For many of you, the UCAT is probably an intimidating part of the application procedure. While the exam techniques and methods of revision you needed for GCSEs and A-levels have been built up over the years, the UCAT is a new challenge many of you haven’t come across before – this is why effective, targeted preparation is so important. You must approach the UCAT from a different angle and plan everything out in order to have the best chance of success.
Although the UCAT is an aptitude test, with good preparation and focused practice – you’ll get a strong score. We’ve seen countless students score below average in their first sitting, and after better preparation and more practice, score in the high 700s the next year. If you put in the hard graft today, you’ll save yourself a lot of time and hopefully secure the offer you want.
So how do I prepare for the UCAT, and what exactly am I working on? To put it in a nutshell, success in any psychometric test can be distilled into the following:
- Focus on the data types
This is all about anticipation. Before you walk into any exam room, you should know the type of questions that will come up. However, we mean much more than simply having a rough idea of the different questions: you should be comfortable with every question category in all four subtests, and have a clear approach for almost every question that can be tested. For example, in QR there are several question categories that are commonly tested (geometry, percentage change, etc.); knowing what comes up (and what doesn’t) will save you time and help you target your practice.
- Find ways of saving time
Timing can make or break test-takers. We’ve seen intelligent students score consistently below 600 because they use inefficient methods and simply too slow. Saving time means having an efficient strategy, finding quicker ways of solving questions (mental maths, speed reading, etc.), or strategically skipping questions. Throughout this book, we’ll be drilling into your head the most important ways of saving time.
- Automate your test-taking
The UCAT, unlike your school exams, isn’t a content-based exam. In essence, you’re developing skills and learning to adopt effective strategies required in each subtest. Preparation comes before automation, and this course will give you the tools you need to start. With enough practice, you’ll be able to anticipate various test challenges, swiftly locate relevant data, and know exactly which techniques to apply. It doesn’t take as long as you think to achieve automation, research suggests it’s possible after just a few days of intense practice.
- Increase your confidence for test-day
It’s suggested performance is directly linked with a test-taker’s level of confidence. A student who expects to succeed is more likely to succeed than a student who does not. One of the biggest obstacles to UCAT success is having the assumption you won’t succeed. Who are you not be successful? Undoubtedly, the best way to increase confidence in something is by getting good at it. Don’t cram in your UCAT practice, take your time, and consistently work at it. If you’ve put the work in, and have applied the strategies outlined in our course, you should be confident on test-day.
How accurately does the UCAT reflect my ability?
The UCAT doesn’t test you on curricular content (unlike the BMAT), and so experts construct questions that aim to test ‘cognitive ability’. In theory, measures of natural ability shouldn’t be affected by the amount of practice or preparation put in – but from our experience, this has proven not to be the case for the UCAT. We believe that the UCAT, to an extent, is correlated with an individual’s natural ability, but without smart preparation and practice, the test-taker will not achieve his or her highest possible score. If you want to do the best you possibly can, make sure you take the time to plan out your preparation and practice using the best strategies. Of course, some individuals do attain very high scores without much practice or preparation, but who’s to say they couldn’t have achieved an even higher score with effective preparation. Whatever your ability, it doesn’t change the way you prepare for the UCAT – focus on your weaknesses and what you can change, and stop worrying if you’re good enough.