10 Mistakes Students Make on the UCAT

The UCAT is tough so there are plenty of things that can catch you out in the exam. Let’s take a look at ten of the most common examples to avoid.

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The UCAT is a tough exam, there’s no doubt about that! With five different question categories and 228 questions to answer in just 2 hours, there are plenty of things that can catch you out when sitting the exam. Let’s take a look at ten of the most common examples that you should be sure you don’t make. 

Fixating on one question

You’re intelligent. You want to beat the UCAT. You think you can answer any question the test throws at you. This is probably the case. However, the UCAT isn’t just testing how many questions you get right. It’s testing how many questions you can get right within the timeframe. The time pressure is great and keeping to stringent timings is an invaluable technique and those who do this get the highest score! You’ll especially want to be careful of this during the Situational Judgement section, which has the most questions out of the five.

Making silly mistakes

It’s all too easy to make a silly mistake! Classic silly mistakes stem from misreading or over-complicating a question. Make sure you understand what the question is asking; if that means taking 2 seconds to reread the question then that’s what you’ll need to do. This is especially important in Quantitative Reasoning, where most questions require simple mathematics. In this case, most mistakes are due to panicked test-takers not fully comprehending what are often easy questions.

Verbal Reasoning - Reading the passage

NEVER read the passage in Verbal Reasoning (VR). It is a complete waste of precious time and you will ALWAYS perform better across the entire section if you don’t try and read the passages. The first step in VR should always be reading the question and picking out what to search for in the passage. Then you should skim quickly through the passage glancing, not reading, the words trying to pick out the relevant pieces of information. Our course will show you the techniques required to answer all aspects of VR.

Quantitative Reasoning - Trying to understand the data

This is often a pointless endeavour; just like in VR, your first step should be to read the question (not the data) and then pick out the key pieces of information. This is all you need to answer that question and there is no need to start looking at irrelevant pieces of information that the data often contains. In the past, I’ve seen students doing unnecessary calculations (eg averages of a dataset) before they’ve even looked at the first question in the set. This is a complete waste of time, and in the UCAT – Time is Marks.

Remember to check out our Quantitative Reasoning Guide for even more tips on this section. 

Abstract Reasoning - Looking for overly complicated patterns

Surprisingly, most Abstract Reasoning (AR) questions are quite straightforward (despite what you might think from doing the 600 UCAT Questions book). They often contain just one simple rule and once this has been found the Set A/Set B questions can be answered. Although some books suggest all the questions that are presented require you to find long and convoluted rules, in reality, this isn’t the case. Once you’ve found a rule for Set A and a rule for Set B which fits every box in the set, run with it and apply it to your test shapes. Don’t waste time looking for complicated things!

Decision Making - Not looking at the examples

This is a common mistake made by many students. However, the examples offer invaluable support for many of the ambiguous codes. You have over a minute per question in Decision Making and thus it is well worth spending 1 minute looking over the examples and the codes so you know how to apply the rules. An example of this is the code ‘increase’ which can mean plural, make bigger, increase number etc depending on the context. The examples will illustrate how such codes should be used in the set.

Trying to attempt every question on the first run through the exam

There are certain questions which you can tell will take a long time to complete, as we will demonstrate on the course. When you get used to identifying these, you learn that you should guess an answer for these, flag them for review and then come back to them in your remaining time. This is how you maximise your score and that is the aim of the exam. The exam isn’t just testing how many questions you can get right, but how many you can get right in the allotted time. Thus, attempting a question that you know will take you over the suggested time will be detrimental to your score. So, get used to question spotting!

Missing the word NOT in a question

By this, we don’t mean that you need to look out for a word that hasn’t been written! ‘Not’ appears in QR and VR and missing it when reading a question will result in completely the wrong answer. It’s a mistake made by over 70% of students when practising and doing the UCAT exam, so you need to make sure you read the question carefully. Every mark counts!

Lack of familiarity with the UCAT computer platform

Many students are unfamiliar with the UCAT platform. You should complete the official practice tests that are provided through the UCAT website. This is the best way to get used to the platform you will be using on test day. Make sure you’re comfortable with the online calculator, flagging questions for review, the reviewing screen, the position of the timer etc. Familiarity is reassuring on the day of your UCAT test, so the more familiar you are the less likely you are to panic!

Panicking

It’s easy to panic. Try not to do it!. Sit down. Familiarise yourself with your surroundings. Take a deep breath. Begin. All that panicking does is waste time and make you doubt yourself. Neither of these things are useful to your UCAT score. Just remember that you’re good enough to get into Medical School, you have prior achievement which supports this and the UCAT is just another exam that you can and will conquer.

So now you know what not to do! A lot of these things may seem like common sense, and some may seem complete counter-productive! However, everything that we’ve discussed is advice from candidates who had taken the UCAT and were successful in getting their place. It’s only natural that your performance isn’t going to be perfect, but avoiding all these easy mistakes will more than make up for any genuine mistakes that may occur during the exam. 

We’ve discussed what to avoid, but else do you need to know about the UCAT? You can check out our Definitive UCAT Guide to learn everything there is to know about taking the test.

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