When Should I Start Preparing for the UCAT?
11 months ago by Chris
This is a very common question that students ask about UCAT. When you first start to research UCAT it can seem overwhelming and confusing. You may have many questions such as: How should I approach UCAT preparation? When should I start my UCAT prep? Do I need to prepare for the UCAT? These are all very valid questions, and this blog explores them in more detail.
Is it worth preparing for UCAT?
If you are interested in medicine or dentistry, you will need to sit the UCAT. UCAT is a very different test to what you are used to sitting in school or university. There is no defined curriculum, and your teachers will not be pushing you to study for UCAT or creating deadlines for you. However, UCAT is a very important test, and it can be as important or more important than your academic scores in determining whether you will obtain entry into medicine.
UCAT is very different in content to exams you will be used to sitting. It assesses qualities which are considered important in medicine, such as problem solving, data interpretation, situational judgement and abstract reasoning. UCAT questions are unfamiliar and the extreme time pressure placed on students makes it extremely challenging to achieve a high score in UCAT.
Like any test, quality preparation will help. Having exposure to UCAT style questions, being familiar with the computer-based UCAT testing platform, and having strategies to help you answer UCAT questions quickly and accurately will help you score highly in UCAT.
When should I start my UCAT prep?
The answer is simple: as soon as possible! The UCAT Consortium recommends that you start preparing 6 weeks in advance of UCAT. However, it is important to realise that the UCAT Consortium has a vested interest in making this recommendation. They want all students who sit UCAT to be on a ‘level playing field’. However, research into norm-based tests such as UCAT which test ‘fluid intelligence’ shows that those who start preparation earlier will be at a significant advantage. This is why distributed practice is the best way to prepare for UCAT.
However, if you haven’t done much preparation and UCAT is rapidly approaching, don’t panic! There is certainly still time to prepare for UCAT. If you use your time effectively and efficiently, you can make enormous gains in your UCAT performance.
How can I prepare for UCAT efficiently and effectively?
Whatever your circumstances, you are probably busy this year – with school, university or even work commitments. Therefore, preparing for UCAT efficiently, in a way that is time-saving, is vital. The most efficient way of preparing for UCAT is to:
Learn how to answer UCAT questions quickly and accurately (a great way to do this is by attending a UCAT workshop)
Sit full length UCAT exams under simulated, strictly timed conditions
Review UCAT exams in detail, reflecting on how you can improve
Identifying and then working on your UCAT weaknesses, with QBank practice, UCAT subtest mocks and skills trainers
How many hours should I spend on UCAT preparation?
Each student is unique, and therefore the amount of UCAT preparation you need depends on a number of factors. Contrary to what some may say, there is no ‘one size fits all’ approach, no set number of weeks or months you need to prepare for UCAT, and no set number of hours you need to spend on UCAT preparation.
That is why a personalised UCAT learning platform is important, so you can tailor your preparation to suit you. In general, however, we recommend that students set aside about 10% of their study time for UCAT preparation. If you are starting your UCAT preparation later, you may need to spend 15-20% of your study time on UCAT prep.
How should I pace myself?
Last minute cramming may work if it is for a short, knowledge-based test. The UCAT is a two-hour exam that requires students to develop certain skills. The trick is to pace your UCAT prep, so that you are not over worked, burnt out or stressed. Starting early and distributing your practice will help you gradually develop the necessary skills required for the UCAT. This means you won’t be as stressed when crunch time hits. Therefore, it is suggested that you set aside 1-2 study sessions per week for your UCAT preparation (potentially more if you are starting your UCAT preparation later).
What if I get sick of UCAT prep?
We all experience times where we get sick of doing a particular task. UCAT prep is not going to be effective if you are feeling negatively towards it. A great way to change your mindset is to attend Dr Ray’s UCAT workshop.
It is also important to realise that just because you might not enjoy a particular task, this doesn’t mean you should give up and abandon it completely. Instead, think of how useful the skills you are developing during your UCAT prep will be to any professional career. Furthermore, continuing to do something even when you are sick of it requires self-discipline, which is vital to success in any field.
Taking regular breaks from UCAT preparation, cultivating a positive UCAT mindset, and rewarding yourself after a UCAT study session can all prevent you from getting sick of UCAT prep. Go out for a walk, make a smoothie or engage in a hobby. Having a break every few hours is more effective than pushing yourself to undertake UCAT preparation for several hours straight. The UCAT App is a great way to engage in regular and opportunistic UCAT practice. The overall aim is to avoid overworking yourself to the point of exhaustion, where you start avoiding UCAT prep.
Should I start my UCAT preparation now?
The short answer is, yes! If you are in your final year of schooling or in university, you should begin your UCAT preparation now. You can start with the free UCAT exam which will help you identify your UCAT strengths and weaknesses. If you are in younger year levels, you can enrol in a UCAT headstart package so you can begin developing your UCAT skills before the stresses of the coming years.
So, what are you waiting for? Get started with UCAT quality preparation now!