UCAT Preparation: 6 UCAT Tips For 2021 Success

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James Gibbons

Senior Writer

UCAT Preparation is a key way you can directly influence your medical school application and turn one of the most daunting parts of the process into one of your strongest.

When working out how to prepare for this process it can often be confusing where to start and what to prioritise. We know that time is often very tight, between managing the UCAT, UCAS and your other academic commitments.

This article is here to help you to prepare the best you can. We cover our five key UCAT preparation tips to help you to succeed. And these tips come from our expert experience of guiding multiple students successfully through this process.

UCAT Preparation Tips Infographic

1.  Getting to grips with the test format

The first thing you need to do as part of your UCAT preparation is to fully understand what it will be testing you on, and the format that this will involve. The best starting place for this is the offical UCAT website: https://www.ucat.ac.uk This website will give you the details of the five specific sections of the test:

  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Decision Making
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Situational Judgement 

Once you understand what is being tested in these sections, and the scoring system, you can begin to prepare effectively for each one so as to maximise your potential score. If you are still struggling to under how the test is scored then take a look at our UCAT scores for more information. And they also have their own helpful video on how they recommend you structure your UCAT preparation. 

Official Video from UCAT Consortium

2.   Tackle each section on its own

The essence of good UCAT preparation, and therefore a good performance, is making sure you have prepared well for each section. This starts with understanding what is being tested in each section and structuring your preparation to target this. The most straightforward example of this is Quantitative Reasoning. 

The Quantitative Reasoning assesses your basic mathematical ability and how you use these to problem solve. The level of these questions is to that of a good pass at GCSE, but they look more at how you problem-solve rather than your numerical facility. So this means that by practising your basics maths you can specifically target this section.

You can find our specific advice for each section by following these links: 

Each of these blogs will guide you through some of our top tips to help you to tackle these sections. And they look at some of the specific techniques required to ace each area of the test.

If you are finding one area particularly difficult – and this is not uncommon – then it may be worth getting some external help in which case you may find one of our Medic Mind one-to-one tutoring useful. These sessions can be tailored to meet your exact needs, helping you to master each section.

UCAT Sections
UCAT Sections

3.   Understand how timing works

One of the biggest problems that students face with the UCAT is the notorious time pressure, with some of the sections only having about 15 seconds per question. This means that thinking about time management early on is one of the most important parts of your UCAT preparation. Remember: there’s no point striving for full marks in your strongest section if it costs you 200 points on your weakest. 

SubtestTimeNumber of Questions
Verbal Reasoning22 minutes44
Quantitative Reasoning25 minutes36
Abstract Reasoning14 minutes55
Decision Making32 minutes29
Situational Judgement27 minutes69
Total120 minutes233
Break down of test sections

To this end you should start practising with a clock running from quite early on in your preparation. You do not need to put too much pressure on yourself to begin with, but it is important to understand how long each question is taking you. This means as you get closer to your UCAT you can look at applying timing tipsduring your practise to try and improve your efficiency. 

UCAT timing

Time is of the essence!

4.  Use the official UCAT practice tests

Practice exams should form the largest part of your UCAT preparation.  These will give you the closest experience to what the actual test will be like and will allow you to apply all your preparation in a challenging way.

One of the best sources of practise exams is again the UCAT website: https://www.ucat.ac.uk/ucat/practice-tests/. This will allow you to become familiar with the computerised test format.

Other resources to practise with can be found in our UCAT Resources blog post here (link). Or if you want to take your UCAT preparation to the next level you could go through a full mock UCAT with one of our tutors.

This can be particularly helpful as it will allow you to explore any questions that you may have struggled with, allowing you to learn from them and improve.

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5.   Effective UCAT preparation

With UCAT preparation it is very easy to get overwhelmed and find yourself doing question after question without improving. This is why effective preparation with clear goals is the key to success.

Set yourself manageable targets for the day and ensure you review questions you get wrong to make sure you learn from your mistakes. This could be based on number of questions, sections covered, or just a certain question type you find hard.

Also, make sure that you give yourself adequate time to prepare so that you are not doing it all at the last minute, allowing for manageable chunks of preparation each day.

QR UCAT notes
Make sure to prepare!

6. Practice in a library setting

Do a full, 2 hour practice test in your local library. Being out of your comfort zone in a quiet communal space will help stimulate the final exam, especially if you have been doing most of your revision at home.

Of course, don’t try this one out just yet! #covid19

Practice in a library setting

UCAT Preparation: Conclusion

The UCAT can seem a very daunting process. But, it is one of the maim steps for getting into medical school for many applicants. The key to success with the UCAT is thought-out and effective preparation.

As this article shows, things such as making sure you don’t neglect any sections and that you are on top timings is crucial. Hopefully this guide will have given you the insight you need to begin this process, and ultimately lead you through to UCAT success.

If you have any additional questions please comment below and we will get back to you!

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