UCAT Calculator: 6 Tips for Using the UCAT Calculator

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James Gibbons

Senior Writer

The UCAT calculator can be a real hinderance during your exam. This can be surprising, as you may think surely the calculator is there to help you? The UCAT calculator is purposely designed to slow you down and get in the way of a top UCAT score which is why we’ve put together out top tips for dealing with it.

UCAT Calculator Tips Infographic

1. Get familiar with the UCAT calculator

One of the best ways to both maximise your UCAT performance is to become familiar with using the onscreen UCAT calculator so that it becomes second nature. The calculator may be required in both the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Making parts of the test.

The UCAT calculator, while being a useful and necessary tool, is slow to operate and does not have all of the functions of a scientific calculator that you may be used to. For these reasons it is crucial that you take the time familiarise yourself with it so that it does not take you by surprise on test day when you can’t find the functions you’re looking for.

The easiest way to familiarise yourself with the UCAT calculator is through the UCAT official website.

Ultimately to become proficient in using the calculator you need to practice with it as much as possible. Through this you’ll work out the limits of your own mental maths, and the best combination of mental arithmetic, estimation and the calculator for you.

UCAT Calculator
Practice using the UCAT Calculator

2. Learn the UCAT calculator shortcuts

To speed up using the UCAT calculator there are a number of keyboard shortcuts that are worth learning and using to your advantage. These will help you to open the calculator and move through the questions more efficiently. Although this may only save you a couple of seconds per question, this adds up to make a large difference over the course of the entire test.

Num LockBefore using keyboard
Alt + FFlag the question
Alt + PPrevious question
Control + COpen the calculator

Essential UCAT Calculator Shortcuts
Alt + SGo to Review Screen
Alt + EEnd Review
Alt + VReview Flagged Questions
Alt + A Review of Every Question
Alt + IReview of Incomplete Questions

Additional Shortcuts

3. Know when not to use it

Just as important as knowing how to use the UCAT calculator, is knowing when not to use it. Many of the calculations you will be required to do are possible using just mental maths alone. Especially if you’re able to estimate the answers where possible.

If you can do even part of the calculation using mental arithmetic this will save you valuable seconds that may be otherwise wasted inputting the values into the calculator.

4. Brush up your mental maths

As part of your UCAT preparation it is worth taking some time to brush up on your mental maths. For example, learning up to your 20 times table could prove to be incredibly helpful on test day as once again, knowing that 15 x 17 is 255 could save you ten seconds of time by not having to input this into the calculator. Don’t underestimate how long this would take using a keyboard and mouse!

Mental Maths
Learn your Mental Maths

5. Know your powers

One of the major short comings of the onscreen calculator is that it does not have any power functions. This means you won’t easily be able to square, cube or perform any power functions. Knowing your square and cube numbers is far more time efficient than typing 3 x 3 x 3 into the calculator.

Maths Powers

6. Use the memory functions

The UCAT calculator has a memory function that retains the answer of a previous calculation for use in further calculations. This will save you time by not having to write down intermediate steps or values onto your whiteboard.

To use the memory function of the UCAT calculator, press the M+ button to add a number to the calculator’s memory. The MRC button is used to recall this number.

For working out complex powers this is particular useful. For example, to work out 17.85 you would type 17.8 and press the M+ button. Then type 17.8 x MRC x MRC x MRC x MRC to get the answer. Again, this is a function of the UCAT calculator that requires a little practise to get used to.

Memory on UCAT Calculator
Memory on UCAT Calculator

Bonus: Get used to the number pad

During practice, we recommend getting used to the number pad on the right hand side of a traditional keyboard. Once you’re used to it, its a much faster typing method and will save you precious seconds.

UCAT Calculator

Let’s do some practice!

Have a go at these questions using the UCAT calculator which you can find here.

UCAT Calculator
Where to find the UCAT Calculator for practicing

Question 1:

Calculate 17.8 to the power of 5

  1. Type 1.035
  2. Press M+
  3. Click x then MRC then x then MRC then x then MRC then x then MRC

Question 2:

Melons cost £1.20 each. Apples cost 54p each. What is the price of buying 14 melons and 22 apples?

  1. Calculate 1.20 x 14 = 16.8
  2. Click M+
  3. Calculate 0.54 x 22 = 11.88
  4. Press + and then M+

Can you use a calculator in the UCAT?

You’re not able to take a handheld calculator into the UCAT exam room. Instead, you’ll have access to an onscreen basic calculator for the entirety of the exam. The UCAT calculator is very basic and lacks many of the functions found on a traditional scientific calculator so it is best to avoid relying on these functions during practice.

Do you get given paper for calculations in the UCAT?

You can’t take paper and pens into the UCAT exam room but you will be provided with a laminated whiteboard and pen to use. We advise checking your pen works before starting the exam!

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Post as “Anonymous”


GeorgeMedic Mind Tutor

11 May 2020

Really great article!


XhengMedic Mind Tutor

11 May 2020

Hi there, thanks for the tips they’re really helpful – When do you recommend using the calculator, as I find it really hard to use

Anna CharlotteMedic Mind Tutor

6 June 2021

Try and only use the calculator when you absolutely need too. A good tip is to look at your answer options to help you decide. If they’re really spaced out (such as A. 100, B. 01, C. 10000) you won’t need to be that precise in your calculations so could probably just do the maths in your head to work out roughly what the answer is and go for the option that’s in the correct order of magnitude. Hope this helps!

AnonymousMedic Mind Tutor

10 August 2021

Is the whiteboard used in the exam double sided?

Anna CharlotteMedic Mind Tutor

20 August 2021

You should get access to more than one laminated sheet. You can always ask for more if not, although I’d recommend doing this before the test begins so you don’t lose any time during the actual test!

IolantheMedic Mind Tutor

23 August 2021

What does the E in the corner of the UCAT calculator mean (the one that comes up when a large number is displayed)?

LynneMedic Mind Tutor

18 October 2021

That’s the symbol for standard form, e.g. 1.6 E 08 is 1.6 × 10⁸.