Behind the Scenes · May 15, 2019
Behind the Scenes
Solving the UCAT's most challenging problem
These are my personal views and do not reflect the opinions of all theMSAG team members.
After 11 years of coaching students to get into medical and dental school, writing 14 guidebooks and having seen thousands of students go through theMSAG services, I gained interesting insights into what results in students doing well or less well in the UCAT exam. In this blog, I will share some of what I have learned on UCAT preparation, review the current courses offered by theMSAG competitors and walk you through how I designed theMSAG UCAT Course as a result.
When faced with a UCAT question, almost all the students I meet are able to find the correct answer, even with very limited preparation. This sounds great, and leads to a lot of students feeling fairly confident while they are revising for the exam. The problem is that the UCAT exam is marked on a curve. Your score really does not matter. It's your ranking - your score in comparison to the other students. So if you can get all of the questions right but others can as well, then how do you rank higher than others? The answer to that is "speed". Although it is called an aptitude test, it should really be called an aptitude race. Those who can answer a quantitative reasoning probability question in 10 seconds rather than 30 will have time to attempt all questions in the subtest with care, eventually finishing the exam on time. Others will not.
Even students who are conscious of the time constraints of the UCAT often make mistakes when preparing. If you divide the total time given for the quantitative reasoning subtest of the UCAT with the number of questions, you will find that there is approximately 40 seconds allocated per question. Thus the majority of applicants believe that as long as they do a question in less than 40 seconds, then they're prepared for that topic. However, some questions definitely require 50 to 80 seconds of work and thus unless a student makes sure they can also do other questions in closer to 10 or 20 seconds, they will run out of time.
A good appreciation of the above should hopefully stop students from getting a false sense of reassurance that they are ready just because they're getting the questions right at home. I have seen too often the surprise disappointment when they don't do as well in the real exam as they used to do on the practice tests.
My analysis of our top competitors
6med and The Medic Portal 1-day course
Kaplan 2-day course
Online UCAT courses
6med Online UCAT Course
The Medic Portal Online UCAT course
- It is still a powerpoint with voice overlay rather than a video course
- Key topics that should be covered are missing
- The practice is not realistic and the platform is slo
Kaplan Online UCAT Course
Video of a tutor one can contact and engage with
Interactive questions for realistic practice built into the lessons
£130 - 1 year access
£170 - 1 year access
£120 - 6 weeks access
* the Medic Portal does that the interactivity to answer questions in the lesson but it is not realistic as it does not have a built-in calculator for the QR questions, and one cannot go back and forth within a set (unlike the real exam). The time limit set is also way above what a student would have in the real exam.
Building theMSAG UCAT Course
- Choosing the right team
- Providing the right pedagogical structure & the best user experience
1. Choosing the right UCAT team
2. Providing the right pedagogical structure & the best user experience
- Pre-course assessment and access to interactive learning material
- Tailored course to student's areas of weaknesses
- Post-course access to interactive learning material & 2 full mock exams
- Post-course 1-1 tutoring for complementary support on remaining weaknesses and direct tutor support until the exam date
Dr Dibah Jiva
Dibah has a degree in nutrition from McGill University, a medical degree from the University of Nottingham Medical School and has recently completed her MBA from the IESE school in Barcelona. A finalist for "Inspirational Woman of the Year" in 2018, she oversees all projects for theMSAG, teaches courses and does 1-1 admissions counselling.