Learn how to manage time effectively during the UCAT test

Learn how to manage time effectively during the UCAT test

A large part of success in the UCAT will come down to use of time, and how well a student can organise the – relatively short – duration of the test. Here, we will work through tips on time management, how to prioritise questions, how to plan for the test, what makes for an efficient approach, and some more general tips too. 

UCAT Time Management

UCAT Time Management

Overall, in terms of time management for the UCAT, you should consider the following:
UCAT Verbal Reasoning
21 Minutes, 44 Questions

Time for each Passage & Set of 4 Questions = 2 minutes (or just under)
Passage Reading Time: 45-60 Seconds
Time for each question = 15 seconds
UCAT Decision Making
31 Minutes
29 Questions
Time for each question = 64 Seconds
UCAT Abstract Reasoning
13 Minutes
11 Sets with 5 Shapes/Questions for Each (ie. 55 Questions)
Time for each question = 12 Seconds

UCAT Situational Judgement

26 Minutes

69 Questions

Time for each question = 22 Seconds​

UCAT Quantitative Reasoning
24 Minutes
36 Questions
Time for each question = 40 Seconds
The single most important element of time management is not to become bogged down in a difficult question. You must approach this as a tactical exercise, in which your goal is to secure as many marks as possible. Work carefully according to your maximum timescale, and do not allow yourself to become distracted. Becoming distracted, spending too long on questions, or lagging behind your timescale can lead to you becoming stressed and anxious about your performance – and in turn losing out on further marks. Remain calm and stick to the plan.

An excellent element of being able to take on a number of UCAT practice questions – as offered in our question bank – is that they provide the opportunity to build your time management skills. As stated, the UCAT is a time pressured exam, and it is important to manage your time effectively during the test. Through doing practice questions, you can get a sense of how long it takes you to complete each section and adjust your pacing accordingly. This will help you avoid rushing through questions and making mistakes, which can negatively impact your overall score. You should build up a natural idea of when you need to move on, and recognise that it’s much more effective to flag a question and move on, than to spend ages puzzling over something that you simply will not be able to answer.

UCAT Prioritisation & UCAT Test Planning

You must always practise under timed conditions as you plan your approach to the test. Through reflecting the exam setting as accurately as you can during your practice, you can minimise the time pressure of the actual examination. However, it’s also vital to carefully choose the questions that you use to prepare. They must be an accurate representation of the true test. This is because practice questions will help you understand the format and style of the exam. By doing practice questions, you will become increasingly familiar with the types of questions that you will face on the test. This in turn will help you better understand the structure of the exam and reduce test anxiety, allowing you to focus on the content of the questions. Additionally, practice questions can help you understand what the UCAT is looking for and how to approach each question. Over time, you will be able to immediately mentally categorise a question, remember previous questions that you have done that were similar, and then approach the question using an approach that you know works. At BlackStone Tutors, we have ensured that our product allows you to experience as-real a replica of the test as is possible, and that you can easily filter through different types of questions as well.

Thus, through doing practice questions you are able to identify your strengths and weaknesses. You can understand the areas which you need to develop the most, and thus push your overall performance forward. Equally, you can quickly recognise areas of relative strength and dedicate a little less time to them. For example, if you are struggling with verbal reasoning questions, you can dedicate more time and effort to studying that section. Working on your weaknesses will build confidence, as well as improving your overall performance on the UCAT. Crucially, it means that you will be able to recognise the kinds of questions that you might struggle with in the exam – perhaps there is one type of verbal reasoning question that you simply cannot get your head around, or a type of abstract reasoning question that you always struggle with – and in this instance, the right and logical thing to do is simply move on when presented with this exact question type in the exam, and thus allow yourself more time to focus on other questions. 

Practice questions also allow you to understand the range of difficulty levels and topics covered on the UCAT, providing you with a better understanding of what you can expect in the exam and thus helping you to prepare more effectively. You will better understand what to expect on test day, and how to approach each section of the exam. Of course, as mentioned above, simply practising repeatedly and working through so many sample questions can help to build your overall confidence. Through confidence in your abilities, you will unlock a better performance in the UCAT.

UCAT Test Efficiency

The best way to be efficient in the test is to have a ‘critical timescale’ – this is the max time that you should spend on any given question. You can decide on your own critical timescale, or make use of one that we provide through our UCAT course – or the rough outline that we have provided above, in the first section of this document. Remember, all questions have the same weighting – so there’s no advantage to spending much longer on a more difficult question.

Remember that there is no shame in guessing difficult questions – a calculated guess based on a range of factors including details in the question and answer skewing – and then flag questions that you have struggled with. This will allow you to return to those questions at the end of the section, assuming that you have time.

You should also make use of the keyboard shortcuts that are available for the UCAT. These are as follows: 

Alt + C = Calculator

Alt + N = Next

Alt + P = Previous

Alt + F = Flag

Num Lock = Activate Number Keypad

Diligent use of the keyboard shortcuts allows you to move much, much faster through the test – and thus frees up valuable time for you to work on the questions themselves.


In terms of broader UCAT tips, you should consider each of the following:

-Understand the Format. The UCAT consists of five sections, namely Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, and Situational Judgement. Knowing the format of the test is vital, and it helps you prepare accordingly. Each section has a unique set of challenges, so understanding what to expect in each section will help you prepare better.

– Develop a Strategy. Having a strategy for each section of the UCAT can help you save time, avoid mistakes, and maximise your score. For instance, in Verbal Reasoning, you can learn how to quickly identify keywords in passages, while in Decision Making, you can learn how to analyse data systematically. You should make use of a UCAT preparation course to highlight the best methods for each section. 

– Familiarise yourself with the Test Interface. The UCAT is computer-based, and it’s essential to become familiar with the test interface before taking the exam. Familiarising yourself with the interface can help you navigate through the test quickly and easily. Using a UCAT Question Bank that accurately replicates the test – like that offered here at BlackStone Tutors – will ensure that you are confident and efficient in the test itself.

– Stay Calm and Focused. The UCAT is a challenging exam, and it’s natural to feel anxious or nervous. However, remember that you won’t be able to get every question right – so work through those that you can do, and flag those that you struggle with. 

– Learn from your Mistakes. After taking practice tests, it’s essential to review your mistakes and learn from them. Understanding your mistakes can help you identify your weaknesses, improve your performance, and develop better strategies for tackling similar questions. You should be able to recognise set types of questions that you find to be more or less difficult. 

– Work on your Weaknesses, using a question bank. Identifying your weaknesses and working on them is vital to improving your score. Using a question bank will ensure that you know where your strengths and weaknesses lie – and where to dedicate your prep. A good question bank will ensure that you are used to the exact layout of the test. Our product is designed by doctors with years of experience in tutoring students in the test. 

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