Top Tips for UCAT Preparation
Medicine students interested in studying in the UK will often need to take either the UCAT or BMAT as part of the selection process of some UK medical and dental schools. The UCAT, in particular, is designed to test cognitive abilities, attitudes, critical thinking, and logical reasoning.
We have included some of our tips for preparing for the UCAT below. For more in-depth assistance sign up for the SI-UK Medicine Service where we guide students through the Medical School exam process. SI-UK also offers UCAT Training sessions, 5.5-hour online sessions that prepare students for their UCAT, led by a current Cambridge Medicine student who received one of the highest UCAT scores of his intake.
1. Time Management
Students should not linger on any particularly difficult question. Many students miss out on answering later easier questions because they spent too long on a question that they were struggling with. Around a fifth of students do not complete every question in the UCAT and so when practising tests, students should prepare by practising under time constraints.
2. Educated Guessing
Many of the UCAT subtests are especially time-sensitive and so it is a vital skill that if a student is unsure of an answer they make an educated guess. This does not mean making a random guess but it can be important in test situations such as the UCAT to eliminate as many possibilities and then students should use their best instincts.
3. Maintain Composure
"Keeping your cool" is very important in examinations such as the UCAT and we highly recommend that students practice stress management so that they are not overwhelmed when they are unsure of a section of the test. When preparing and revising we recommend that students take breaks to compose themselves to avoid frustration at particularly tricky sections.
How Should I Prepare for the Subtests?
Understand each question type and strategies to solve them
There are six major question types in the Decision-Making subtest of UCAT:
- Syllogisms: Evaluate a series of conclusions arising from a given set of premises.
- Logical puzzles: Arrange or sequence a series of statements to solve a ‘game’.
- Recognizing assumptions: Consider and identify proposals and the pros and cons of that proposal.
- Interpreting Information: Evaluate five statements and decide whether the statement flows logically.
- Probability: Use reason to solve basic probability principles.
- Venn diagrams: Interpret a Venn diagram or match a Venn diagram to a series of statements.
Each question type requires a specific approach to answer it efficiently and accurately. To better prepare for these types of questions sign up for the UCAT Training Day.
Identify your weaknesses
Each type of question in the UCAT requires students to use different skills so the best practice is to identify which skills you need to improve most upon and work on those. Once a student's weaknesses have been identified they can begin to learn the strategies that will help to improve those skills.
Understand probability principles
It is important for the UCAT that students have a basic understanding of probability principles. Some probability concepts are 'Conditional probability and mutually exclusive events' and 'Independent and dependent events'.
The UCAT Decision-Making subtest often involves requires basic probability equations and setting up how they should be solved. Students need to practice doing these equations to maximize their scores in this UCAT subtest.
Understand Venn diagrams
As part of the Decision-Making subtest in the UCAT students will need to display an understanding of Venn diagrams. Some of the parts of the Venn diagrams tests involve:
- Choosing the appropriate Venn diagram which best represents a series of statements
- Interpreting a Venn diagram and then choosing a conclusion which follows
- Calculating a number of objects or people within various overlapping regions in a Venn diagram
Make sure to use your noteboard
The noteboard helps students to answer the UCAT questions quickly. With the noteboard students can draw a Venn diagram, diagram or table to help solve the Decision Making questions. Students should also use their noteboard to document the key rules and calculations that need to be made to arrive at an answer. Writing all of this down will reduce how much you need to remember and help to avoid making simple mistakes.
Verbal Reasoning Subtest
Often considered the most difficult subtest in the UCAT, the Verbal Reasoning subtest gives students just 30 seconds per question to come to their answer. Because of this, it is common for students to receive their lowest score in this section of the test. To best prepare for this, SI-UK recommends utilizing the following techniques:
Don't Rely on Common Knowledge
When solving this section of the test many students will apply prior, outside knowledge to help them to solve each question. This will not help and students should instead rely solely on the information in the body of text, within the question to obtain the answer, sometimes true or false questions.
Familiarise Yourself with Synonyms
Much of this section of the test involves identifying the appropriate keyword from the body of the text, the exam writers will often use different words that mean the same thing to throw students off. Students should therefore identify potential synonyms that best fit the text so that the question can be more easily answered.
Look out for Scattered Information
Within the body of the text, keywords may be mentioned multiple times and so it is imperative that students read the entire passage and don't stop reading when they find the keyword they are looking for. Some of the more difficult questions of this subtest will even require the student to identify two separate pieces of information to come to the correct answer.
Use the Numbers
In several of the questions in the Verbal Reasoning subtest, students will be able to identify the correct section of the text by identifying numbers such as population statistics, ages and dates and then using the question stem to find the relevant information.
Be Wary of Contradictory Information
Exam writers will often add contradictory information into the body of the text and so students need to make sure they thoroughly read through the whole passage, particularly scanning the areas before and after the keywords to make sure there is no doubt what the answer is.
How can SI-UK help me with the UCAT?
If you would like further assistance with your UCAT preparation we recommend you visit our UCAT and BMAT Training page, where we outline our group and private UCAT training session offerings. For help with your application to a Medical School in the UK we recommend you inquire about our Medicine Service.
Click here for more details on how to book your UCAT.