The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), previously known as the UKCAT, is one of the most widely required entrance exams for both medical and dental schools. As a prospective dental or medical student, therefore, chances are you will have heard of the UCAT already and you might already be preparing to sit it prior to submitting your application before this application cycle’s deadline (October 15). While preparation is key when it comes to a successful performance at the UCAT, having a well-structured study plan is also of high importance, which will help keep you on track in your progress and goals. Continue reading below for our best tips on how to create an effective revision timetable for the UCAT.
Register and pick a test date
The first thing you need to do when you decide that you will be sitting the UCAT prior to applying for med school is to register on the official website and choose a test date. Knowing what date you will be sitting the exam will help you prepare a study plan that is realistic for the time you have. Ideally, you want to pick a test date that is not too close, so that you have plenty of time for practice, but you don’t want to leave it to the last moment either, as exam fee goes up and availability goes down. Aiming for mid- or late August is usually a good strategy, though everybody’s circumstances are different and if you feel a different option will work better for you, then all you need to do is adjust your study plan accordingly.
Create a realistic UCAT study plan
When you make your study plan and you are motivated at first, it is tempting to try and fit as many things as possible in a short amount of time, committing to spend 8+ hours a day every day studying. That strategy is not ideal, as not only you will burn out very quickly and tire out of the long hours, making you less likely to keep up on track, even if you did, there is a big chance you won’t be retaining anything anymore after a while. Aim for a study plan that is not too heavy content-wise or timewise in order to make you more likely to stick to it.
Find out what ways you learn best and incorporate those into your studying and make sure you use a variety of resources - usually a combination of learning the core strategies behind the UCAT subtests together with practice question banks works best for most people, as that gives you the opportunity to learn the UCAT question types you will be tested on and practice them immediately after.
In fact, we at theMSAG are now offering two-day UCAT Courses every weekend this summer across 18 locations in the UK, at which you will master all concepts tested at the UCAT. The course will also give you access to a sample UCAT practice test of 40 questions which you can do online before you start the course, access to the full Self Study course, including 5 workbooks, our UCAT React software with all the e-learning videos and lessons, as well as interactive practice questions.
The course will also give you access to two full-length mock UCAT exams, access to a Facebook group with ongoing support for the UCAT, a one-hour video conference tutoring session at any date after the course, as well as the possibility to come back to the course at any future date for free. This is a fantastic and comprehensive way to prepare for the UCAT, so should you be interested, have a look at the link above for more details on course dates and locations.
Make sure you set time aside for full practice exams
While everyone learns differently and different resources will work better for different people, there is one rule that we stand behind when it comes to your UCAT preparation - make sure you practice the real thing. During your preparation for the UCAT, you need to take at least two full mock exams under real exam conditions - timed, no distractions and no extra help.
Usually students like to take one of these exams before they begin their preparation in order to identify where their strengths and weaknesses lie and what they need to focus on in their revision and one towards the end of revision to see how they have progressed. You can organise those mock exams as best as you see fit for your situation, but make sure you have done at least some and are familiar with the requirements and have practiced your time management at each of the subsections.
theMSAG offers a FREE UCAT Practice Test which was designed to look and feel just like the real exam. This is a great starting point to help you get practice under real exam conditions so you on your test day you can go in confident and prepared to ace the exam!
Don’t cram last minute and give yourself a break
Lastly, remember that the UCAT will not be testing your knowledge, but will evaluate basic maths skills, reading and comprehension, as well as your decision making and ability to spot patterns. These skills are best mastered with practice, which is why we recommend you plan a study schedule over the summer and gradually work through them. You will not gain anything extra by cramming practice questions the night before the exam but by doing so you could overstress yourself, not allowing your full potential to come out on test day.
Therefore a few days before the exam, once you have done your final mock exam and have made sure you understand any mistakes you might have made, put the books and videos to rest and make sure you take the time to relax, eat well and get a few good sleeps before the exam, as those are the things that will make the difference on test day.
Again, everyone will need a different amount of time to prepare, but on average if you set aside a committed time period a few times a week over the summer, you should have plenty of time to prepare for the UCAT. As the UCAT resembles an IQ test more than it tests actual knowledge, there isn’t any material you need to be pre-reading or familiarising yourself per se, so starting any earlier or continuing studying for it way past the summer won’t necessarily give you any advantage but what it could do is interfere with your other commitments.
Especially if you’re a school leaver or a final year university student, don’t forget that your grades are still very important and you need to make sure you keep them up in your final year. With the application deadline for medicine and dentistry being October 15, that will fast approach you once summer is over and you would ideally want to have the UCAT done and dusted by then in order to focus on the remaining parts of your application.
Remember though, nothing is set in stone, so if your circumstances change and you need to make adjustments to your schedule, don’t feel scared to do so. If you find that another strategy works better for you halfway through, it’s better to switch at the time instead of carrying on with a study plan that is not ideal. While preparation is key and planning out your steps in advance is usually recommended, you also need to be flexible and play it by ear when it comes to finding out what actually works for you.
We hope these tips regarding your UCAT revision were helpful. All the best in your preparation and if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@theMSAG.com.
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