Top 5 Under-Rated UCAT Preparation Strategies
8 months ago by Rob
There are hundreds of UCAT strategies out there, but not all are created equal. There are some UCAT strategies that are very important, but also completely under-rated by most UCAT candidates. Familiarising yourself with them will help you boost your UCAT performance. Ready? Here they are:
1. Learn how to speed-read
Not enough students are working on improving their speed reading. There are a lot of resources out there that can help you with this and I highly recommend delving into some of these (such as MedEntry’s UCAT Speed Reading trainer). The major problem I see time and time again is that in their UCAT preparation, students try to learn how to speed-read but do not end up doing so efficiently. They either fail to absorb content and miss key details or do not read at a particularly fast rate. This UCAT strategy is pertinent to the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest and will save you enormous amounts of time if done properly.
Allow me to explain: speed reading is NOT simply zooming your eyes around the page. It is a difficult skill that requires practice. You are (or at least should be) reading all the time, whether it be a book, magazine, the news. For the weeks and months leading up to the UCAT, use these as opportunities to improve your reading speed. If you can practice reading quickly once or twice a day, and develop your retention and speed skills, you will notice some serious improvements to your UCAT score. So put in some effort, read the literature that’s out there and improve your speed-reading because in the UCAT exam, time is your enemy and every second you can save will help.
2. Learn to use the keyboard number pad
This is another UCAT tip that falls in a very similar category to speed-reading. Touch-typing is a revered skill that everyone admires but most don’t dare to try. Now imagine touch-typing on a number pad! Tapping away at those keys without a care in the world, calculations coming into your head and UCAT answers coming out just as fast! This is the dream, and whilst it is a difficult skill to master even just a bit of practice on a proper number pad, mimicking the one in the live UCAT exam will help. MedEntry has developed a numberpad skills trainer which will help you develop this skill quickly. With a little bit of regular practice you’ll be proficient in no time. Find a moment to slot number pad practice into your UCAT preparation schedule because it really is a must.
While we are on the topic of calculations, please do not be one of those people fiddling away at the top of their keyboard or even worse, frantically shuffling their mouse around using the onscreen UCAT calculator. This is so much slower than using the number pad and such a waste of your valuable UCAT time. I found the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest one of the most time pressured and you can potentially save up to 10 seconds per UCAT question by instantly typing equations on the number pad. You can thank me later!
3. Study with other people
This tip pops up in lots of blogs so I won’t repeat myself too much, but this is a highly underrated study technique for the UCAT. People generally only use study groups for academia, but you can perfectly do so for the UCAT. Find some other students who are sitting the UCAT exam, have regular meetings and discuss difficult UCAT questions and strategies for approaching questions. Not only will you learn from other students but as we know, you can also learn effectively by teaching them. Also, it helps add variation to your UCAT preparation and keeps things interesting. The road of UCAT preparation is a long and strenuous one so you need all the extra help and motivation you can get.
I found my UCAT study group enormously helpful and I attribute a large part of my success to them and our weekly UCAT study sessions.
4. Practice “eyeballing” data
For UCAT Quantitative Reasoning, you realistically do not have time to complete all the calculations exactly. At the beginning of my UCAT preparation I naively thought I could, but quickly learned that it is simply not possible. There is plenty of information in the MedEntry courses on eyeballing data. Work through it! You can’t be typing every number to the third decimal place and expect to have time up your sleeve. Learn how to estimate and use broad values. You will come to an answer more quickly and you will either be able to select the correct response straight away, or you will be able to dismiss one or two options and make an educated guess.
For all you many mathematicians out there, this is a particularly difficult skill to learn. Perhaps it is the pedant within us or maybe it feels like we’re giving up some part of our dignity. Either way it can be very frustrating to use numbers that you know won’t get the exact answer. So please take the time to practice this skill and adjust your mentality surrounding the UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest. It will help you in the long run.
5. Use the practice questions on the official UCAT website
It blows my mind how many students ignore the questions and tests on the official UCAT website. UCAT tuition courses are exceptional resources but you must do ALL the questions set by your examiner. They’re the ones writing the UCAT exam! They know what’s going to be on the UCAT exam each year! So please do those UCAT questions. You will have access to hundreds of practice questions and three full practice exams for free. This is the perfect start to your UCAT preparation. If you decide to enrol with MedEntry, then I’d recommend saving up these UCAT practice exams for closer to the live UCAT.
Start going through the official UCAT practice questions early but wait to use the full UCAT exams. That way you can get a taste for the subtleties of their questions but you can really refine your understanding closer to the live UCAT exam. You can access the official UCAT exams here.
Written by Jeremy, who achieved 98th percentile in UCAT.