When beginning your UCAT preparation (the UCAT ANZ in Australia/New Zealand, formerly the UKCAT in the UK), learning how to use the calculator may not have even crossed your mind. You definitely wouldn’t use the calculator for the verbal reasoning or SJT sections, but the decision making and quantitative reasoning sections will have you constantly doing calculations, both with mental maths and the calculator. At first glance, it doesn’t seem like something that would impact your UCAT score - however, in a test where every second counts, knowing exactly how to get the best out of this simplified calculator can really improve your performance. So let’s get started on with what this calculator looks like, what the buttons do and how you can use the built-in functionality to boost your UCAT score and improve your chances at getting into medical school!
BEFORE WE GET STARTED
There are a few things you need to know before we dive into the functionality.
First, here’s a quick recap of the other keyboard shortcuts you can be using to speed up your time and increase your efficiency.
Alt + N
Alt + P
Alt + F
Alt + A
Review all questions
Alt + V
Review flagged questions
Alt + I
Review incomplete questions
Alt + S
Return to review screen
Alt + C
Second, make sure you’re using a full-sized keyboard when you are practising. This gives you access to a number pad, which you will have during the test. If you can get used to inputting your numbers using the number pad as opposed to clicking on every number with your mouse, your speed will increase drastically (just make sure your num lock button is on!).
Finally and maybe most importantly - the best way to save time (during the decision making or quantitative reasoning sections especially) is to know when to use the calculator at all. If you can quickly and accurately get the correct answer using mental maths instead of trying to use the onscreen calculator, we highly recommend you do this. Or, if using the whiteboard to keep track of a number is more efficient than playing with the memory functions on the calculator, In fact, we teach many strategies in our UCAT Course and our UCAT Question Bank that specifically help you with your mental maths to make sure you’re up to speed before test day!
Using the UCAT on-screen Calculator
Here what this daunting calculator looks like:
So… maybe it’s not that daunting. Only 23 buttons, and most of these you should already be familiar with. We’ll cover every red button below just to make sure you fully grasp the capabilities of this tool.
Let’s start with the most basic function - the ON/C button. The ON/C stands for ON/CLEAR After using your handy keyboard shortcut to call up the calculator (Alt+C) you’ll be greeted with this friendly screen. You’ll never actually have to turn the calculator on, however the clear button gets you ready to start your next calculation. It will clear the calculator and reset the number on the screen to 0. The shortcut for this is BACKSPACE on your keyboard, which makes logical sense and should be easy to remember.
Next up along the right hand side we have your basic functions - division, multiplication, subtraction, addition and the equals sign. If you’re using the number pad (which you should be) the corresponding keys for the basic functions are: Division = Multiplication = Subtraction = Addition = Equals =
Negatives, Square roots and Percentages
Next up we have some more basic functions.
The +/- button will simply change the number on screen from a positive to negative number. The √ button will find the square root of the number in the display. For example, if 49 is in the display and you press the √ button, the number 7 will appear (the square root of 49).
The % button converts your whole number into a decimal for easier maths. For example, if you wanted to find out what 127% of £413.56 was using the UCAT calculator, you would type the following into your number pad: 413.56 * 127 Mouse click on % ENTER ...for a solution of 525.2212
Memory Buttons - MRC, M-, M+
Finally, we come to a series of buttons that is especially helpful in longer calculations, or quantitative reasoning questions that consistently reference the same number: the memory buttons.
Let’s start with MRC. MRC stands for Memory Recall, and it recalls a number that has been stored for later use. But how do we store a number? That’s where the M+ and M- buttons come into play.
It’s important to note a couple of things.
The default number stored is 0.
You can only store one number at a time.
Let’s use 500 as an example of a number that we want to store. Since 0 is the default number that’s stored, you’ll have to use the M+ button to add 500 to the memory. So, you’ll type 500, then hit M+. A little M pops up on the left hand side of the calculator screen to indicate there is now a number stored. Now you can use the ON/C button to clear the screen and continue to do the calculations you need. When it comes time to bring that number back, you can press the MRC button to recall it. An example of this in action would be if I enter 2000 - MRC. Since the saved number is 500, hitting ENTER (or =) after this input will give us 1500.
You can use the M+ and M- buttons at any time to add or subtract the number on the display from the number stored in memory. Let’s say 500 is still stored. If I enter 100 and press the M- button, it will subtract 100 from the number stored in memory. The new number stored in memory is now 400. You can check this by clearing the screen with ON/C and pressing the MRC button to confirm. If we clear the screen again and enter 200 M+, what is the new number stored in memory? If you answered 600, you’re well on your way to mastering this feature and saving some precious time on your UCAT exam!
Hopefully this tutorial has helped clear up some of the more confusing functions and stressed the importance of being familiar with the tools you’re given. If you need some practice with the UCAT calculator, we recommend doing the official UCAT consortium practice tests or trying out our very own UCAT question bank, which lets you customise your practice with 6000+ questions and unique insights, while replicating the look and feel of the official exam.