Why Group Study is Effective for UCAT
3 months ago by Chris
There is a fundamental difference in how you need to study for exams which test knowledge (such as school and university exams) and for high stakes tests such as UCAT which assesses generic thinking skills. For the former, a lot of memorisation and recall are involved so studying alone can be effective, and even preferred by motivated students who do not want to be distracted by less motivated peers.
However, when preparing for tests which assess generic thinking skills such as UCAT, group study is not only recommended but arguably essential.
Advantages of group work for UCAT preparation
Our understanding of how to engage in challenging work or learning usually involves sitting alone and thinking hard. However, we think best when we think socially. Social activities we engage in with others, such as debating or teaching, activate cognitive processes that remain dormant when we think by ourselves.
There are many advantages of group work when studying for UCAT. These include:
- Enhanced motivation
- Teaching each other in the UCAT subtests where each person has relative strengths
- Learning in a fun environment, making the UCAT concepts 'stick'
- Being able to see various perspectives and approaches to solve a UCAT problem
Forming a UCAT study group
In most cases there will be other students in your school or region who are sitting the UCAT. If not, you can form a study group with students from other cities and meet on an online platform such as Zoom. You can meet students on online study groups such as the MedEntry UCAT Facebook group and UCAT discord.
How to make UCAT study sessions effective
When participating in group UCAT study sessions, you need to trade your habits of individual thinking for new practices that activate the powerful ‘group mind’. Here are some examples of activities you can engage in:
Take advantage of the ‘protégé effect’
The act of teaching someone else results in the teacher also learning – even more than the student. As social creatures, we’re more motivated by the goal of conveying information to others than by the goal of simply studying for its own sake. Even those finding UCAT prep difficult can benefit, by teaching younger students or by teaching their family members.
Create an instructional video or audio message
Teaching for learning can have benefits for the teacher even when there are no “students” present. Recording a video or audio message generates feelings of ‘social presence’ (the feeling that others are watching) leading many of the same factors involved in face-to-face teaching to kick in.
Start an argument
We are all susceptible to ‘confirmation bias,’ in which we look for evidence that confirms what we already believe. However, this apparently unavoidable bias may actually be due to reasoning while alone. Research shows we’re capable of circumventing it when we engage in a debate with another person. Humans are blind to the flaws in their own arguments, but skilled at picking apart the arguments of others. This can be a very effective way to learn the thinking skills required for UCAT.
Try to have ‘strong opinions, weakly held’
Debates tend to generate the most accurate and constructive outcomes when those participating make a strong case for their point of view while remaining open to others’ perspectives. Such debates help most for UCAT Situational Judgement, but can also help for other subtests such as UCAT Decision Making and UCAT Quantitative Reasoning, where you could argue the quickest and most efficient way of arriving at the answer.
In summary, group study is an effective and often under-rated UCAT preparation strategy. Give it a go!