UCAT preparation is one of the most important things you need to do as part of your medical school admissions journey and it should start several months before the actual exam. Most aspiring medical students wonder if the UCAT is hard when they first learn what it is and the answer is yes, it’s likely to be the hardest exam you have ever taken… but, there is hope.
Knowing how to prepare and having an experienced and qualified medical professional on your side to offer expert advice and detailed explanations to tricky questions is paramount to your success. In this guide, we tell you how to practice for the UCAT and we introduce ourselves at The Future Medic to tell you about our services.
UCAT preparation is key
It is true what they say, preparation is key. Don’t try and go into the UCAT exam underprepared because this exam is unlike any other exam you will ever have taken before.
Despite common belief, the test doesn’t measure scientific knowledge so no prior medical knowledge is needed for taking the test, instead, it focuses on exploring the cognitive powers of candidates and other attributes considered to be valuable for healthcare professionals.
To get a good enough score to get noticed, you need to be fully prepared and follow these 6 steps to help you to succeed:
- Understand the test format
- Practise each section individually
- Understand the timing
- Use UCAT support materials
- Begin practice questions at least 3-6 months before the exam
- Seek support from experienced and qualified medical professional tutors.
Below, we have gone into more detail for each of the 6 points and how they can help you to do well on the UCAT exam to improve your chances of getting through to the next stage of the admissions process- the interview.
1. Understand the test format
The most important thing you need to do first is research the test format and make yourself familiar with how it is scored. In particular, though, you should make note of the question styles and the different subtests that are present within the overall test. There are 5 different subsections of the test that all examine your ability for different things.
The UCAT subtests are:
- Verbal reasoning – 44 questions in (21 minutes)
- Decision Making – 29 questions in (31 minutes)
- Quantitative reasoning – 36 questions in (24 minutes)
- Abstract reasoning – 55 questions in (13 minutes)
- Situational judgement – 69 questions in (26 minutes)
The verbal reasoning section of the exam assesses your ability to evaluate information presented in written form critically. There are 44 questions in this section and you’ll have 21 minutes to complete it.
This section of the UCAT exam assesses your ability to make sound decisions and judgements using complex information. The decision-making section consists of 21 questions and you’ll have 31 minutes to complete it.
The quantitative reasoning section of the UCAT exam assesses your ability to evaluate information presented in numerical form critically. This sub-test has 36 questions and you have 25 minutes to complete it.
This sub-section of the UCAT exam assesses your use of convergent and divergent thinking to infer relationships from the information. The abstract reasoning section has 50 questions; you have 12 minutes to complete it.
The final section measures your capacity to understand real-world situations and to identify critical factors and appropriate behaviour in dealing with them. The situational judgment section has 69 questions; you have 26 minutes to complete it.
UCAT scoring system
The UCAT is marked on the number of correct answers you give, and no marks are deducted for incorrect answers. As the number of questions varies between the first four cognitive subtests, making a direct comparison is impossible; therefore, the raw marks are converted into a scaled score that shares a common range between 300 and 900.
The total scaled UCAT score is generated by summing the scaled scores from the first four cognitive subtests, which range from 1200 to 3600. Doing practice tests allows you to calculate your UCAT score, giving you an idea of what to work on for your areas of development. Set a score goal and work on it by increasing your score in your weakest areas.
2. Practise each section individually
Because each subtest tests different abilities it’s important to tackle them individually and treat them as separate tests. As you revise and practise your way through each section you will begin to notice your strengths and weaknesses and work out a strategy to improve in the areas you’re struggling with.
Even better, to help you improve on your weaknesses and boost your overall score, getting help can be an invaluable tool to success. The Future Medic has trained and experienced medical professionals who have all been in your positions and have helped many aspiring students with the UCAT exam and application process.
3. Understand the timing
UCAT is 2 hours long but it isn’t as simple as splitting that into 5 equal parts and there you have the timings. Each section has a different time limit as shown above. Here is a quick look to remind you:
Verbal reasoning- 21 minutes
Decision making- 31 minutes
Quantitative reasoning- 25 minutes
Abstract reasoning- 12 minutes
Situational judgment- 26 minutes.
Many students ask the number of UCAT questions per day that they should be doing to prepare for the UCAT exam, well, that all depends on how fast you are! Don’t worry if you can’t answer enough questions in the given time frame, this is completely normal, but make sure you do regular practice to not only prepare for the questions but to make sure you are fast enough.
4. Use UCAT support materials
One of the best resources you can get online to help you prepare for the UCAT is the resources on the official UCAT website. If you want to take your revision to the next level to put you ahead of the crowd, you can go through mock questions with one of our tutors who can provide you with the personalised support you need and offer detailed explanations to challenging questions.
5. Begin practice questions
Use the resources online to start answering practice questions because you have to start somewhere. How long you should spend revising for the UCAT is down to you but it is recommended that you start at least 3-6 months before the exam (many students start even earlier) and it’s best to adopt the little and often method rather than doing lengthy study sessions to cram it all in.
As time goes on and you become more confident, within that hour a day you will be able to answer more and more questions correctly and much faster until you’re ready to take a full mock exam within the given time frame for each section.
6. Seek support
In this section, we’ll explain why you need a UCAT tutor. Competition to study medicine is extremely competitive with only a 1 in 3 chance of getting accepted and a 1 in 10 chance at getting accepted into the most popular universities or if you’re an international student. Many universities use UCAT scores as a basis for deciding who they invite for an interview so if your score doesn’t impress the panel, you’re unlikely to progress to the next stage of the process.
The Future Medic- we want you to succeed!
Ace the UCAT and book an appointment with one of The Future Medic’s tutors who are experts in the medical school application and UCAT process. Boost your score, get personalised 1-1 lessons and be fully supported along the way by qualified and experienced doctors.
The average score on the UCAT test is around 607 and with The Future Medic’s help, our students have an overall average score of around 743, giving them a more likely chance of getting noticed by their chosen universities. With more than 30,000 more students 2023 applying to medical school than in previous years, preparation is more important than ever.
More reasons to get a UCAT tutor
- The competition is greater and tougher so it is getting harder and harder to get accepted onto a place to study a medical degree.
- 30,000 more students are applying to medical school than in previous years, meaning there is only a 1 in 10 chance of getting accepted into the most popular universities.
- Having an excellent UCAT score makes your application stand out.
- Many universities use UCAT scores as the basis of their decision to shortlist applicants for interviews.
So now that you know exactly how to practice for the UCAT, what are you waiting for? Start working through our process and contact us today.