When to sit the UCAT (UKCAT)?
Summer is a busy time. Many students will be working and enjoying a break from their studies. Some students will be travelling, for part or all of the summer. And some students will be observing Ramadan, which overlaps with approximately the first week of the UCAT (UKCAT) testing season.
Depending on your personal plans and beliefs, there are any number of factors that could impact your decision on when to sit the UCAT. You can select virtually any date from early July to early October for your UCAT appointment, depending on availability at your preferred test centre. Thus, the choice of a test appointment is really up to you.
Our best advice is to consider any factors that might affect your preparation or your performance on Test Day, and schedule your test appointment appropriately. Since you can choose any available test appointment, there is no reason not to choose the appointment that will give you the greatest advantage.
Here are some factors to consider:
Will you be working in the summer? If so, then you might want to break out your weekly schedule on a calendar or planner, to ensure that you will have sufficient time to revise and practise before your test appointment. For example, if you are working full-time on weekdays, then you will have limited time to practise (early mornings and evenings), which might make it tough to take a practice test outside of weekends. In that case, you might want to schedule your test appointment for later in the summer.
Will you be travelling, whether for a week or two or even longer? Many families will take a break, and in some cases, this could involve staying in a different town or country for an extended period of time. If you are travelling with your family and staying in a hotel or vacation house, then you might find it challenging to get a bit of space and quiet in order to revise and practise for the UCAT. Taking a practice test in one sitting (and being able to concentrate, even for a bit of quick practice) could be very difficult indeed. If a family vacation is on the cards, then you might consider delaying your UCAT preparation until after the vacation. This might include taking your UCAT course soon upon your return from the holiday, with your test appointment to follow 3 to 4 weeks later.
Are you observing Ramadan? If you will be fasting during Ramadan, then you might find it particularly challenging to revise for the UCAT and sit the exam during this period. Given the long days (with sunset not until 10pm in much of the UK in late June), many students who have tried to prep for the UCAT during Ramadan in past summers have reported that they found it difficult to concentrate, particularly late in the day and in dealing with Quantitative and Abstract questions. Obviously, everyone must make their own decision about what is appropriate. But since you have the choice of any test appointment in the July to October period, there is no reason not to select a test slot later in the summer, so that you could take your UCAT course after the end of Ramadan and then have a few weeks to finish preparing. For example, if you take your UCAT course in the second or third week of July, you could have 3-4 weeks afterwards for revision and practice and then sit your UCAT exam in mid-August. You would have your choice of test appointments ahead of the busy September period.
Is there a reason you must sit the UCAT in September or October? Unless you have a particularly compelling reason to do so, it is much better to prepare for the UCAT earlier in the summer, with your test appointment in July or August. There are a few obvious reasons to do so: the test is cheaper in the UK in July and August — £65, as compared to £80+ in September and October. It will also be much easier to get your choice of test appointments, since approximately two-thirds of all UCAT students take the test in September or October. If you take the UCAT late in the season, you will have a harder time getting an appropriate appointment, and it could be very difficult to change appointments. If you will be at school or university in September, then it would likely be preferable to sit the UCAT earlier in the summer in any case.
What’s the best time of day for your test appointment? The options will range from early morning - as early as 8am — to late in the afternoon — as late as 3 or 4pm, depending on the test centre. Remember, your UCAT experience will be a very intense 2 hours of staring at a monitor (which in most cases will be only a few inches from your eyes), while working incredibly quickly through a wide range of question types and completing over 200 items, without a break. We at Kaplan strongly advise that you think through your past experiences of taking tests to decide on the best time of day for your UCAT appointment, so that you do not give yourself a disadvantage. In some cases, you might opt for a test centre that is slightly further away, just to get your preferred time. A common consideration is how the test appointment will fit in around meal times — for example, would you prefer to take the test right after breakfast, or before (or after) lunch? Some students would prefer an appointment first thing in the morning, but others (including many Kaplan teachers and writers) aren’t at our sharpest at 8am, so we would tend to go for a late morning or early afternoon appointment. If you are thinking of taking the test later in the afternoon, please reflect on how you will feel after lunch. Sometimes, this can be a time of tiredness or a general ‘slump’ in your attitude or motivation, which could be less than ideal for achieving peak performance (and top scores) on the UCAT.
The bottom line: There are many factors that could impact your test performance, and you should take a few moments to consider these before booking your UCAT appointment. Also, be sure to allow sufficient time after your UCAT course to finish revising and practising for the UCAT. In most cases, you will likely find there is enough practice material to allow 3 to 4 weeks between your UCAT course and your test appointment. It is possible to prepare in a shorter amount of time, particularly if you can prep on a full-time basis (which might be possible in the summer). Remember, if you find that you’d like a little more time to finish prepping, you can always change your test appointment - there is no fee for changing your appointment if it’s within the same period (i.e. if you keep it in July or August); if you switch to the later period, then you only pay the difference. It’s essential that you take ownership of these factors, weigh any possible challenges and schedule your UCAT course and test appointment to your maximum advantage.