12 UCAT Tips to save time and ace the exam
1. Don’t leave preparation to the last minute
As with many exams, it takes time to prepare for the UCAT. Leaving preparation until the week before the exam will unfortunately leave you with a score lower than your best. Allowing around 4 weeks to prepare for your exam will give you time to be familiar with the type of questions that come up, as well as give you time to identify and practice those areas you find tricky.
2. The 3 types of practice you need to use
When preparing for the UCAT, blindly repeating full practice tests over and over will not allow you to achieve your full potential. Variety in your practice is key to keeping your brain engaged and productive. The three types of practice needed involve:
- Practicing individual questions within a section slowly to ensure accuracy.
- Practicing sets of questions under timed conditions to build up your speed and accuracy.
- Practicing whole tests under timed conditions to build up your stamina.
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3. Keep a record of your practice scores
By keeping a record of any practice scores, you can see how much progress you are making and which areas you are struggling with, so you know to target these in your practice. Keeping track will also allow you to know whether you are still improving your scores or whether they are starting to level off. If your scores are starting to level off, this could be a sign you are peaking in your practice and it’s advised to take your test very soon.
4. Practice in exam conditions
One of the main adjustments that students face when switching from practice to the real test is the type of device used. Many students who have prepared fully and completed online tests will have done so using a laptop or a tablet. In the exam you will be using a PC with a monitor and separate keyboard. Where possible it is advised you do some practice on a PC, whether that’s at school or at your local library. Mimicking the exam in your practice will avoid unnecessary surprises and help you achieve your best score.
5. Use the keyboard shortcuts
There are several keyboard shortcuts that can be used in the exam to prevent you having to use the mouse all the time.
- Alt + C - Makes the calculator appear
- Alt + N - Moves the screen onto the next question
- Alt + P - Moves the screen onto the previous question
- Alt + F - Flags the current question you are on
- Num Lock - Activates the keyboard number pad
- Backspace - Clears the calculator
6. Calculator or no calculator?
One of the slowest elements in the UCAT is using the onscreen calculator. When practising at home it is advised you practice your mental arithmetic to avoid using the onscreen calculator where possible. If you struggle with mental arithmetic, then using the onscreen calculator may be faster for you. Knowing what sort of questions you can do yourself and which you are likely to need the calculator for will be helpful before you go into the exam. This will prevent you wasting time unnecessarily as well as preventing you from panicking trying to do difficult questions in your head.
7. Don’t rub out your whiteboard workings
During the exam you have access to a whiteboard (laminated piece of paper), if you wish, for all sections. If using them, there are several reasons to avoid rubbing your workings out on your whiteboard:
- It wastes time – in the UCAT every second counts, so spending time rubbing out your workings is a complete waste and is unnecessary
- You may need your workings later on – particularly if you have flagged the question for review, saving your workings will prevent you recalculating questions from the start that you have already done
- You can have unlimited whiteboards in the exam – all you have to do is put your hand up and ask for extra whiteboards before the start of each section
8. How to use the flag tool
The flag tool can be both a blessing and a curse to students in the UCAT, depending on how it’s used. When you don’t know how to answer a question, you can flag it for review so you can identify the question to come back to if you have time. One trap that students can fall into is flagging too many questions without attempting them because they look difficult. Flagging too many questions will mean after your first pass through, you will have a large number of questions to answer and are likely to panic. The best way to combat this is to practice flagging questions during your preparation and learn what type of questions you struggle with the most - that way you’ll know to flag these immediately in the exam.
9. Eliminating answers
One of the great things about multiple choice exams is that one of the answer choices is definitely the right one, and so you have the option to guess the correct answer. If you are unsure on a question you have 2 options:
- Guess the answer immediately and flag for review
- Spend some time eliminating an answer then guess out of the remaining answers and flag for review
Spending some time eliminating one or two answers will increase your chances of guessing the correct answer.
10. If in doubt choose ‘A’, ‘B’ or ‘ C’ and stick to it
If you have absolutely no idea what the answer is, or you wish to skip the question always mark an answer before moving on. When guessing blindly it is advised to always put the same answer choice as it increases your chances of getting it right some of the time. Your odds of picking up marks increase substantially if you always pick the same letter instead of randomly guessing. So always pick A, B or C, and don't mix and match.
11. How to avoid distractions in the exam
The last thing you want is to get distracted during the exam. There are various distractions that can be difficult to avoid and preparation is key to tackling each of these possibilities:
- Background noise – bring disposable ear plugs
- Temperature – ensure you dress in layers then you can easily adjust to the room temperature
- Needing to use the bathroom – ensure you go to the bathroom before the test starts as once you press start the timer doesn’t stop. Even between sections you have a timed 1-minute break to read the instructions
12. Remain calm
The most important thing to do in the exam is remain calm. By the time you arrive at the exam there is nothing more you can do once you have completed all your preparation. Whilst taking the exam, take each question as it comes and don’t think about your overall score - just do your best on each question you encounter.