Updated: Aug 19, 2022
Thank you for coming back to the third instalment of our UCAT series! Below, we will discuss a blueprint for your preparation to give yourself the best start!
My name is Andeep – a second year medical student and BWAMS conference officer. I will be offering some tips on how to put your best foot forward for your UCAT preparation.
How should you prepare for the UCAT, and what resources should I use?
Most people will start preparation anywhere between 4-6 weeks before their exam. I would recommend 6 weeks. As the exam is skills-based, you need time and consistency to develop your skills, but don’t start too early as you may burn out!
My general approach to preparation would be theory à untimed practice à timed practice. I will delve into this more below. I recommend starting slow and steady, and then building up as you figure out which areas you struggle with.
You may hear some of your peers’ purchasing resources. This is not a requirement for success. It is completely possible to get a great score without paying for anything! I didn’t purchase any resources, and I know many current medical students didn’t either. There are a wealth of resources online with a simple Google search yielding free videos, articles and more! However, if platforms are offering free trials, there is no harm in accessing their question banks to give yourself more practice!
As I have already mentioned, the UCAT is a time-pressured exam. For that reason, theory is crucial! Don’t jump straight into questions without any theory.
Each of the five subtests has a set range of question types. It is possible to create an approach for each subtest and most question types. An approach is the fastest method to get the right answer for a question type – and they are crucial for UCAT success. UCAT has a presentation going through the various question types, and some suggested approaches here: https://www.ucat.ac.uk/prepare/question-tutorials/. I will also offer some pointers on each UCAT subtest in our final blog!
There are also lots of free resources online to help you figure out your approach! YouTube is incredibly useful for this. For instance, Widening Participation Medics Network has a UCAT series (https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZiA52BigPakaNBDVgphjHCV12VgUC6wD), as well as Medic Mind (https://www.youtube.com/c/MedicMind/playlists?view=50&sort=dd&shelf_id=3).
Your aim for theory is to become confident with the UCAT format, the question types within each subtest and to have an approach for each question type. I would make a little self-help guide and keep some notes as you research.
The next stage is untimed practice, which intertwines with the above section. Once you have an approach, try it in an untimed setting to see how easy/hard you find the approach. UCAT has lots of free untimed questions available on their website under ‘question banks’: https://www.ucat.ac.uk/prepare/practice-tests/. Pass Medicine is also a great free resource which contains practice tests you can sit in an untimed or timed setting: https://passmedicine.com. Use untimed questions to perfect your approaches and see if they will work for you in the exam.
When you are familiar with your approaches, progress to timed questions to get a feel for the intensity of the exam, and work towards your fastest approach. Official UCAT timed mocks are found on this link under ‘practice tests’: https://www.ucat.ac.uk/prepare/practice-tests/. As these are your only official papers, save them for later in your prep! PassMedicine also has timed practice.
Start off with individual timed sections to identify what you struggle with the most to target your revision. Then progress to full mocks, ensuring you reflect on your performance constantly! Don’t be afraid to adapt your approaches if they don’t work!
You also need to bring in your general exam technique, such as skipping time consuming questions, not leaving any questions blank and doing your more confident question types first! While the subtest order is fixed, you can answer the questions within a subtest in any order you like! We will get more into approaches and time tips in our next blog!
The below graphic recaps my recommended approach:
I look forward to seeing you for our final blog on my recommended approaches! Any queries, get in touch!