How I scored 99th Percentile in the UCAT
7 months ago by Chris
I am now a medical student at Monash University, but I remember being in exactly your position, desperate for tips that would help me perform well in the UCAT. So, here you are – the five most important practices that helped me score 99th percentile in the UCAT.
Found my ‘Zone of Excellence’
Finding my ‘zone of excellence’ was life changing for me. I found that doing a good chunk of my UCAT work in the morning before school made me feel on top of my game and allowed me to have time after school to focus on my school-related assessments.
It’s so easily to quickly feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount that you have to do in your final year of schooling. –With UCAT preparation and crucial in-school assessments, it can quickly start to feel impossible to find the requisite time needed to eat, rest, study and sleep to be able to perform at your best.
I found that the only way to fit everything in was to plan in advance how I was going to split my time, first factoring in how much sleep I knew I needed, planning mealtimes around this, and then fitting in school lessons and extra curriculars into the schedule as needed. I could then clearly see how much spare time was left for me to either study or relax. I would block the times out as specifically as I could, into active relaxation time (some sort of exercise that would rejuvenate me), restful relaxation time (spending time talking to friends, watching TV, reading), UCAT practice, and school-related study.
Made a long and short term UCAT preparation plan
I made a long term and short-term plan and readjusted as life got in the way. Inevitably, unexpected things will pop up – your grandmother’s 80th birthday, the cousin’s graduation you forgot about, a surprise in-school assessment that you need to do well on. It’s not going to be possible to stick to your plan 100% of the time so it’s really important to be kind to yourself when you don’t get as much done. You should also set aside a weekly time for readjusting your short-term plan so that you’re still able to meet your long-term goals.
My long-term goal consisted of a certain number of questions that I wanted to have completed per UCAT subtest before I took the UCAT exam. You might also measure it by the number of mock UCAT subtests you do, or how many full UCAT practice exams you want to complete prior to the UCAT exam. You don’t want to be doing too much preparation in the week or so leading up to the UCAT exam (so as to relax and not make yourself too anxious) so do factor this into your UCAT preparation plan.
There’s a saying – “We don’t rise to the level of our goals; we fall to the level of our systems”. It’s something I truly back: make sure your systems are robust in the face of uncertainty and distraction.
Focused on my weaker UCAT subtests
I focused on my weaker subtests and tried to make them my strongest. I found the UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest quite challenging both in terms of timing and style of question. I am the sort of person for whom spatial and abstract awareness - seeing shapes and patterns - doesn’t come as naturally, as does, for example, reading comprehension. Therefore, I allocated almost double the time to UCAT Abstract Reasoning preparation as I did to UCAT Verbal Reasoning – I aimed to finish every question in the MedEntry UCAT question bank available. This was both for exposure to a huge variety of possible patterns, but also for my own confidence that I had covered all possible bases by attempting every UCAT question.
However, there is no point just going through hordes and hordes of UCAT questions just for the sake of it; there are just so many possible patterns and seeing them briefly just once doesn’t mean you’re going to remember that that sort of pattern exists. What I found really helpful was to make a comprehensive list of every pattern that I came across within the UCAT Abstract Reasoning section. For me, this list ended up being over 10 pages long, and I only started making it a couple of months prior to sitting UCAT. While I didn’t look back on it as much as I thought I would, being able to note the patterns that I missed the most was reassuring when it came to reading through this list for some passive revision the week before the UCAT test.
Developed a triaging strategy for each UCAT subtest
I had different approaches to triaging in each UCAT subtest, which came with doing multiple UCAT mocks and figuring out what worked best for me, timewise. For example, in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest, I would first attempt the shorter more familiar texts, while leaving the longer, denser texts until the end. In the UCAT Decision Making subtest, I really liked the ‘strongest argument’ questions and Venn Diagram questions and tended to do these first, before moving onto more involved logic puzzles which required me to use the notepad. For UCAT Situational Judgement, I was able to recognise which theme or ethical principle was being tested, from something like academic integrity to patient confidentiality, and I liked to batch similar sorts of questions together so as to reduce my chance of applying the wrong principles to the wrong UCAT question.
Made time to reflect
Reflection was a really important part of the process for me; both keeping a log of and reflecting on my mistakes, but also introspection that was more indirectly correlated with targeted UCAT preparation. I found that the physical act of writing down how I was feeling and where I was in my UCAT preparation journey really helped me get back on track anytime I fell off the bandwagon.
Creating that reflection habit which serves to invigorate you is incredibly powerful. Whether it be journaling about your anxieties and your fears and then following that up with positive affirmations and a reassuring plan to resolve those anxieties, or some other sort of activity that allows for your own introspection like painting, meditating, going for a long run – find something that will bring you back to your desk feeling good about yourself.
Good luck and remember to take care of yourself!
Written by Anya, who achieved 99th percentile in UCAT and is currently studying medicine at Monash university.