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How I prepared for the UCAT
The UCAT can be a challenging and difficult exam to study for. Not only are the questions very different to A-levels but, also the method of studying is as well. The hardest section for me was the Quantitative reasoning section as I initially struggled with quick mental maths. However, with practice, I was able to identify my mistakes and rectify them, progressively seeing an improvement in my score. Here are some tips that should be helpful to you!
Don’t time yourself right away
First of all, make sure you understand the importance of timing yourself even when you are doing practice questions at home. After all, the exam will be under timed conditions and it is therefore best to practice under the same conditions to simulate the test experience. However, a mistake some students make is to start timing themselves from the very beginning. Whilst this gives you practice according to timed conditions, it may not give you enough time to fully understand your method and any answers you score correctly may just be guesses rather than being worked out the right way. So, a good tip is to start off UCAT revision by attempting questions from each section at your own pace, in your own time, and just focus on getting the technique right so that you truly understand the logic behind each answer. That way, when your confidence in answering questions increases, you can then move onto timing yourself.
Use our paper-based UCAT practice test within our the starter pack to try some questions.
Pace yourself with preparation
Another tip is to make an organised schedule for UCAT practice. It is your summer holidays, you have just finished exams from school…relax! By having a timetable for slotting in UCAT practice everyday, you will create structure for your revision and improve focus. It is better to do a little practice every day rather than intense practice for example, for a week, and then leaving a study gap for 2 weeks as, you may forget what you learnt. Also, make sure to book your test for when you feel would be most suitable for you- this should give you a goal to work towards. Be wary of over-working yourself otherwise, you may ‘burn-out’ and reach your peak performance earlier than test day, resulting in a lower score. Hence, keep a consistent pace, remember slow and steady wins the race!
Check out our UCAT study guide to support you with scheduling your studies.
Find a prep partner
Another thing I found useful was having a study buddy who helped me tackle some hard questions. Having a friend or knowing someone who is also taking the UCAT is a great way to revise as you can help and learn from each other. If you plan your time well, you can have productive revision sessions where you both teach each other topics for example, working out percentage change or volumes of shapes. It may be a good idea to practice some mental maths and brush over any formulae you feel will be useful to remember.
Prepare section by section
If you are struggling on one particular style of question e.g. percentage change, then spend some time focusing on as many questions you can find on that style and keep re-doing them until you fully understand the topic. Then, move on to the next section. This will help to consolidate your knowledge in every area. Remember, the UCAT is a very unfamiliar style of exam so do not get disheartened if you feel you are taking a long time to grasp concept. It could be that you are struggling with a section that another candidate finds easy and they are struggling with a section that you find is a piece of cake! The key point to remember is to focus on getting as many questions as possible correctly in the time provided.
Use the UCAT Consortium Practice Tests
A final piece of advice is to attempt the UCAT practice papers that are provided on the official UCAT website. These will give you an idea of the types of questions to expect on test day. Be sure to only attempt them once you have finished your main revision, around 2 weeks before your test date. These are an excellent resource and the layout of the screen is similar to what you will see in your exam. You may wish to attempt all the mock papers twice or thrice to make you very familiar with the question styles.
Overall, it is important to spend equal amounts of time revising for each section of the UCAT because they each count towards your final score. If you are struggling on one specific section, be sure to rectify your mistakes early before moving on. In the meantime, continue with consistent bursts of practice, so that your performance improves progressively and your testing skills are strongly maintained until the day of your test.