All you need to know about preparing for the UCAT exam

Tamar, UCAT Test Expert at JobTestPrep
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Tips for UCAT Registration & Test Day

Registering for the UCAT (or UKCAT) is your first task towards acing your UCAT exam. It is advisable to register early so that you have more options of test dates from which to choose. It is also important to know what you need to bring with you to the UCAT, for instance your ID. For more information on registering for the UCAT and what you need for the day of the test, see our FAQs page.


UCAT Preparation Tips

As you probably know, preparation for the UCAT exam is essential. But knowing HOW to prepare and what to focus while practising is no less important. Here are five major tips to help you jumpstart your UCAT preparation:

#1 Know each UCAT section like the back of your hand.

Before diving in and practising thousands of questions – start by learning the strategies and approaches for each section. Memorize the time limit for every section, how many questions each section includes, and what’s the best why to approach each type of question.

In our complete preparation you’ll find thorough guides for every UCAT section. That way you could easily build your strategy and have a solid technique for every section.


#2 Start with recognizing your strengths and weaknesses.

During your first days of practice, try to identify which sections you struggle with. Then, build the rest of your study schedule accordingly.

Our Preparation includes a UCAT diagnostic test with a detailed feedback, to help you identify your weak spots right from the beginning.


#3 Work on that tight time limit!

One of the most challenging aspects of the UCAT exam is the timing. Relatively easy questions become very hard when you add a tight time limit to them, and the stress that accompanies the timing doesn’t help either.

The most important thing you can do to help with timing is practise. The more you practise, the faster you are. As simple as that. Practising can also help to reduce anxiety during the actual exam. So while practising UCAT tests, always work with the same time limit as the actual test, and keep an eye on the timer.


#4 Flag hard questions (and don’t leave a question unmarked)

During each section, start with the easy questions, then spend the remaining time on the questions you’re struggling with. But before you skip a question, guess the answer and flag it (click Alt+F). That way you’ll make sure you won’t leave a question unmarked even if you don’t have enough time to come back to solve it and know quickly which questions to come back to.

UCAT Verbal Reasoning Tips

  • Chances are the content of the UCAT Verbal Reasoning section will not be familiar to you, so do not depend on your previous knowledge for this section.
  • Manage your time. You will need to read each of the passages carefully as well as answer the follow up questions.
  • Pay attention to the wording in questions. This will usually provide a hint towards the answer.
  • Realise that the Verbal Reasoning section is not based on your ability to understand the English language (regardless of your mother tongue). 
  • Try to improve your reading speed and comprehension in order to perform more efficiently

UCAT Quantitative Reasoning Tips

  • Review the four basic functions (addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division) as well as fractions, ratios, and percentages.
  • If you haven’t studied maths recently, your skills may be a little rusty. Make some time during your preparation to go back and review certain mathematical calculations (percentages, ratios, currency conversion, as well as multiplication and division, etc.).
  • You may use a calculator on the test, so it is best to also take the practice tests with a calculator. The test calculator is a basic calculator, so do not prepare on a scientific one.
  • Make sure to use your notepad during the test to help you work out answers.
  • You do not need to answer the questions in order on this test, so you may skip questions you find difficult and return to them after you have gone through the whole section.
  • Always read the instructions thoroughly to know what is expected in each question.
  • One point is awarded for correct answers, while no points are deducted for incorrect answers. Make sure to return to the question, eliminate answers you are certain are incorrect, and take a guess. Points are not eliminated for wrong answers!

UCAT Abstract Reasoning Tips

  • Practising will help you become familiar with the types of patterns found on the test and will also help you develop strategies to identify these patterns.
  • This is a quick paced section, with just 13 minutes to answer 55 questions. When taking the test, skip questions that may take too long to answer. You can come back to them once you have answered the easier questions.
  • At the start of each set of questions, take a look at Set A and Set B for links between the two groups. This will help you answer all the questions in this section of the test.
  • When looking at the sets, consider what the shapes have in common. This can include size, shape, number of items, shading, colour, direction, position, etc. Taking these things into consideration will also help you to identify the patterns in the sets.
  • Don’t forget to use your notepad to work out answers.

UCAT Decision Making Tips

  • Don't use the old Decision Analysis prep material for the 2016 UCAT as it is no longer relevant.
  • Make sure to manage your time wisely as each question provides different data and you will only have about one minute per question.
  • This section will not be scored this year, and thus your performance here will not affect your chances of getting into a programme. However, you should still make an effort to answer the questions to the best of your ability.

UCAT Situational Judgement Tips

  • Although there is one ‘correct’ answer to each question, there is a lot of debate and discussion over each scenario. Therefore, in the SJT section, you are also awarded marks for selecting an option that is close to the ‘correct’ answer. For example, if there is an answer that is considered very appropriate but you select another answer which is considered appropriate but not ideal, you will still be awarded partial credit.
  • Although you are a student taking this exam, when answering SJT questions, you must imagine yourself to be a full-time healthcare professional acting in accordance with the General Medical Council (GMC) or General Dental Council (GDC). In other words, you must choose what is an appropriate action for a professional doctor or dentist, unless you have been told otherwise. If you are unsure of what is expected of doctors and dentists, visit their respective websites and go over their ‘Fitness to Practise’ and ‘Professionalism’ sections. Do not spend too much time trying to memorise these sections or wondering what they mean – a general understanding of what is expected of healthcare professionals is more than enough.
  • In certain scenarios, the position you are to imagine yourself in will be explicitly stated. For example, the scenario may read that 'you are a 3rd year medical student…' In this situation, do as you’re told. It would be ‘appropriate’, for example, for a 3rd year student to ask for the help of a tutor to confirm a diagnosis, whereas it would be ‘inappropriate, but not awful’ for a qualified GP to do the same.
  • Once you’ve grasped the main concepts, it’s extremely important to remember to use common sense. A great deal of scenarios will have a medical/dental setting to them, but you should essentially rely on common sense to judge an action.
  • When judging the appropriateness of a situation, do not compare an action to other possibilities – only deal with the situation provided in that specific question. For example, if a question notes that 'a patient sitting in a chair has had a heart attack and you immediately phone an ambulance', this is a very appropriate thing to do. Do not get caught up in trying to decide whether it is more appropriate to call an ambulance or to start CPR. The question has mentioned only phoning the ambulance, and thus this is the only factor you should assess for appropriateness.

UCAT Timing Tips

It is important to learn how to manage your time, both in studying for the UCAT as well as on the UCAT itself.

  • When budgeting your study time, consider how much time you will be able to sit and study in one sitting (with breaks) and how many times a week you will be able to do this. The recommended amount of study time is two hours every day, starting at least three weeks before the test. Make sure to take breaks and also consider studying different material each hour.
  • When budgeting your test time, notice that you will need to answer more than one question per a minute, on average. Be sure to use a timer when you practise so that you can train yourself to manage your time while taking the test. This will help you determine the best way to prioritise as well as to avoid panicking.
SubtestTime*Number of Questions
Verbal reasoning22 minutes44
Quantitative reasoning25 minutes36
Abstract reasoning14 minutes55
Decision making32 minutes29
Situational judgement27 minutes68
Total120 minutes232

*Includes one minutes for instructions

  • By learning to prioritise, you can quickly decide if you cannot answer a question and then move onto the following question. Be sure to mark any question you are not sure of so that you can return to it if you have enough time at the end of the section.
  • By keeping calm, you will maintain a clear head and you can then complete each section with enough time to look over your answers.
  • While budgeting your time on the UCAT is important, your UCAT technique is also crucial. You need to have a complete understanding of what is being asked of you. Before practising the UCAT in timed mode, go over a mock test to gain a full understanding of what is actually being asked and what kinds of responses are expected. This will allow you to improve you UCAT technique.