UKCAT Countdown - 10 things you should be doing right now to nail the UKCAT

The UKCAT countdown is on - here are 10 straightforward things you can be doing to help prepare for this seemingly impossible exam.

The run up to the UKCAT can be a very stressful and difficult time. With expensive preparation courses on offer and some people saying that it is ‘an intelligence test that you can’t revise for’, it can be hard to know how you can best prepare for this important test. At Applican’s course we thoroughly prepare our students for both the UKCAT and the BMAT and help assist you through these challenging few months. 

Applican have created a TOP 10 TIPS on how to prepare fully for the UKCAT without breaking the bank!

1. Get fast at mental maths.
The quantitative reasoning section of the UKCAT can be horrible if you can’t do mental maths rapidly – it is such a tightly timed section and you don’t want to be relying on the fiddly calculator. Start by reminding yourself of basic maths principles - addition, subtraction, multiplying and diving – and start testing yourself regularly until you can quickly solve simple questions in your head or on pen and paper. If you are struggling to become efficient at mental maths, we think this website has some great shortcuts for solving maths problems that could buy you precious seconds in the UKCAT: http://www.cut-the-knot.org/arithmetic/rapid/rapid.shtml.

2. Be smart with UKCAT resources.
You may feel pressured to attend expensive UKCAT courses because a lot of your friends are going and you feel that you may be at a disadvantage. Whilst these courses are useful to some people, at Applican we believe that you can prepare effectively with other, more reasonably priced resources. The important thing is finding a method for the questions that suits you - we believe you can do this with books and online resources. The ISC Medical ‘1000 Questions UKCAT Practice Questions’ is a really great place to start – only £15 from Amazon, it gives a nice flavour of what kind of questions you will face and allows you to start practising your question answering technique.

3. Patterns. Patterns. Patterns.
At first glance the abstract reasoning section is the most intimidating on the test. However, the more practice you do looking at the patterns, the easier it gets – and believe it or not for most people it is their highest scoring section. At the Applican course we work through pattern identifying techniques and how to find the answer quickly. There are only so many abstract patterns that the examiners can think up, so you will find that if you practice lots of patterns, you will recognise some similar patterns in your test and get easy marks!

4. Two birds with one stone: start speed reading medical news.
Verbal reasoning is often thought of us the easiest section to prepare for – read a paragraph and answer some questions, right? Wrong. This section is so tight for time that it is impossible to read all the words on the screen - so you have to become very proficient at analysing large chunks of text ultrafast. This can be done whilst also reading relevant news in preparation for your interviews. Good resources could be the BBC News App, the Guardian or the student BMJ. Start sourcing relevant and current medical news everyday and discipline yourself to quickly scan read it. Become effective at pulling out the key details of each article and you can train your eyes and brain to become masters of the verbal reasoning section!

5. Start reading GMC documents.
The Situational Judgment section of the UKCAT is notoriously difficult to prepare for – most people forget about it completely! At Applican, we think it is really important that you familiarise yourself with GMC documents such as Good Medical Practice (found here: http://www.gmc-uk.org/guidance/good_medical_practice.asp) and also Tomorrow’s Doctors (found here: http://www.gmc-uk.org/Tomorrow_s_Doctors_1214.pdf_48905759.pdf). It is amazing how much of the SJT is pulled directly from these documents, so even by reading through them you can earn yourself some valuable points in this section. They are also really useful documents to get to know early on before your interview preparation begins.

6. Ethical principles.
Ethical awareness is an essential part of interview preparation, however it can also be very useful for the Situational Judgement section. ‘Medical Ethics: A Very Short Introduction’ is an excellent read and only £5 on Amazon. This book teaches you principles that can be applied to many scenarios you will be presented with in the situational judgement section.

7. Time management.
September can be tough. Your teachers will be pressuring you for UCAS forms and personal statements and sometimes that feels like your highest priority. Applican advises our students to start a UKCAT preparation plan 4 weeks before their test day so that you feel fully ready for the exam. We assist our students with a planned timeline and offer our own UKCAT resources at our courses that are running in the next few months across the UK. Even if you only use the resources that we have outlined in this list you will have loads of things to keep busy with!

8. Online timed practices.
In principle the UKCAT is quite a simple test – most people could answer basic maths and comprehension questions correctly if they had enough time. What makes this exam so difficult is the time restrictions: you have to answer questions uncomfortably quickly. Therefore, it is vitally important that you are ready for these time restraints and don’t get caught out on the big day! There are many resources online that you can get your hands on that offer good exam condition practice tests – you should use these in the week before UKCAT D-Day.
www.medify.co.uk starts at £30 and gives you several practice tests. The official UKCAT website also offers free practice tests and you should use these as the very last practice before your real test!

9. Night before and mental preparation.
The UKCAT is not like GCSEs or A-Levels – it is not technically a ‘knowledge based’ test, but rather designed to be ‘ability based’. Therefore, the very nature of this exam demands a slow and steady preparation plan – not a panicked all-nighter of studying the night before (save these for when you are in medical school!)
At Applican we advise a relaxing and chilled out night before your UKCAT – being calm and focused mentally is the key to success right before this particular exam!

10. Your score.
The averages and scoring for the UKCAT changes each year, and so does how universities use them – whilst 670 was a great score one year, it could be a low score the next. When you receive your score after the test and when you hear other people speaking about their own scores, just remember to take it all with a pinch of salt and not to panic. No matter what score you get, it does not rule you in or out of any medical university application – there is still many other obstacles in the process you have to navigate around. Even if you have a bit of a blip on the day, there are still many other options open for you because different universities weight the UKCAT very different. This is the information we provide at our 2 day courses and help you find the universities that best suit you strengths. 

Good luck in your UKCAT - remember preparation is key!

If you found this blog post useful and are interested in attending our 2 day course which covers UCAS choices, UKCAT, BMAT, personal statements and interview techniques and preparation – make sure you book a place on one of the Applican courses which are running across the UK within the next two months!


For free content, a full mock exam and more interesting blog posts including our last year average score, check out our Intense UKCAT page.