10 must have techniques for a high UCAT score
With less than 3 months to go till the UCAT begins, the time for preparation has truly begun. Below are 10 must-have techniques that you should look to develop to attain a stellar score.
1. The ability to remain calm
The UCAT is undoubtedly a high stakes test and it is absolutely normal to feel nervous and frightened on exam day. However, in order to optimise performance in any exam, a calm mindset is vital, and it is important that you prepare strategies to calm yourself down when the nervousness hits. For many people, taking a deep breath is often the key to relaxing their mind - whilst many others find that visualising exam success is often a good way to relieve tension and stress. Ultimately, you want to find a way that works for you and always be prepared to use this approach to relax your mind. You may use your chosen technique when you first enter the exam room and it is very likely that you will end up using it when you see an unfamiliar or new question in the test. Essentially, the ability to remain calm will benefit you greatly during the UCAT and you should definitely develop strategies to help you stay composed during the examination.
2. The ability to skim read
After attempting some practice questions, it will become clear that there is a lot of reading to do in the UCAT, especially in the first subtest. However, not all the information presented in the question stem is of importance. Hence, the ability to skim read is definitely a technique that you should aim to master, and it is inevitably a skill that will save you a large amount of time. However, this skill is one that many people find very difficult to develop as it requires you to balance reading speed and comprehension. Ultimately, the best way to develop this technique is through consistent timed practice and we suggest that you have a look at our free practice resources and the free UCAT consortium practice tests.
3. The ability to triage
In the UCAT there will be hard time-consuming questions as well as easy problems that require seconds to answer. The key point to note here is that each of these questions, regardless of difficulty, are worth one mark at the end of the day. Hence, triaging is a skill that you should aspire to develop, and one that will ensure you obtain the maximum number of marks in a given period of time. Once again, the key to develop this skill is practice, as exposure to the types of questions that appear in the UCAT will enable you to develop an intuition that will help you identify which questions to skip and which ones to answer. When mastered, this technique can optimise your performance in the UCAT.
4. The ability to effectively manage time
The UCAT is undoubtedly a very time-pressured exam and often many candidates struggle with timing rather than answering the question themselves. To ensure success, it is absolutely vital that you develop a set of time management strategies that work for you and it is even more important that you adhere to these strategies. For example, when preparing ask yourself how long you will spend per question in each of the five sections and plan out what you will do if you end up spending too much time on one question. Furthermore, before the test day, make sure you get to know the keyboard shortcuts that can be used in the UCAT and spend some time familiarising yourself with the UCAT platform. Essentially, the little things like this will save you a large amount of time during the test which in turn is sure to boost your UCAT score immensely.
5. The ability to make informed guesses
Answering every question in the UCAT can be an unreal expectation and it is fair to say that every test taker will end up guessing a few questions. However, it is important to realise that guessing alone is not enough. To excel in the UCAT, you must aim to make informed guesses, and spend a couple of seconds eliminating a few answer options before guessing from the remaining choices. Not only is this method bound to increase your chances of guessing a right answer, but it is also likely to increase the number of marks you attain.
6. The ability to maintain concentration
When you focus so intensely for more than 2 hours, it is inevitable that your concentration will lapse; however, it is vital that you are able to regain your focus during the test. For many, a deep breath will often help regain concentration, whilst others find that resting during the 1 minute of reading time allocated for each section helps restore attentiveness. Ultimately, whilst full length practice tests can definitely help increase your concentration span, you should also spend some time thinking about ways you can regain it during moments where lapses may occur. By developing techniques to remain focused throughout the UCAT, the chances of a minor mistake are reduced drastically - which in turn is very much inclined to have a positive impact on your UCAT score.
7. The ability to take notes and use diagrams
Though this technique is more targeted for subtests 2,3 and 4, it is still a skill that you should aspire to develop. Often, the notepad provided for the UCAT leads many candidates to write down too much information, which results in a waste of precious time. Ask yourself if it is really necessary to write down certain information. As a rule of thumb, use the notepad to jot down key information, diagrams and tables as these pieces of information can help simplify problems.
Furthermore, if a standalone question requires the formation of a complex diagram or table to be answered, ask yourself if it is worth answering the question or if it would be better to guess the answer and return at a later time. Crucially, the ability to take concise, precise and effective notes is a skill that will benefit you in the UCAT and it is sure to be a skill that will benefit you greatly as you pursue a career in medicine.
8. The ability to view specifics and the ability to view holistically
This skill is one that is specifically aimed to enhance your performance in the Abstract Reasoning subtest. After some practice, it will become evident that the patterns present in the fourth subtest of the UCAT will either have a broad general pattern (e.g. change of colour, change of shape) or a more specific pattern (e.g. sum of shapes add up to a prime number). In order to thrive in this subtest of the UCAT, you must be able to view a question specifically as well as holistically so you can pick up the pattern in the question - however broad or specific it may be. This skill is one that comes with a lot of practice, but it is a technique that we highly recommend you to master as it is one that can improve your score in the AR subtest of the UCAT immensely.
9. The ability to move on and forget the bad
Whilst we hope that you will never have to use this technique, it is something that you should develop as a standby in case of a challenging subtest in the UCAT. Essentially, many candidates will struggle with a specific subtest in the UCAT, but it is interesting to note that the subsequent subtests are often the sections which can drag a candidate’s score down. If faced with a difficult subtest, remember that other test takers are also likely to struggle with the same test and do not let this section demotivate you for the rest of the exam. Always remember that it is possible to score high without scoring perfectly in each subtest and approach each section of the UCAT with positivity and confidence. Remaining optimistic is far more likely to earn you a high score on the UCAT than being negative, and we suggest that you practice getting into this mindset when working through timed mock exams.
10. The ability to empathise whilst remaining rational
This technique is one that is specific to the Situational Judgement Test. When working through situational judgement, aim to view each scenario through the eyes of the characters in the case. This is definitely a skill which is challenging to develop, but it is a skill that you can develop by becoming more empathetic and one which is sure to help you outside the test environment as well. To acquire this ability, constantly ask yourself how the characters in the question are feeling and try to understand the motives and intentions of each character. However, do not get carried away by just emotions. Remember that whilst it is important for a doctor to be emotionally intelligent, it is equally important for medical professionals to be rational and always ensure that your responses in the final subtest of the UCAT satisfy both domains. Ultimately, balancing both rationality and empathy is sure to be a challenge for most, but with practice it is sure to be a technique which will optimise your performance in the final section of the UCAT.
While these 10 tips can help you achieve a high UCAT score, it is important to be aware that actually practicing these methods are more important than the tips themselves. Tailor each tip to suit your own needs and make sure you implement your strategies on exam day. Finally, remain calm and approach the test with confidence and optimism. Good luck with the test and your journey to medical school!
Get more preparation tips for the UCAT here