UCAT Top Tips: How to Revise for the UCAT

You want to get into Medical School and you know the UCAT is a hurdle that stands in your way. We've put together the Top Tips for UCAT to make your life easier and prepare for the test better!

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A high UCAT score is critical if aiming to succeed in the medicine and dentistry selection process, which can be difficult to achieve. By following our tips and advice you will boost your chances of getting a higher UCAT score and feel confident and satisfied that you are approaching this exam in the most proactive and effective way.

Let’s dive right in!

How These Tips Can Help

A high UCAT score is critical if aiming to succeed in the medicine and dentistry selection process. By following our tips and advice you will not only boost your chances of getting a higher UCAT score but will be able to feel more confident with your approach to the exam!

What is the Structure and Format of the UCAT?

The UCAT consists of five different subtests which are all assessed consecutively as part of a computer-based test. The test will last two hours in total.

Each subtest has a different number of questions, each question is worth one mark in total except in the Decision Making subtest. Decision Making questions may be worth two marks when multiple statements are correct, partially correct answers are then awarded one mark.

The sum of your results in Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning represents your total UCAT score. Each of these cognitive subtests uses a scale score range of between 300-900. The total scale score range is between 1,200 and 3,600. 

The Situational Judgement test consists of 69 questions and is separately scored. Each student’s performance will be ranked within one of four bands, starting from Band 1 (highest to Band 4 (lowest) in the Situational Judgement test. This test may be weighted differently as part of the selection process.

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UCAT Revision Preparation Tips

Most students find that throughout the weeks they spend preparing for the UCAT, their scores increase – so why is this? Success in the UCAT is not only dependent upon your intelligence but your technique and practice. Practice allows you to become familiar with the types and structure of questions within the UCAT.

You can begin your preparation with UCAT.Ninja, which provides you with 20,000 practice questions to help you boost your score at a price that fits to your budget regardless of your financial situation.

1). When Should I Begin My Preparation?

On average the majority of students begin preparation at the beginning of Year 12, fewer students commence preparations in April or later in Year 12.

2). How Much Time Should I Give To Preparation?

Information sourced by the UCATcompany found that on average the most successful students spend between 25-30 hours preparing for the exam.

Remember: revising and practising for the UCAT for this number of hours will not guarantee you an excellent score and practising the UCAT is subject to diminishing returns. Your revision needs to be focused and effective. Each person is different; how quickly they adapt to this new examination process will vary.

3). How Long Should I Spend Preparing Each Day?

Your UCAT preparation shouldn’t overload you with stress and take up all of your time. Aim to revise for around one hour consistently each day. You may decide to do a couple of questions from each subtest or focus more on areas of weakness. As your test date approaches, you are likely to want to designate a larger proportion of your time to preparation.

UCAT Exam Practice Tips

Begin your preparation by ensuring you fully understand what the exam entails and become familiar with the format and functions of the test. Guide yourself through each subtest ensuring you have an understanding of the question types and format. Note the strategies for how to tackle different types of questions.

Begin using question banks to become familiar with subsection questions before processing onto mock tests.

1). Utilise Your Resources

It can be difficult to know which resources to rely on and use. Resources come in different formats; during your period of preparation, you may use books, masterclasses or take part in tutoring or courses. When deciding which resources to use you want to consider the variety of questions they have available. Do they contain reliable worked solutions? Are the questions in the same format as they will appear in the exam? 

As well as practising questions there are a number of websites and YouTube videos that provide tips and advice on how to tackle subsections should you be finding them difficult. 

UCAT.Ninja helps you get familiarised with the questions and subsections with 20,000 practice questions for as little as £1.

2). Mimic The Conditions Of The UCAT

Practice tests should be sat on a desktop computer, as when doing mock tests, you are aiming to develop a number of skills. These may include learning and implementing strategies to save valuable seconds and adapt to the pressurised nature of the test. This may be using keyboard shortcuts or using the calculator only when required. You may also find it easier to stick to these exam conditions in a more academic setting such as a library.

3). Turn Your Areas Of Weakness Into Strengths

When studying medicine or dentistry, it is integral that students are aware of which study skills and ways of practise/learning works for them. When beginning your UCAT preparation be open-minded to different preparation strategies. It is perfectly alright if you experiment with different ways of preparing for the exam, provided you leave enough time to implement an effective practice strategy.

After each study session, you’ll want to reflect on your performance. Go through each question and try to understand the explanations. Make note of which question types you are getting wrong. Think about the amount of time you spent on the question and whether or not you used a strategic approach. It is unlikely that you will complete all the questions in a mock, but the questions you left unanswered shouldn’t go to waste! Go back and give them a go!

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UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips

1). Don’t Waste Time On The Passage

When tackling these questions, it’s always best to start from the question and then go into the passage. Knowing the question and potential answers will make it easier to spot the relevant sections when you read through it. You can also save more time by skimming through the passage rather than reading the whole thing. Most of it will be irrelevant to the question, so just look out for keywords to hone in on.   

2). Know The Different Question Types Off-By-Heart

Be aware of the different types of questions in this section; “True or False” and “Most Suitable” questions. They’re both multiple-choice but need to be looked at in different ways. A True or False question will give you all the information you need in the passage and question itself, while a Most Suitable will require you to make interpretations using the available answers. 

3). Be Careful When Answering “Most Appropriate” Questions

Always bear in mind that you’re required to choose the most appropriate answer – just because the first one you read could be right, it doesn’t mean it is. Make sure to look at all of the answer options before coming to a decision.

4). Look Out For Negatives In Questions

Some questions will change the formula slightly and focus on negatives. While these questions aren’t really harder, they do require a change in viewpoint. They’re there to keep you on your toes, so be sure your paying attention to the question

5). Ignore Anything Outside Of The Passage

Only consider the information that is presented to you in the passage. You may have additional knowledge about the subject but nothing outside of the passage is considered in regards to the answer. 

6). Avoid Common Tricks

Some of the most common tricks you’ll find in these questions include Dispersion, Contradiction, Mitigating and Definitive Words. These are added to throw you off in your analysis and confuse the passage. You should seek out practice questions that feature these tricks in order to get used to them. 

UCAT Decision Making Tips

1). Take Your Time To Digest All The Information And Data Given To You

Unlike Verbal Reasoning, you won’t be able to draw a valid conclusion or assess the information properly if you’ve just skimmed over it. Skimming means that you’re unlikely to have picked up the most important arguments, so you’ll have to go back and read over them all again, which wastes so much valuable time! Thankfully, these questions are much shorter than in VR, so they won’t take long to read through.

2). Avoid Making Assumptions When Answering

In these questions, it may sometimes feel that you don’t have all the relevant information or that there are gaps in the logic that have to be filled with assumptions. This is never the case, as all questions can be definitely answered with the information provided. If it feels like something is missing, you’ve likely missed something yourself. Although it will take up extra time, the best option would be to reread the question and find what you’re missing.

3). Use The Resources You Have Available

In the UCAT, you’ll have access to a digital calculator and physical whiteboard. Both of these will come in handy here as there are a lot of elements to keep track of. Visualising the questions, making quick tables or keeping track of numbers will help you make sense of it all and save time in the long run. 

4). Don’t Be Afraid To Make An Educated Guess

Sometimes you’re just not going to get a question straight away, but you can’t waste loads of time on them. If you’re unsure of the correct answer, make some notes on your whiteboard, make an educated guess for the time being, and flag the question. You should have time to come back to it!

5). Revise Your Graphs And Charts

Some of the questions in this section will involve graph interpretation. The principle of these questions will be the same, but you’re, of course, going to have to find your answers from the data provided.   

6). Understand What Makes A Strong Argument

Some questions will ask you to identify the strongest argument for or against a statement. Revising your fast argument and reasoning skills will be essential here. 

UCAT Abstract Reasoning Tips

1). Learn The Common Patterns

The majority of patterns in these questions will fit into one of four types:

Shape: When a shape is a common factor between boxes.

Number: Where a certain value is a common factor between boxes (e.g. number of shapes).

Arrangement: When the arrangement of shapes changes in a consistent way.

Colour: When different colours/shades are constant or change between boxes.  

By understanding these elements, you should be able to quickly identify patterns between boxes. Check each factor one-by-one, if you begin to notice a pattern, note it down and follow the sequence. If one of the options fits in, you’ve likely found the answer.  

2). Come Up With A Mnemonic.

Lots of people come up with mnemonics to help them remember what questions to ask themselves on each question. Come up with a set of questions to ask yourself and create a way to remember them that works for you. Here are some common ones candidates use;

CPR – Common and Colour, Position and Rotation and Orientation

SCANS – Shapes, Colour, Arrangement, Number and Size

BADCAT – Borders, Arrangement, Dimensions, Colour, Angles and Transitions

If none of these tickle your fancy, just make your own memorable mnemonic.

UCAT Quantitative Reasoning Tips

1). Don’t Rely On Your Calculator For Everything

Having a calculator to hand is a life-saver in the UCAT, but it’s not efficient to use it for everything. Make sure you’ve got your basic arithmetic perfected in order to deal with the easy parts of the questions. This will be much quicker than getting up the calculator and typing in every simple equation you encounter. Plus it’s a useful skill to have as you go forward in your studies. 

2). Learn The Calculator And Whiteboard Shortcuts

  1. Alt + p = previous question
  2. Alt + n = next question
  3. Alt + f = flag current question
  4. Alt + C = to make the calculator appear
  5. Num Lock = activate number keypad (if number lock is off)
  6. Backspace for On/C = to go back and delete a number you have inputted in the calculator.

3). Be Aware Of Which Options To Rule Out

Usually, Quantitative Reasoning questions have a few answer options that are obvious outliers. Try to exclude these as quickly as you can, as it will allow you to find the correct answers faster. It also means that if you need to make an educated guess, you will have fewer answers to choose from. Have a quick look for any obvious trends in the data or information. Often you’ll be able to rule out several answers straight away.

4). Understand Your Units

Many of these questions will feature values depicted as various units, whether it’s distances, weights, currency, volumes or more. However, as you’re likely aware, different types of measurements have different units, and these questions will likely switch between them from time to time. However, it’s not as bad as it sounds. You’re usually going to be converting between similar units, so don’t expect to be converting meters to yards. These questions are designed more to catch you out and ensure you’re paying attention. 

UCAT Situational Judgement Tips

1).  Read The GMC’s ‘Good Medical Practice’ Guidelines

You should start to get familiar with the UK Good Medical Practice guidelines. These provide guidelines on professional and ethical behaviour. Many of the topics and themes that Situational Judgement questions address will be covered in this document.

2). Don’t Think In Extremes

Not every question is going to have drastic options to choose from. It’s not going to be immediately obvious which options are the Most and Least Appropriate, so you’ll have to think carefully. Also bear in mind that the question isn’t asking what you would do, so think about what would generally be considered the best option. 

3). Understand The Meaning Of The Answers 

When you’re being asked to order the option from least to most appropriate, it’s important to understand what these options mean. The first and last are obvious, but the middle ones are a bit trickier. These spaces will be for options that are either “appropriate but not ideal” or “inappropriate but not terrible”. It can be hard to rank two fairly average options, so the decision will require extra thought. 

4). Think Objectively And Within The Bounds Of The Question

The difficult thing about these questions is that they are somewhat subjective to a certain degree. There is of course a correct answer, but other options could be argued in some cases. However, you need to approach this with the mindset that one option is the best. Also, ignore any potential actions that aren’t listed in the options, these have no bearing on the question. 

UCAT Timing Tips

Part of the challenge of the UCAT test is the highly time-pressured nature of the test.

1). Take Educated Guesses And Pick Out Key Information

For Quantitative Reasoning questions, use rough estimates rather than working precisely. Also, do a sense check – is your answer logical?

Work by the process of elimination to increase the probability of guessing the correct answer. Be sure to identify key information from passages and questions.

2). Don’t Get Bogged Down With One Question

Learn how long you should spend on each question. In the moment it can be difficult to maintain awareness about how long questions have taken you – keep an eye on the clock.

Are you a high academic achiever and persistent individual? It can be particularly frustrating when you can’t determine an answer. Avoid being stubborn – If you are really stuck just take a guess and move on.

There will be some questions where you feel you are closer to determining the answer than other questions. Use the flag function to prioritise which questions to return to if time permits.

3). Calculator And Number Tabs

 You don’t want to waste time loading and using the calculator unless truly required. Part of your preparation should involve brushing up on your mental maths and arithmetic skills. We advise learning shortcuts such as multiplication and divisibility tricks and tips. As well as this, it’s important to make sure you know all the keyboard shortcuts you’ll need to use when sitting the paper. 

UCAT Exam Day And Last Minute Tips

1). Last Minute Cramming Could Negatively Impact Your Results 

Of course, it’s good to get some last-minute practice before testing day, but you can’t leave the bulk of your study for the last few days. You will have very little time to soak in the skills that you’ll need and will end up burning yourself out. If you have left your preparation late, be sure not to overwork yourself. You’ll still have some options for effective preparation strategies that don’t eat up all your energy, such as a last-minute intensive UCAT Crash Course, which will build up some major skills over the course of a single day.

At the end of the day though, you can only do as much work as you’re realistically capable of. You may have a slim chance of success without proper preparation, but you won’t have any chance if you have no energy to sit the test. 

2). Don’t Overwork Yourself The Day Before

The day before your exam is going to be stressful. The best thing you can do today is to take things easy and get yourself mentally prepared for the exam. There are tonnes of things you can do to ensure you’re in the right mindset for the test; exercise, meditation, extra-curricular activities and so much more. The key is to ensure you aren’t overstressed, while also keeping your mind stimulated. Relaxation is good, but don’t completely zone out or else you may find it harder to concentrate the next day. And of course, get a good night’s sleep!

3). Make Sure Everything Is Prepared

This is one of the most important days of your application, so it’s important that you have everything in order for it. The exam preparation is important, yes, but you also need to ensure everything around the test is prepared. That means you’ll need to think about all of these:

  1. You need to know where the testing centre is and plan a route to get there. The last thing you want is to get lost on your way and be late.
  2. As part of planning the route, you’ll also need to make sure your timings are all in order. Give yourself plenty of time to get to the testing centre and account for any potential delays. 
  3. Ensure you have everything you need for the exam. The UCAT is computer-based so you won’t need to bring pens or pencils, but you will need to ensure you have a form of ID and proof of your test booking. 
  4. Along with your ID, you need to ensure you have plenty of food and water. The UCAT isn’t an especially long exam, but it’s important to stay hydrated and to make sure you’re working at peak performance. The water bottle you bring into the actual exam needs to be clear and unlabeled.  

There’s plenty more to learn about the UCAT!

We have tons of useful articles available for you on our free UCAT Resources page! Some of our top guide include:

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Boost your UCAT score with expert support from 6med.

Prepare yourself for the UCAT with comprehensive resources, an expert preparation course and full access to UCAT.Ninja, available as soon as you sign up.



We've got all the tips and tricks you need to score highly on the UCAT.

Learn everything there is to know about the UCAT, with our UCAT Bundle and be guided by a tutor who scored in the top 10% – meaning you’re truly getting expert help. 

Want to learn how to smash the UCAT, then this bundle is the one for you…

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