*N.B. At the time of writing, the UCAT was known as the UKCAT, however the same information still applies. *
There are 3 admissions tests commonly used by medical schools as part of the application process for Graduate Entry Medicine:
The three tests are different to each other and have their own individual aspects that make them unique to one another. This is the first of two videos where I will be going through each of the tests, and hopefully by the end of the two videos you will be more informed as to what each of the tests involves and whether or not you would be willing to apply to a university that uses each of the tests. It is worth mentioning that the UKCAT and BMAT are used by some universities as part of their undergraduate application process and as a result, you may already be familiar with these tests. I personally have the most experience with the UKCAT, however I did take the BMAT in 2013. I do not have any experience with the GAMSAT, so unlike the other two tests, I won’t be ale to provide any of my personal advice or tips.
a) Basic Information
The UKCAT is a test that takes approximately two hours. It is taken at a test centre, the same place where you sit your driving theory test. It is a computerised test, divided up into 5 sections, each with different numbers of questions and therefore each section is timed separately meaning you can’t spend more time on say the quantitative reasoning section if you have spare time left over from decision making. The different sections with their individual timings are:
• Verbal reasoning – 22 minutes to answer 44 questions
• Decision making – 32 minutes to answer 29 questions
• Quantitative reasoning – 25 minutes to answer 36 questions
• Abstract reasoning – 14 minutes to answer 55 questions
• Situational Judgement – 27 minutes to answer 68 questions
The questions are multiple choice and you have one minute to read the instructions at the start of each test.
The cost of the UKCAT is £65 pounds but the price increases to £85 if you want to take your test after 1st September. The last date you can take the test is 3rd October and the earliest you can take the test is 3rd July but registration closes on 19th September 2017 The dates and prices do vary from year to year, so make sure you check the Official UKCAT website. You can only take the test once per cycle so make sure you don’t book it too early. Also, you must take it every year you apply (if applying to universities that require the UKCAT) as your score from a previous year cannot be used more than once or for the following year.
b) How to prepare for the test
The official website states that PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE! There isn’t really any other way to prepare for the UKCAT. It can seem quite repeptitive, but after a while, you can start to enjoy it (in a weird, geeky sort of way!).
Everybody will prefer different books and website, however here are the resources that I (and I know many others would recommend):
Get into Medical School – 1250 UKCAT Practice Questions. Includes Full Mock Exam by Oliver Picard
This book is extremely good and in my opinion is the best book to help you prepare for the UKCAT – it has plenty of questions and full explanations to the answers as well as a full mock exam! It is currently up to date and the author does update the book regularly so I would highly recommend it! Make sure you get the most up to date version, as the previous editions It also has detailed information on each section, along with tips and techniques that you may want to consider using to help you. Some people may say that it is not representative of the difficulty of the actual exam, but whether or not that is true, I believe does not make any difference, as any practice is good practice!
Score Higher on the UKCAT: The expert guide from Kaplan, with over 1000 questions and a mock online test by Brian Holmes
This is also a good book, however is not as good as the 1250 UKCAT practice questions book. This is a book that I would recommend if you don’t’ have any experience with the UKCAT and nee something to ease you gently into preparing for the UKCAT. There are lots of questions to practice and there is also a mock online test, unlike the printed mock test in the book above. It is also cheaper which is always an added bonus! That being said, this book is slightly out of date, but is still good nonetheless.
Medify UKCAT Online Course
Words cannot describe how good I found this website to be. Offering more than 4000 questions, multiple full mock tests as well as mocks for the individual sections, this is the most comprehensive preparation package I can find. Being online, the layout is extremely similar to what you will use on the test day and this is more useful than you expect, especially when it comes to using the on-screen calculator! If you don’t believe me, you can access a demo to the site to see if it is something that will help you. You can find Medify here: http://www.medify.co.uk
The Official UKCAT Preparation Free Resources
The UKCAT website has a preparation section which includes a question tutorial, practice questions and full mocks. I personally do not find their resources to be enough on their own, however they’re excellent for getting used to the layout on the screen and getting an idea of the difficulty of questions that you will experience in the actual test. Personally, I saved these practice tests for the week before my test, however it is obviously personal choice, and you may want to do it at a completely different time!
There are so many other resources, both books and websites, so have a Google and see which ones you like the best! There are courses that claim to be really good at preparing you! They can be REALLY expensive, and although they are good to an extent, they can only prepare you so much! I did an course, and although it was useful, in hindsight, I’m not sure it was worth the money, and I could’ve saved a lot of money and bought loads of books as well for extra practice questions! They’re not completely a waste of money, but I’d consider it carefully – anything they teach you can be found online or in books, so it does depend a lot on your personality and how you learn best!
c) My top tips for the test:
1. Get a good nights rest and an early night the night before your test! It’s a long and mentally exhausting test so you need to fully refreshed!
2. Book your test for a time that suits you – don’t book your test for 9am if you rarely get out of bed before 11am! Also remember that the test is two hours, so if your brain is best at 2pm but you know that tiredness hits you at 3:30, maybe try to book for about 12:30-1pm so that you’re not too exhausted at the end of the test. Also, be cautious of eating times, and factor that into the time that you book your test.
3. Avoid social media/your phone/any screens before you take your test. You want to try to be as calm as possible, and make sure you don’t tire out your eyes before your test! Having dry, itchy, tired eyes when you’re trying to concentrate is not helpful at all! Also, you want to be in the right mind set and catching up on the latest gossip is not what you need to be thinking about when you have a test that day! Your friends will understand!
4. Not quite a test day tip, but important! Do mock tests in proper exam conditions – that includes no music, sat at a desktop computer (or laptop with mouse and keyboard), a4 paper and marker for rough workings, and no using a physical calculator, use the onscreen calculator!
5. The day or two days before your test, try to go and find your test centre and work out how long it will take you to get there. You’ll be able to get an idea of the traffic too so that’s always helpful!
6. Aim to get there at least 20 minutes before your test is due to start! You don’t want to be stressed whilst sat in traffic!! Also, the ID checks that take place can take a little time so you don’t want to stressed about that either!
7. Make sure you have all the correct identification with you on the day. The name and date of birth on your identity document must exactly match the name and date of birth you provided when you registered for the UKCAT and the ID you provide must be from their approved list. The list can be found in the emails they send you when you’ve booked your test so make sure you bring the correct things!
8. Start preparing early enough, but don’t’ start too early! UKCAT say 30 hours however personally I prepared for at least 3 hours a day for 4-6 weeks before my test, increasing it to at least 6 hours in the 2 weeks before my test. Obviously this varies from person to person, so make sure you do what’s best for you!
9. Try not to bring too many things to the test centre when you go to take the UKCAT. They will provide everything you need, including an A4 booklet and marker for you to do rough workings on, so don’t worry about bringing any stationary! Just don’t forget your identification!
10. Don’t stress! It’s easy to tress about the UKCAT, especially given how much your application relies on the test, however getting stressed will not help your performance!
I hope you’ve found this information on the UKCAT useful! Feel free to message me on Twitter or on Instagram!