How to Score 3000+ in the UCAT
Note: this article focuses on the aptitude element of the UCAT, not the Situational Judgement test.
I took the UCAT back in 2011, when it was known as the UKCAT. I scored over 3000, and believe this to have been crucial in getting into the medical school of my choice. This article will explore how to boost your score, and in turn your chances of admission.
Something to bear in mind is that throughout school I had a friend who was of exactly the same intelligence as me, and also intent on doing medicine. However, he scored around 100 points less than me. Why? Simply because he didn’t prepare adequately.
The UCAT is comprised of four aptitude sections - verbal reasoning (44 questions), decision making (29 questions), quantitative reasoning (36 questions), and abstract reasoning (55 questions). Alongside the aptitude sections is the situational judgement section of 69 questions. Only the first four count toward your numeric score - the latter provides a separate ‘band’ score. The overall test takes two hours, and is done on a computer. Each section is individually timed.
Identify Your Weaknesses
The first thing to do - prior to any paid-for preparation materials - is to take the official practice tests on the UCAT website. When you’ve done this you’ll be able to see which sections were your best, and which were your weakest. Then, focus your preparation on your weakest sections.
Don’t Stroke Your Ego
This is crucial - don’t just practice the section you’re good at! It’s a temptation that we’ve all fallen foul of, but studies have shown that practising your weakest section can result in an overall score improvement of 20-30% - versus half that from practising the strongest section.
Work on the Specifics
It may well be the case that you’re great at most of the questions in one section, and bad at one type only. If so, work to understand what type of question it is, and focus on that type. All the questions do fall into particular categories, and there will be a set number of that category in the exam. You’ll be able to teach yourself a methodology to tackle the question type you find difficult, and then it’s simply a case of recognising the question type and applying the methodology.
Everything You See is Something You’ve Done
As I said in the previous section, this is how you’ll feel comfortable, and in turn how you will excel. However, you need to ensure that you’ve done enough practice that every question quickly and naturally fits into a category. In reality, alongside targeted practice for weaker sections, this means countless hours of going through questions, mentally categorising them, and moving on. If you do this properly, the exam will hold no surprises.
Work on General Exam Strategies
The UCAT is one of many aptitude tests out there. As such, if you’re struggling on a section, look for general exam tips for that kind of challenge. If you’re finding it hard to quickly sift through information for verbal reasoning, look into general exam tips for processing information quickly - it doesn’t need to be UCAT specific!
Practice on the Computer
Make sure your practice is in the same format as the real test. Practice online, and ensure that your practices run at the same timings as the real thing. Being familiar with the format will make you more comfortable, and more confident, come the day of the exam.
Constantly Check Your Progress
Ensure that you gauge how far you’ve come each week. Take a full mock test to see where you’ve progressed. It may well be that previously weak areas are now at the level of, or even better than, your ‘good’ sections. As such, you’ll need to change your focus to ensure that you’re working as efficiently as possible.
Do the Test at the Right Time
You can take your UCAT in the Summer Holidays - so do so! It might be an annoyance to use your holidays revising, but doing a couple of hours a day for a month will be more than enough. This way you won’t have a clash between school work and UCAT preparation.
The UCAT is an aptitude test - but like all aptitude tests, preparation is more important than you’d think. So don’t become disheartened if your first practice scores aren’t amazing - just set yourself a goal score and ensure that your practices are consistently outperforming that mark by the end.
Author - Tristram Lewis-Stempel
UCAT Verbal Reasoning
UCAT Decision Making
UCAT Quantitative Reasoning
UCAT Abstract Reasoning
UCAT Situational Judgement