Medicine and dentistry are very competitive subjects, with a lot of applicants and not very many places, so if you want to get into your dream university, you’ve got to get the grades at A-level, and in the UCAT. But how should you prepare for the UCAT and when should you start your revision? You’re about to find out.
What’s the Format of the UCAT?
The UCAT is a two-hour exam with 233 multiple-choice questions, split into four main sections, with a fifth section that assesses your emotional intelligence and scores you in 4 bands.
The five sections are:
- Verbal Reasoning
- Decision Making
- Quantitative Reasoning
- Abstract Reasoning
- Situational Judgement
Two hours is not a long time to answer over 200 questions, so the exam is quite challenging, as it tests your cognitive ability as well as how well you perform under pressure. These are two crucial elements of a profession in the medical field, so universities expect you to show your problem-solving skills and empathy in this exam to study medicine or dentistry.
How Hard is the UCAT?
The UCAT is a difficult exam as it’s different from most other exams you face at secondary school or sixth-form college, due to the subject matter and the style of questions you face. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to do well in the UCAT. With the right preparation and coaching, you can easily score above-average marks and, together with your personal statement, A-levels and interview, make it into medical school.
The highest possible score is 900 for each of the first four sections separately, with a mean score of 625 per section in the 2022 UCAT exams. The consistently lowest scoring section for the last five years on average is verbal reasoning, so this may be considered the most difficult section. However, due to the banded scoring of the situational judgement section, as opposed to the point-per-answer scoring of the previous sections, this can be a hard part of the UCAT to prepare for.
When Should You Start Preparing for the UCAT?
It’s normal to feel nervous in the run-up to your UCAT exams, especially if you have to study for them at the same time as your A-levels, but there’s no exact length of time you should allocate to preparing for your UCATs.
If you’re just starting your A-levels and are sure that you want to go on to study medicine or dentistry at university, you can of course start preparing yourself for the UCAT straight away by being conscious of your cognitive skills and problem-solving skills. You can ask questions to your tutors that will guide you through certain aspects of the UCAT and prepare you for the quick-thinking and emotional intelligence that are such important skills for your future career in medicine and dentistry.
However, it’s not necessary to start revising years in advance. Most people start preparing for their UCATs once they have started the UCAS application process, although some begin studying once they’ve registered for the exam, giving them at least 4 – 6 weeks to ready themselves.
To register for the UCAT, students in the UK must pay £70 and international students must pay £115 when they book their test date. Registration opens in June each year and exams take place over July, August and into September, ready for admissions the following academic year.
How to Prepare for the UCAT
Although it’s different compared to most other exams, you can utilise your other study techniques to prepare yourself for the UCAT.
Flashcards are an excellent way of summarising key points and forcing yourself to remember important information quickly – skills that you’ll need to succeed in your UCAT. Study with friends to keep all of you motivated and have fun while you learn, as a positive attitude will help you remember important information.
The most important advice for students with a UCAT coming up is to revise at your own pace; there’s no point trying to study 24 hours a day and making yourself stressed, as this will greatly impact your ability to retain information and will most likely not significantly improve your UCAT score. Try to study for a couple of hours every day, take regular breaks away from the computer screen – think of the 20:20:20 rule – and have a healthy sleep routine. Don’t try to cram knowledge in the week or few days before your UCAT, you’ll only exhaust yourself and underperform.
Once you’ve gone over your notes and revised as much as possible from the texts available to you online or in your local library, you should start doing mock exams. There are practice papers available on the UCAT website, which are crucial for your exam preparation, as they most closely resemble the style of questions you’ll face in your UCAT.
Why Are Mock Exams Important?
As important as being exposed to the right kind of questions, is practising in exam conditions. While you try the mock exam papers, you should be in a quiet environment, with no distractions and you should complete it in the same time as you’ll have for the real exam. That way you can improve your decision-making under pressure, an essential part of the exam and a large part of working in the medical field, and get used to writing quickly, which will help you get your ideas across in the real exam.
To help you with the time constraints, you should also get accustomed to underlining keywords as you read passages, as you’ll have to answer questions on short paragraphs in the exam, and you can save yourself time re-reading those paragraphs by highlighting the key parts. In addition, you can look over each question and quickly decide whether you can answer it well or if your time would be better spent answering another question in detail to assure yourself of marks. This is known as triaging and can save you a great deal of time on the exam writing long answers to questions you’re not quite sure about.
Calculate your UCAT score after each mock exam to accurately assess how well you’re doing and which sections of the exam you’re finding most difficult, thus requiring more work.
How to Improve Your UCAT Score
If you’ve been practising with a lot of mock exam papers and you’re getting roughly the same grade in each and you’re not sure how to improve, or perhaps you’ve taken the UCAT and need a better grade to get into your chosen university, the best thing you can do to ensure you succeed is to get a tutor. A specialised tutor possesses all the secrets and tips to help you through your exam preparation, and the results speak for themselves.
Why Do I Need a UCAT Tutor?
At The Future Medic, the average score for our students is 743 per section, significantly better than the overall average for the exam. Our team of tutors are made up of practising doctors, professors and experts in the medical field, who can help you to understand both the skills and abilities you need to show off in your UCAT, and how to promote yourself in your university interview when the time is right.
Increase your chances of success in the UCAT by booking The Future Medic.
Book Your UCAT Tutor Today
Are you studying your A-levels ready for medical or dental school? The Future Medic are here to help you ace the UCAT and get into your chosen university. Contact us today to find out more about our offer.