5 UCAT Tips from a Student who Scored >3500!
9 months ago by Rob
Tim was a MedEntry student who achieved a whopping 3520 in the UCAT last year, which was the highest score achieved. Tim is now studying medicine at the University of New South Wales. In this blog, Tim shares his top 5 UCAT tips.
1. Periodically Check Your UCAT Timing
While doing the UCAT, it’s very easy to get lost in the questions, focusing on reading and answering each one correctly. However, this carries the risk of running out of time, or not getting as many questions done as you would have hoped. Learning to quickly see if you’re on pace to finish in time can be very beneficial, as you’ll know when you have to make that extra effort to answer UCAT questions faster. The question number you’re on and the amount of time left (in minutes) are displayed together in the top right corner of the UCAT screen, which allows for a quick calculation to determine progress.
For me, one of the most time-restricted sections was the UCAT verbal reasoning (VR) section, which requires 44 questions to be done in 21 minutes. This is approximately 2 questions per minute, which means that the amount of time already used (21 minus the amount of time left) should be around half of the question number. Of course, this should vary: at the start of a UCAT passage, more time will be used to read it, but this is a simple guide to keep on pace.
As another example, the UCAT decision making (DM) section had 29 questions to be done in 31 minutes. Here, a good aim is to have the question number and time left sum to a minimum of 30. This also gives one minute of extra time at the end to revisit flagged UCAT questions if necessary.
This method can be adjusted in each UCAT test – if hard questions have been skipped, know that time will be needed to have another look at them, and it should appear that you are ahead of the clock.
Of course, this assumes that your goal is to complete every UCAT question. It might be better to aim for fewer questions with a higher accuracy (and make an educated guess for other questions), so tailor this method to your own situation.
2. Be prepared to guess UCAT questions
Sometimes, UCAT questions don’t work out so well. Maybe the answer you got isn’t one of the choices, or you can’t decide between two answers. It’s important that this doesn’t waste too much time. You should find a way to know when to make an educated guess and move on, as it’s always better to flag a UCAT question and have an answer down, just in case time runs out. This is usually the time when you become aware that you’re not sure what to answer, even after thinking about it for a while. Moving on both refreshes your mind for a second try later on, and prevents unnecessary wasting of time, which is extremely precious in the UCAT.
Also, knowing where time can be saved can be useful. For example, in UCAT verbal reasoning, I found the true/false/can’t tell style questions the easiest to ‘guess’, as the question is designed to ask whether the question stem is part of the scope of the text. Reading the text only once, then quickly answering each UCAT question in the set, is the easiest in this subtest. If you recognise that time is running out, keeping these small strategies in mind can be beneficial.
3. Use the UCAT noteboard
The UCAT noteboard is a great tool, helping to record information for later use. This is especially important in the UCAT quantitative reasoning (QR) section, as repeating calculations takes time and can be frustrating. Some examples of information that should be recorded down would be blanks in tables (will be referenced in later UCAT questions) or totals (used in many comparisons).
However, this is not the only UCAT section where the notepad is important. Small graphics to represent a logic or math problem can help with visualising the solving process, making it clearer and faster. For example, certain UCAT decision making logic puzzles require some type of ordering. In this case, a strategy would be to line up the first letter of characters’ names in the relevant order, fitting in letters as the order is deduced. This prevents forgetting previous findings and assists with answering the UCAT question.
In short, practice with a piece of paper to scribble on, or the UCAT noteboard that you received at a MedEntry workshop. It helps with both information recall and working through problems and is an easy way to clarify your thoughts.
4. Increase your UCAT reading speed
In 4 out of 5 sections of the UCAT, reading is extremely important. The UCAT Veral Reasoning and UCAT Situational Judgement sections contain long passages, and the UCAT Decision Making and UCAT Quantitative Reasoning sections require accurate reading of shorter passages as the questions often need more thinking. Because of this, reading, and especially reading speed, is one of the key skills to focus on for UCAT. Simply reading faster while retaining the same level of comprehension is one of the easiest ways to save time.
Another important reading skill is searching for keywords in a passage. Keywords from a question often stand out and can be searched for, leading you directly to the answer. In UCAT verbal reasoning specifically, keeping a rough idea of what information each paragraph holds can allow you to shorten this process, freeing up time for later.
Doing UCAT practice exams is one of the most useful activities in preparing for the UCAT and was what I found to be the best preparation. Being familiar with the styles of questions in each UCAT section makes the test on the day feel much more familiar, reducing unwanted stress. Knowing the layout of the UCAT exam (including the calculator), which is mirrored in each UCAT practice test, also helps with this familiarity on the day.
Some sections of the UCAT also get significantly easier through practice. I think the best example is in UCAT abstract reasoning (AR), as this section mostly uses repeated motifs for its rules, so learning and practicing the recognition of these is a great way to prepare. As with any skill, practice allows you to improve over time, and answering UCAT questions is no exception.
Last of all, try to find it fun! As hard as it may sound, a positive (and less stressed) mindset during the UCAT exam will make it easier to think faster and with more fluidity, improving both accuracy and speed.
Wishing you all the best in your UCAT studies!
Written by Tim, who achieved 3520 in UCAT (99th percentile) and is currently studying medicine at UNSW