We just got the following email (and have received several like it over the years)
Hello, I have two more years before I am able to take the UCAT test but I would like to know if by practicing and learning techniques before would be the best possible way for me to get a good score on the test?
So does preparing super early (2 years early) for the UCAT help?
Here’s what we think: It probably doesn’t help, but even if it did, it’s probably a waste of time.
We often say that success in the UCAT is dependent on 3 factors: (1) Intelligence, (2) Technique, (3) Practice.
Intelligence is reasonably fixed by the time you take the UCAT, so there’s not much we can do about that (the book IQ and Human Intelligence by the late Prof. Mackintosh who taught some of us Psychology in Cambridge is a very good read if you’re interested in the measurement of intelligence, but I digress).
Technique is super important for the UCAT, but technique is something you can learn in quite a short amount of time (check out our tutorials on UCAT Ninja, or come along to our UCAT Crash Course if you’re interested in learning it in an efficient fashion).
And then we come to practice. But practice is subject to significant diminishing returns (ie: there isn’t a linear relationship between ‘amount of time spent practising’ and ‘score on the UCAT’). So practicing UCAT questions for 2 years might well not get you a higher score than someone who only practised for 2 weeks.
That’s why spending 2 years preparing for the UCAT probably won’t work. And even if our reasoning above is completely flawed and preparing for 2 years for the UCAT is a surefire way to get a high score, it’s probably the wrong thing to be doing. When you’re applying to medicine or dentistry, you need to do a hell of a lot more than just the UCAT – you need work experience, volunteering, decent exam grades, a strong extra-curricular profile, and generally being a friendly person at the interview. Therefore, if you’re thinking about medicine/dentistry and you’ve got 2 years to go, your time is far, far better spent on those things than on trying to prepare for the UCAT, which is a very small part of the application process.
Just our two cents 🙂