Welcome to the UCAT 2022 Series! In this series, I will be focusing on the different sections of the UCAT, and the subsets within each of these, and will also share some of my best tips and tricks along the way! In this blog post, I will be introducing the UCAT itself, some important things to note about this admissions test and include my personal experience.
I suspect a wide variety of people may be reading this post. This may include those who have never heard of the UCAT before, those who have been acquainted with but have not yet sat it or those who have sat it previously (maybe even more than once like me) but have decided to re-sit it. I have sat the UCAT a total of three times and it was on my third attempt I managed to get 685 Band 2: a score that allowed me to apply to pretty much any undergraduate programme I wanted to in the UK. Therefore, this series is for anyone who is planning to take the UCAT regardless of their previous experience and familiarity.
This leads me to my first tip: mindset. Before preparing for a test like the UCAT, you must adopt a positive mindset towards the test. If you are a first-time test taker, this involves understanding what the test involves (ie. its structure) and the realisation that it is unlike most exams you may have taken previously. First-time test takers may feel daunted at the prospect of sitting this test, however, it is important to remember that the majority of individuals who are applying for medical school are well-equipped to succeed in this test given the high standard of predicted grades that are required to study Medicine! If you have taken the test before and did not get the desired score the first time around, it is important not to feel disheartened and give up. It is more likely this is a result of inadequate preparation and/or understanding of the most effective ways to prepare. For these individuals, I recommend re-evaluating your preparation and assessing which areas of the test you were weakest in, making a list of what you can improve on next time. I did this myself and it allowed me to create an action plan meaning I felt much better mentally when I sat the UCAT last year.
Please be aware of the timeline of dates set up by the UCAT consortium. This is the body that develops the test, so you must be aware of these key dates. These include when registration and booking open, and the dates when the testing itself can take place. These change year on year however those for the 2022 cycle can be found here: https://www.ucat.ac.uk/about-ucat/ucat-test-cycle/.
Yes, however, the UCAT consortium want to make the test accessible for everyone and so there is the UCAT bursary voucher for those who are experiencing financial hardship. For more information on the UCAT bursary see here: https://www.ucat.ac.uk/register/bursary-scheme/.
Whilst doing research for the UCAT, you will discover that many companies offer paid subscriptions, services and tuition for the UCAT. Please know that despite these companies advertising their success rates with the UCAT, they do not guarantee that you will get a high score. In fact, many people who do well in the UCAT do so with no paid resources. There are many free resources online which are more than adequate in helping you achieve the score you require. We will be sharing these as we move through the individual subsets in subsequent posts.
I used a lot of free resources that were provided in the Navigator and Superhub tabs on the Medmentor website which were fantastic and super helpful! I also borrowed the 1250 UKCAT Practice Question Book which is £15 on Amazon in new condition but you can buy second-hand copies or borrow from someone else to reduce the cost here. I did have a Medify subscription to help me with understanding the way the test is formatted and provide me with an extra bank of practice tests once I ran out of free ones. Although Medify is a paid subscription, you may be eligible for a bursary depending on the school you attend. For more details see here: https://www.medify.co.uk/schools?_ga=2.4263987.1091969882.1653301595-1308894997.1627121476.
One point to note is that the only questions that resemble the UCAT exactly are the free practice questions and tests made up by the UCAT consortium. All other companies and services are similar, but never exact in terms of difficulty and question formatting; hence it is important to take paid resources with a pinch of salt.
This varies from person to person and therefore it is important to consider your individual circumstances and how you learn most effectively. Around 6-8 weeks of consistent preparation but in small quantities should be more than enough time (and is the approach I would recommend) however others prefer to ‘cram’ for the UCAT, dedicating 4-6 hours a day for approximately 2 weeks directly before their test date. It is important to book your date according to this timeframe. Once you book a date, please stick to it as it develops the brain mentally for the test, rather than changing the date. I personally prepared for 8 weeks, practising the questions of each subset for the first 4 weeks and then doing two tests a week for the last 8 weeks of preparation. When I sat the UCAT the first two times, I never really made a plan and I just did a bunch of practice questions hoping for the best. I learnt very quickly from this that if you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail. Properly preparing the third time around was the catalyst for me in achieving the score I did.
It is valuable to track your process as you prepare for the UCAT so that you distribute your revision time appropriately: spending more time on your weaker areas and less on those you are stronger in. I kept a notebook to jot down my action plans, tips I came across and log my progress in.
It may also be useful to buy a mini whiteboard and pen (these are really cheap in pound shops!) to help mimic the test experience as you will be given one for calculations in the test. Furthermore, in terms of making your preparation as similar to the test as you can, it is important to either practice on a desktop or attach a mouse to your laptop (the trackpad on a laptop will slow you down and trust me, time is precious!).
It may also be helpful to choose a similar environment to practice in. For example, I practised in a public library as I wanted to get used to potential distractions around me. The UCAT is sat at a Pearson VUE testing centre (where you also sit your driving theory test) and some individuals can find the fact that everyone is sitting different examinations off-putting.
I hope the above was useful in getting you started in your UCAT preparation. The next blogpost of the series will focus on the Verbal Reasoning section of the UCAT so make sure to check back for some helpful tips on this section! Good luck!
Author: Iqra Ali
Editor: Allegra Wisking