Revising Effectively For The UCAT
In our last hangout (check it out here) we gave you an expert breakdown and tips on the UCAT (except the SJT- watch out for a future hangout on that!) So now what?
Time to crack down, fix up and zone in on your UCAT revision with our “precision revision” tips. It’s not enough to know a bit about the sections- you need to be actively targeting your weak points and practising question technique under timed conditions.
UCAT At A Glance
|Verbal Reasoning||Decision Making||Quantitiative Reasoning||Abstract Reasoning||Situational Judgement|
|44 questions | 21 mins||29 questions | 31 min||36 questions | 24 mins||55 questions | 13 mins||69 questions | 26 mins
|Evaluate written information||Make decisions based on complex info||Evaluate numbers and graphs||Look at relationships in information||Assessing your judgment in scenarios
What is a good UCAT score?
Each of the 4 “cognitive” sections are scored 300-900 and the SJT is scored bands 1-4, with 900 and band 1 the best respectively. You therefore end up with a total score out of 3600 and a band score for the SJT.
The graph below shows that the average UCAT score last year was 2483, or 620 per section. For the SJT, most students (40%) got band 2. However, we know that you’re not just wanting average- you’ve come to 6med so you want to excel!
The answer to “what is a good score” does depend on how the cohort has done, and this year all of the lockdown shenanigans may affect the average score (either up or down!) However, generally a score of 650+ (2600 total) is considered “good” and anything over 652.5 (2610 total) would have got you in the top 30% for the last two years!
How do I get 650+ on the UCAT?
Now onto the meaty part: how to boost your score and zone in on weaknesses. Your first step is to make a study plan:
- Identify how many months before the test (generally, the more the better)
- Write down and organise your study plan (remember, consistency is always better than bursts)
- Stay disciplined: have a set working area, don’t get distracted and use active techniques like our fab UCAT Ninja.
Sifting through avalanches of texts is part of the charm of medical school…sometimes. It’s a necessary evil and a good skill to learn. For verbal reasoning, you have to read a passage of text and respond in two possible ways:
- True/false/can’t tell question
- Single best answer question (most common type)
The 6med top tips here are to practise speed reading and practise the questions strictly under timed conditions. Also experiment with different strategies: most students find reading the question first can help to pick out key info but it may also lead you to bias your thinking and look for certain words. If you get stuck, flag, guess and move on.
Statistically, students do the worst on verbal reasoning because they spend too long reading the text and can’t bear to flag the question and move on. We get it, you’re a perfectionist, but making up time here can get you marks elsewhere!
To save even more time, you can practise using the keyboard shortcuts Alt+ F to flag and (on the review screen) Alt + V to review the flagged questions only.
Every junior doctor needs to evaluate and assess information and make decisions on it. This is especially important when you consider objective, critical analysis is used in this section- in other words, don’t bring in your own knowledge or biases!
This section covers:
- Deductive reasoning
- Syllogisms (two statements, analyse the link between them)
- Logical puzzles (tip: draw or write out the problem)
- Evaluating arguments
- Interpreting information
- Recognising assumptions
- Figure analysis
- Venn diagrams
With such a mix of words, numbers and formats this section can present some challenges- it’s therefore so important to practise the question types and see which ones you struggle on. Some of these can take a while as well so make sure to flag, guess and move on if you see a particularly tricky one!
Calculating the dose of morphine needed for a patient requires a decent command of numbers. Plus, if you’ve tried to follow the Covid-19 briefings without knowing how to properly interpret graphs, you’ve probably found just how important it is!
This is statistically the best scoring section on average, but some students waste time here by not practising mental maths and not using estimation– often you can narrow down the answer just by rounding up/down and estimating the range of numbers you’ll be dealing with for the answer.
They do provide you with a calculator (Alt + C = keyboard shortcut) but it’s a but clunky and slow to use and should be there if you’re desperate. Whether you’re sitting the UCAT at home or at a centre you’ll have access to a whiteboard which can be very useful here.
The problems with this section are some people are not “mathsy” and there are numerous sub-skills needed (spatial/shape awareness, ratios, conversions, mental maths, graphs etc.). The best thing is to try the different question types and quickly identify what you’re weakest at, and then zone in on that.
Make sure to zone in on which of the following sections you’re weakest at:
- Speed, distance and time
- Ratios and proportions
- Tables and diagrams
Also remember you’ll get a combined score so if you really don’t have a maths brain and have practised to the point of dreaming about graphs, but still aren’t hitting high scores, you can always use the flag, guess and move on tactic and make up the score on a stronger section.
Identifying relationships between variables and pattern recognition is a good skill for any junior doctor. Unfortunately for you, they’ve also given you the intense time pressures of a junior doctor! With 55 questions in 13 minutes, efficiency and practise is absolutely key for this section.
At first, you can allow yourself a bit of extra time (a good way to gauge this is to see how many questions you can answer in the 13 minutes, working at you own pace). Developing the skills takes time but you can quickly get better at the 4 question types with practise.
Focus on common pattern types (line shape, number, colour, sequences etc.) and develop a little algorithm to work through on any question- something that sticks in your head and can be applied to any question. Once you’ve done enough questions, you’ll start to develop an intrinsic gut feeling for what type of pattern they’re trying to show!
This is the only “non-cognitive” section and actually represents a slightly easier form of the SJT exam you’ll (hopefully) be doing for medical finals! The tip here is to identify what the problem is and how best to solve it in a “textbook” manner- i.e., it may not be what you’d actually do, but is what you should do if you were talking to a supervisor or consultant about it. Your answer will be compared to an “expert” panel so even if you disagree with the answer, you’re probably best off listening to what they say.
The best thing you can do is check out our next Hangout on our homepage, where we will break down the format, what to know and key strategies for answering every question type.
So now you know all about the UCAT and can see that looming 3rd August checkpoint. We’d suggest starting now with a solid action plan:
- Familiarise yourself with exam format, “syllabus” and timings
- Write down and set reminders for the key dates
- Make a formal study plan and set up your study area
- Mock tests under timed conditions, ideally at least a month before test date
If you’re looking for support with your UCAT exam, why not check out our UCAT Bundle below.