UCAT Preparation Plan
Advice & Insight From UCAT Specialists
Before the test
The key to preparing for the UCAT is practice. This exam is not content based, and therefore revision for it does not include learning information per se. Instead, it is important to gain an understanding of basic techniques for each section – and the exam overall – and then use these when practising questions.
The UCAT is two hours long, and involves five sections. With the exception of perhaps the Situational Judgement section, there are significant time constraints in this exam, with students often not having enough time to complete all the questions. For example, in the Quantitative Reasoning section, which involves often lengthy calculations, there are only 40 seconds available per question, as there are 24 minutes to complete the 36 questions. Therefore, it is important to triage or prioritise questions. If there are certain questions that are taking too long to provide an answer to, ‘flag’ it for review, and then proceed to the next question. At the end of each section, you will be able to review the flagged questions and go back to them. If you find that you are still unable to answer the question, it is essential that you select an option nonetheless; there is no negative marking (i.e. you will not lose points for choosing the incorrect answer), and there could still be a chance of your answer being correct, as it is multiple choice.
There are also methods of approaching particular sections that could prove to be beneficial in the exam:
- Verbal Reasoning – there may not be time to read the entirety of each passage provided in this section. Therefore, it can be helpful to identify key words in the question, and look for them in the text; this should make it easier to find the information needed to answer the question.
- Quantitative Reasoning – the data provided in this section generally consists of a body of text, which can be accompanied by a chart, graph or table. However, it can take time to read through and analyse such data. Thus, similar to as in the Verbal Reasoning section, it can help to use the information in the question to select the relevant data. Furthermore, when doing calculations, if the values provided are particularly long or complicated, rounding up or down can make it easier and quicker to complete the question.
- Abstract Reasoning – when analysing Sets A and B, look for key characteristics among the shapes in each group. This could include the number of sides, the shading of the shape, the number of shapes in each box, or the size of each shape.
Practice questions and tests
As mentioned above, it is essential to practice doing these questions. There are many books and online resources available providing questions, such as the ‘Get Into Medical School – 1250 UKCAT Practice Questions’. It is important to revise under exam conditions; this includes completing the questions in the time provided by the actual exam, and using an online calculator, scratchpad and whiteboard. Additionally, there are mock tests available on the UCAT website (https://www.ucat.ac.uk/ucat/practice-tests/), that mimic the exam. Currently, there are four practice tests available, with each having a UCATSEN (Special Education Needs) and untimed version. It is pivotal to complete at least one mock exam, to not only practice your techniques, but to also understand what the actual UCAT will be like. Two hours is a long period of time, especially when looking at a computer screen, thus being prepared to complete the entire exam is important, as it requires a degree of mental stamina. As it may take time to adapt to these question types and be proficient in them, it is advisable to start preparation as soon as possible, ideally one to two months before the appointment date.
On the day
It is important to note the preparations that must take place on the day of the UCAT. Make sure you have the correct date, time and location of the exam, and arrive at the test centre at least 15 minutes before the appointment time. To take the exam, you will need photographic identification – which can be a passport, photo-card driver’s license, EU identity card or Irish passport card, government-issued identity card from a non-EU country – and a printed or electronic copy of the appointment confirmation email from Pearson VUE.
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