When Should I sit my First UCAT Practice Exam?
7 months ago by Chris
Whether you’ve already begun to prepare for the UCAT or are just setting up a UCAT study plan, you’ve probably asked yourself the question: when should I sit my first UCAT full length practice exam? Unfortunately, there’s no straight forward, cookie-cutter answer. The answer to this question can vary. However, it should be noted that there’s not necessarily a “wrong” time to start sitting UCAT practice tests. In saying that, in our 20+ years of experience in preparing students for medical entry, we’ve found that it’s nearly always best to take your first full-length exam as soon as possible in your preparation. MedEntry provides a free UCAT practice test to get you started.
For many students, this may be surprising. It can easily take several weeks just to familiarise yourself with the types of questions in UCAT and strategies to approach them – so why take a UCAT practice exam before covering all of the material? Wouldn’t this make the UCAT score you receive less representative of what you could actually expect on UCAT test day? Some students even feel the idea of taking UCAT exam this early is a “waste” of the UCAT test, since some of the questions are bound to be entirely unfamiliar. Many students are too afraid of sitting their first UCAT test, worried that they will score poorly. As a result, the majority of students delay taking their first full-length UCAT practice test until they’ve completed all, or most, of the other UCAT learning content – sometimes even longer. This is a big mistake – but why?
Firstly, a full-length UCAT exam is very different from any shorter forms of UCAT practice questions or UCAT subtest mocks you may have completed. The endurance required to remain focused for 2 hours (at a super fast pace) is something that takes time to develop. If you delay your first UCAT exam for too long, you may find that you’re rushing to gain this endurance in the time leading up to your UCAT testing date. In contrast, if you start taking UCAT exams early, you can avoid this unnecessary stress and be more comfortable when completing later UCAT exams, and importantly, the official UCAT exam itself.
Secondly, full-length UCAT exams can allow you to learn things about yourself that simple review or practice for each UCAT subtest cannot. Maybe you fall victim to test anxiety; maybe you tend to have timing issues when you become tired; maybe you panic when you see a particular UCAT question under test-like conditions. The sooner you discover quirks like these, the sooner you can adjust your UCAT prep to deal with them. The alternative is true as well – if you perform well on certain UCAT subtests on the first UCAT exam you complete, you may be able to reduce (within reason) the time you allocate to those UCAT subtests in future weeks and months.
Thirdly, many students underestimate the difficulty of UCAT. Many believe it is ‘just another test’ or similar to other school or university based assessments. This couldn’t be further from the truth. Although UCAT questions themselves, when considered individually, may not seem difficult, the extreme time pressure of the UCAT exam makes it something that most students believe is the single most difficult test they have ever sat. Sitting a full length UCAT exam early will help you to understand how difficult it is, and then develop strategies to approach it effectively.
Interpreting Your First UCAT Full-Length Score
So, you’ve completed your first full length UCAT exam. What should you do now? How should you interpret your UCAT exam scores? This is a related issue that causes students untold stress. What if, for example, your first full-length UCAT exam score is lower than expected? Don’t panic! It’s common to get a lower overall score on your first full length UCAT exam than on UCAT subtest mocks or QBank attempts. Score improvements aren’t linear, and the sheer length of the first full UCAT exam is enough to throw off most students. Preparing for the UCAT can also produce an interesting effect where initially, more UCAT practice doesn’t necessarily translate into UCAT score gains. After all, when you know nothing about how to approach a particular question in a UCAT subtest, you’re likely to guess randomly; when you know a little more, you may be just familiar enough with the question to fall for a tempting trap answer. So don’t stress about your score on the first full-length UCAT exam! Instead, use it to learn as much about yourself as you possibly can, and build on this knowledge to ensure that you don’t make the same mistakes on the next UCAT practice test.
If you’re ready to start preparing for the UCAT but aren’t sure where to start, the MedEntry free UCAT diagnostic exam is a great place to start!