useful in my own experience and allowed me to achieve the score I wanted and hopefully with practise they will work for you too.
Using the keyboard short cuts can save precious time, especially when using the calculator short cuts in the Decision Making and Quantitative Reasoning sections. Therefore, getting comfortable with the number keys will allow you to focus completely on the questions and the time.
Triaging difficult questions is extremely important in the exam. It allows you to tackle the easier questions first and then the difficult questions. This reduces the amount of time wasted and maximises the number of marks you gain. It especially helped me during the Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Making sections. Any questions that were particularly long or seemed obviously complex, I immediately left to do at the end of the section. (The “flag” feature is extremely useful in this case). For example, there are complex 5-part questions in the Decision Making section. They are only worth 2 marks and not 5, therefore they can be triaged.
Every section has a mixture of difficult and easier questions, therefore it’s possible to triage in every section. The more you practice triaging, the faster you will become at triaging effectively.
Sticking to a certain time limit for each question will allow you to attempt all questions in the section, as the UCAT exam is very time constrained. (The time limit will vary for each section as the sections have a different number of questions and a different total time). However, you can be slightly flexible with the time you spend on each question as some questions are harder or easier than others. Triaging questions is what allows you to be more flexible with these time limits. Also, when you first start practising you can be more flexible with the time, but try to get stricter as you keep practising.
Make use of the breaks in between the different sections and use this time to clear your mind and focus on the next section. In that time, it doesn’t matter if you think you did badly on the last section, just try to be confident (but not complacent) and remember/revise your strategy for the next section. You can also use this time to ask for a new whiteboard if necessary. At the start of the exam, you can also ask for headphones or earplugs if it helps you with noise.
There are many useful (free and paid) resources that allow you to practice many UCAT style questions to help you prepare. You might also want to try a UCAT course to help build your skills and confidence. The difficulty and style might slightly differ in these resources (from the actual exam) however you can refer to the official test samples provided by the official UCAT website. Attempting different resources will allow you to become familiar with different degrees of difficulty that may come up in the actual exam. (Some students have mentioned that the actual exam was easier/harder than the questions they practised from their resources, so I thought this might be important to mention).
Specific tips for each section
1. Verbal reasoning
Read the actual question/statement first, then skim read the text. This allows you to focus exactly on what you are looking for. There is not enough time to read the full text thoroughly and then answer the questions that follow. When scanning the text, also look out for information that could eliminate one of the answers.
2. Decision making
Use triage effectively in this section to bank the easier marks first. Complex 5-part questions can be flagged for later as they are only worth 2 marks. Logic puzzles, identifying strongest arguments and maths problems are skills that you can build through practice. Drawing sketches and diagrams out can make things clearer in logic puzzles. Making a “key” can help you to solve Venn diagrams if they are not already provided.
3. Quantitative Reasoning
Again, use triage effectively to bank easier marks first. Identify the type of question and read through the information keeping an eye out for important data and units. Try to identify quickly the equation/calculation you are required to solve and try to minimise the amount of calculations. In the run up to the test make sure your mental maths is up to speed. This will help you to be quicker at solving and you won’t waste time using the calculator. Eliminate answers where possible. Memorise and practise key maths formulae and conversions so you are prepared when they come up.
4. Abstract Reasoning
Look at each set separately first and try to distinguish specific features. Then compare both sets to find the separate patterns. Sometimes, a pattern may be disguised behind a “red herring”. Recognise certain themes that may come up. This can be difficult at first so you can keep a list of features to go through: Shape, Number, Angles, Arrangement, Colour, Symmetry, Size, Direction e.t.c. Harder patterns can be a combination of more than one feature. You can also use elimination in a “series” question.
5. Situational Judgement
This is the least time restricted section. Practise many of these questions to understand how to act in these situations. Don’t necessarily answer as how YOU would act, but put yourself in the shoes of the best, most professional version of a doctor you can imagine. Sometimes the first thing you can do is decide which side of the spectrum fits the action best: appropriate or inappropriate. This can help you to narrow down your choice. Reflect on previous answers and recognise the themes that come up time and time again (e.g. teamwork is a theme that always comes dressed up in different scenarios).
Lastly, lots and lots of practise will let you improve the specific skills required in the UCAT (e.g. identifying/inferring information, triaging, problem solving, spotting patterns e.t.c) and help you to be confident for the exam. Hopefully these tips can help you to achieve the UCAT score you want! Good luck!
(Links to different UCAT practise sites)