How to Study for the UCAT when you’re sick of Studying
5 months ago by Chris
Let’s set the scene – UCAT is fast approaching but you can’t stand the thought of sitting at your desk one more minute for UCAT prep.
I’ve been there.
The secret to igniting your motivation to study is variety – and lots of it. As someone who is change averse and largely a homebody – I always rolled my eyes at this advice, thinking that I already knew the study techniques and habits that worked for me - but everyone’s brain tires of repetition at some point. I’m not telling you to change up the entire way you study for UCAT – certainly be consistent in your preferred study method – but if you’re feeling burnt out, making a few changes might reinvigorate you.
Here are 5 ways to help you study for UCAT when you don’t feel like doing so.
1. Change up your UCAT study space
As someone who is generally most productive at home in pyjamas with my familiar study desk and candle burning, I don’t usually study elsewhere. But I’m writing this in a café right now, and over the past year I’ve tried studying outside, at friends’ houses, and in libraries. Different study spaces have pros and cons: they can be loud, quiet or exposed to the elements. If you can, try and reestablish, in your new environment, some UCAT study elements that you know work for you. This could be a familiar playlist that you listen to every time you study, or perhaps a comfy pair of trackies that you like to study in (guilty!). That way, you’ll still feel like you’re in your study mindset, but the new setting will re-energise you. If you’re not able to study somewhere entirely new, you can make little changes in your local study environment. Even something small – like opening a window that you usually wouldn’t – can awaken your senses and help you refocus on your UCAT prep.
2. Engage in UCAT study with someone else
Social study can work in a few different ways and has a multitude of benefits. Speaking to other students in the throes of UCAT preparation can help motivate you, as they’re likely to be facing similar challenges. They might even be able to share UCAT prep strategies that have worked for them. If you’re sick of studying for UCAT because there’s a weakness you feel like you haven’t overcome, often speaking to friends can help put things in perspective and boost your morale.
Often when we see a UCAT question we don’t understand, it’s easier to just skip it when we feel like we don’t have the energy or motivation to revise it thoroughly and understand where we went wrong. Having a UCAT study buddy makes it a little easier – you can ask for their understanding of the question, and it’s less daunting to approach the UCAT question together, than to do so by yourself all the time. Similarly, they’ll likely come to you for any UCAT questions they have, and in explaining your process to them, you might better understand the concept yourself: it’s beneficial regardless of whether you’re the one asking or explaining the UCAT concept.
Even if you’re not actively studying UCAT with someone, I find it comforting even ‘Zoom Studying’ with someone – I often Zoom call my friends and we just study in silence but have each other on video call. Especially after a long day or week of study, committing to Zoom Study with someone forces me to get out of bed, and usually makes me study for longer than I otherwise would have, because I don’t want to be the one to leave the call first and end someone else’s productivity!
3. Study for UCAT indirectly
It’s getting to the pointy end of the UCAT season, and it’s understandable to dread opening up the MedEntry online platform again and do the same UCAT exercises you’ve been doing for months and months. If this is you – you’re doing amazing and you are almost there; all your hard work will pay off in the end. Granted, using the MedEntry online platform is the most effective way to prepare for the UCAT – the experts have already done the research about the skills you require for the UCAT test, and have tailored exercises to help you build this skillset. However, there are still indirect ways to study for the UCAT – ways that feel less like studying and may feel more palatable if you’re burnt out.
For the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section, you might be able to take an online speed-reading course, for the UCAT Decision Making section, you could read into argument theory or learn about the philosophy of Logic, and for the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning section, you could practise your calculator skills by familiarizing yourself with numlock exercises. For the UCAT Situational Judgement section, you could learn about ethical dilemmas that medical students face in the hospital, even through medical Youtubers who talk about their experiences on placement, or through blogs, books or memoirs.
Of course, some UCAT exercises are more high-yield than others, and so the MedEntry online platform should certainly be your central resource, but doing something is always better than doing nothing at all – so consider doing some indirect UCAT preparation if you need to.
4.Take a break from UCAT prep
It goes without saying that preparing for the UCAT takes many weeks or even months and motivating yourself during the final stretch can be the toughest of all. It’s important to be kind to yourself and give yourself breaks if you need to. It’s okay to take a day off, or multiple days off if that means that you’ll come back to your UCAT preparation refreshed. There is no point sitting at your desk for hours on end and working at 20% capacity, when you can take a break and then come back at 100%. Though it might seem counterintuitive, taking time away from UCAT study can do wonders for your productivity, focus and motivation. Also remember to not study too hard in the days before your UCAT exam, to ensure you are refreshed and ready to take on the UCAT testing challenge.
5. Reward yourself
Getting to this point in the year, you’ve done incredibly well, and you’re so close to the finish line.
Rewards — well, I’m sure everyone has laughed at that photo of chocolate bars in between textbook pages to motivate yourself to keep reading. Well, it’s not such a bad idea to reward yourself for your hard work in UCAT – whatever that reward looks like for you.
It’s so important to have a life outside of studying, to be able to continue hobbies that you enjoy, and to spend time with friends or family – especially during times of high stress, such as in the lead up to the UCAT. Small treats throughout the day are really important – something as simple as getting up to make yourself a cup of tea or to annoy your sibling between study sessions (:D). So are larger rewards like a dinner with friends after a long day of UCAT study. Rewards motivate you to make the most of your UCAT study session so that you feel like you deserve the reward, and then allow you to enjoy that reward to the fullest.
Best of luck for your UCAT!