UCAT changes for 2020
Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists
The UCAT in 2020
As of June 2020, guidance regarding the UCAT in 2020 has stated that the exam is available to be taken by candidates. It can be taken either online at home (via the Pearson VUE’s online proctoring service) or at Pearson VUE Test Centres, as it has been in the past. The registration and booking of the UCAT opened on the 1st July 2020, with the testing period being from the 3rd August to the 1st October 2020, prior to the UCAS application deadline of the 15th October 2020. Despite the changes to the method of taking the exam, the content of the UCAT has remained the same.
Taking the exam online via OnVUE
The exam can be taken online, using the OnVUE online proctoring service, with the necessary precautions taking place. Candidates must go on PearsonVUE.com, and create an account. Once they have logged in, they can begin the exam, and must then download and run the OnVUE software. When running the OnVUE software, candidates will be asked to follow the instructions making up the ‘check-in process’. This includes taking a headshot photo, verifying their identification and taking pictures of the surroundings, which should be a private area absent of any pictures or notes. Once this process is complete, candidates will then be able to begin the exam. During the exam, candidates will be monitored via their webcam and microphone, and will not be able to leave the room or move out of the proctor view. If candidates have any questions whilst taking the exam, there is a ‘chat’ icon in which they are able to ask the proctor.
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Taking the exam at a test centre
Candidates can also choose to take the exam at their local Pearson Test Centre, the original method of completing the UCAT. There are, however, slight changes that have been implemented to minimise any risks to candidates and test centre staff. Face coverings are currently mandatory at centres in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland, and are strongly recommended at those in Wales. There will be hand sanitiser and tissues available to candidates, and centres will be cleaned and disinfected between appointments. Candidates will also be able to wear disposable gloves during the test; however, these will be inspected prior to the exam. Furthermore, applicants may have to undergo a temperature check upon arrival to certain test centres. It must also be mentioned that only test-takers will be able to remain at the reception of centres, with those accompanying candidates being unable to stay in waiting areas. Should candidates feel ill or experience any problems on the day of the exam, it is recommended to not sit it, and instead reschedule for a later date, despite the risk of losing the test fee.
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Changes regarding the preparation for the UCAT
It must be emphasised that the content of the UCAT will be the same, therefore preparing for the test via methods such as practice questions and exams is still essential. There are many books that provide example questions, thus it is still important to routinely go through and complete these before attempting the practice exams on the UCAT website (practice.ukcat.ac.uk). There are four practice tests available (A, B, C and D), and subsequently within these there are UCAT, UCATSEN (Special Education Needs) and untimed versions present. There is also a UCAT Practice App that has additional questions.
However, it has been recommended that candidates take the test as soon as possible, due to the uncertainty of further changes that may be implemented dependent on covid-19. For this reason, it is important to commence revision from the earliest time possible. Generally, it is said that revision should be started at least 4-6 weeks before the test date, but it must be stressed that this does not mean candidates should ‘cram’ for the exam. The difficulty of the UCAT lies in the timings; the questions themselves could be completed with relative ease should candidates be given a long period of time, however the high volume of questions required to be completed in two hours makes it challenging. It is thus vital that candidates practice under timed conditions, to adapt to answering the questions as quickly as possible.
The other notable change to the exam is the fact that it can be taken online. Candidates who decide to complete the UCAT at home should ensure they are familiar with the OnVUE software beforehand, and create the optimal working environment for the exam. For example, having no distractions or interruptions, and making sure there is a stable internet connection for the duration of the test. Candidates should also practice and be prepared to take a 2-hour test without any breaks or pauses.