UCAT PREPARATION

UCAT Preparation: A Step-By-Step Guide

WRITTEN BY
Medistudents Team
Apr 29, 2021

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The Medistudents AI-powered UCAT question bank is the only one on the market that uses AI algorithms to deeply analyse your ability levels and create a personalised learning journey specifically tailored to boost your UCAT score.

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Does any of this sound like you?

  • I keep answering UCAT questions but don’t seem to be improving.
  • I need to score well in the UCAT but don’t have time to answer thousands of questions.
  • I don’t know which areas of the UCAT to focus on.

What if you could...

  • Have questions hand-picked for you based on your individual strengths and weaknesses.
  • Save countless hours by not wasting time on topics that won’t improve your exam score.
  • See a sophisticated analysis of your skill level for each area of the UCAT.

The Medistudents AI-powered UCAT question bank provides this and more.

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“The new Medistudents adaptive UCAT question bank is a game changer in UCAT revision”

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Why use the Medistudents adaptive UCAT question bank?

Did you know that if you spend an average of 2 minutes answering and absorbing the explanation of each question in a question bank, it will take you 333 hours to get through 10k questions!?

No wonder the vast majority of people don’t answer anywhere near 10k questions before their exam!

We surveyed 100s of medical students and asked them what their biggest issue was when preparing for the UCAT.

Over 90% said that because the UCAT wasn’t a knowledge-based exam, they could answer thousands of questions but never feel like they were getting anywhere.

The trouble with standard question banks is that everyone is given the same questions to prepare with, with no consideration of what skills or topics each person is actually struggling with.

However, everyone has a different baseline ability. You might struggle with quantitative reasoning, whereas your friend might be a maths wizard. With a standard question bank, you’ll both answer the same QR questions, in the same order, meaning you’ll be left struggling while your friend doesn’t feel stretched.

No wonder so many people can find preparing for the UCAT frustrating!

The Medistudents adaptive UCAT question bank is here to change all that.

We recognise that the vast majority of students don’t complete all 10,000 questions in a question bank.

It’s therefore vitally important that the questions you do answer are relevant to your skill and ability level.

We’ll ensure that in the areas you’re struggling, you’ll master the basics first. Whereas in your stronger areas, you’ll be immediately pushed.

This will mean that every minute of your revision is turbo charged to maximise your UCAT score.

More than a just question bank that tells you the correct answers

As you progress through the question bank, you’ll be able to see a sophisticated estimate of your current skill level for each subsection of the UCAT. When other question banks give you a performance review, they are simply telling you how many questions you’ve got right or wrong. 

We do things differently.

Our algorithm will tell you exactly what your ability level is for each area of the UCAT. We calculate this based on the actual difficulty of the questions you are answering and it’s done in real time, so you can be sure that the work you’re putting in is actually translating into real gains in your UCAT score.

The Medistudents UCAT question bank is the only one available which shows you if you’re actually getting better at answering harder questions.

If you’re applying to medical school for September 2022 it’s likely that you’ll need to undertake The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) before submitting your application, and therefore you may be starting to think about UCAT preparation. The majority of UK Universities include UCAT as part of their selection process for prospective medical students; our Medicine Entry Requirements blog shows you at a glance which medical schools include UCAT or alternative admissions exams (BMAT or GAMSAT) in their entry criteria.

The UCAT is a 2 hour computer-based test which assesses your mental ability, characteristics, attitudes and professional behaviours required for the medical profession. The test format is multiple choice questions and is separated into five timed subtests. The test can only be taken once per year, so the score you obtain will be used on your UCAS application, therefore sufficient preparation is advised before undertaking the exam.

How to Prepare for the UCAT

Once you’ve identified if your chosen universities require you to complete the UCAT as part of the application process, you need to plan when you will take the exam and how you will prepare for it. Make sure you are aware of the deadlines for registering, booking and completing the UCAT; more information about the UCAT deadline dates for 2021 are included under the ‘UCAT Test Dates’ section below. Some quick tips on preparing for the UCAT can be found here.

It’s tempting when beginning your preparation for any exam to jump straight into practice questions and tests, but focusing on the following first will help you to build a solid foundation for your UCAT practice:

Take time to get familiar with the test functions

Understanding how to navigate the online test system will save you valuable time during the UCAT, so it’s worth investing time at the beginning of your UCAT preparations to become familiar with its functions. The UCAT website has a ‘Tour Tutorial’ which allows you to explore the exam functions, including how to answer and review questions on the system.

Make sure you understand the requirements of each subtest

The UCAT is an aptitude based exam developed to assess different skills required for the medical profession. It does not require you to learn new theory or to demonstrate your academic ability; UCAT preparation should focus on developing techniques to answer the varying questions in each subtest.

The UCAT is separated into the following five subtests:

  1. Verbal Reasoning
    The UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest assesses your ability to interpret passages of text and draw specific conclusions from the information presented.
  2. Decision Making
    The UCAT Decision Making subtest assesses your problem-solving skills and your ability to make decisions within complex situations.
  3. Quantitative Reasoning
    The UCAT Quantitative Reasoning subtest assesses your ability to apply mathematical skills in order to solve problems.
  4. Abstract Reasoning
    The UCAT Abstract Reasoning subtest assesses your ability to identify patterns and relationships to identify which information is reliable and relevant and make judgements based on this.
  5. Situational Judgement
    The UCAT Situational Judgement subtest assesses your capacity to understand real world situations and respond appropriately.

Understanding what is required in each of the five subtests within the UCAT will allow you to prepare for the questions and develop strategies to support you. Our UCAT 2021 – Complete Guide has a full breakdown of each subtest, including the types of questions you will be given and the timings for each.

Developing an understanding of the best strategies for each subtest, before throwing yourself into practice tests, will help you to answer the questions more effectively and prevent you from forming inefficient methods.

Make a comprehensive study plan

Creating a UCAT study plan on a laptop

Before starting your UCAT studying it’s worth spending some time creating a detailed study plan, outlining when and what you will study during each session, to ensure you not only plan an adequate amount of time to revise but that your sessions are also focused, therefore making them more productive.

There is more information on how to revise for the UCAT in the ‘UCAT Revision’ section below, but when creating your study plan it is advised that you timetable regular study time for your UCAT preparations and only focus on one subtest during each study session, to enable you to cover it fully.

How Much Preparation for UCAT

The UCAT website states that the highest scoring candidates dedicated approximately 25 - 30 hours to preparing for the UCAT; therefore they advise allowing six weeks to fully prepare for the exam, with approximately one hour per day study time. However, this is just one opinion and there is varying advice from former applicants with some stating that as little as four weeks is sufficient to prepare for the UCAT. It is worth noting that those students who studied for fewer weeks dedicated more time per day to their preparations, so if you intend to undertake your studying over four weeks you’ll need to commit to studying for longer periods each day (approximately two hours per day during this time).

You should use advice regarding recommended preparation time for the UCAT as a guide to support you to plan an effective timetable of study but remember to adapt them to suit your preferred way of studying. Consider how frequently you will study and how long you’re most productive for (are you better studying in short bursts or do you need longer to immerse yourself in it?) to support you to plan a timetable which will work for you and your study needs.

Crucially, you need to create a study plan which will be most effective for you, ensuring that you dedicate enough time to preparing well for the UCAT.

UCAT Test Dates

It’s important that you’re aware of the deadlines for registering, booking and completing the UCAT exam, which are all before the UCAS application deadline date of 15 October 2021.

The UCAT must be completed in a Pearson VUE test centre, which can be found throughout the UK and internationally.

Tests are available from 26 July 2021 – 29 September 2021.

UCAT Dates 2021

Date of the UCAT

You need to register and then book your UCAT using the Pearson VUE online registration system, which can be accessed through the UCAT website. There are also the options to apply for a bursary to cover the exam fee and to apply for access arrangements on the UCAT website.

More information about UCAT fees and access arrangements for the exam can be found in our UCAT 2021 – Complete Guide.

The dates for registration, online booking, bursary applications and access arrangements applications are below, as well as a reminder of test dates:

Opens Closes
Registration 2 June 2021 (9am BST) 22 September 2021 (12 noon BST)
Booking 28 June 2021 (9am BST) Online: 22 September 2021 (12 noon BST)
Final deadline: 28 September 2021 (12 noon BST)
Bursary Scheme Applications 2 June 2021 (9am BST) 29 September 2021 (4pm BST)
Access Arrangements Applications 2 June 2021 (9am BST) 22 September 2021 (12 noon BST)
UCAT Exam Period 26 July 2021 29 September 2021

UCAT Revision

Once you’re familiar with the test functions and different subtests, you can begin to put your study plan into action and start practising for the exam. During your UCAT revision you should focus on gaining experience of answering the different questions in each subtest and developing techniques and speed when answering questions.

How to Revise for UCAT

The most useful resources for supporting your UCAT preparations are UCAT practice questions and UCAT practice tests; you can find more information about the benefits of using a mixture of practice questions and practice tests below.

Our adaptive UCAT question bank offers the opportunity to explore practice questions across each of the subtest areas, as well as complete full practice mock tests, to ensure effective preparation for the UCAT. Powered by artificial intelligence, our practice questions and tests will automatically identify your strengths and weaknesses, and tailor your learning to suit these. By identifying areas for development and personalising your learning to meet this, you’ll be directed to focus on the areas which are likely to have the biggest impact on your UCAT score. You can sign up for our adaptive question bank here.

UCAT Practice Questions

UCAT practice questions are useful during the early stages of your UCAT preparations, as they give you the opportunity to become familiar with the five subtests and to develop your responses to different types of questions, without the time pressure of a practice test.

UCAT practice questions also allow you to explore how you can improve your answers or correct any mistakes that you have made, and are useful for identifying types of questions or subtests that you find more challenging, both of which will support you to continue to improve during your UCAT preparations. For more information, read our UCAT Practice blog.

UCAT Practice Test

While the practice questions will build your confidence and allow you to identify mistakes and ways to improve, practice tests should also be a staple feature of your UCAT preparations.

UCAT practice tests require you to complete each of the five subtests in the given time and will support you to prepare for the UCAT by mimicking the exam experience. This provides you with the opportunity to develop your speed when answering the UCAT questions and techniques that will help you to complete them within the time limit.

The more experience you gain with the practice tests, the more confident and calm you will feel on the exam day, as you’ll be aware of the expectations and time restrictions, and you’ll have experience of prioritising questions and knowing when to move on from a question which is taking too much time.

UCAT practice tests will also provide a more realistic expectation of your UCAT score under test conditions, so you’ll know when you’re ready to tackle the UCAT.

Average UCAT Score

For scoring purposes, the Verbal Reasoning, Decision Making, Quantitative Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning subtests are grouped together as cognitive subtests.

Each section is weighted equally within the cognitive subtests and therefore raw marks, of which the amount available per section varies, are converted into scale scores, so each subtest is scored within a range from 300 - 900.

Below is the average scale scores for each of the cognitive subtests in  2020 (up to 25 October 2020), according to UCAT’s statistics:

UCAT Subtest Scale Score Range Average Scale Score (2020)
Verbal Reasoning 300 - 900 570
Decision Making 300 - 900 625
Quantitative Reasoning 300 - 900 664
Abstract Reasoning 300 - 900 653
Total Scale Score Range 1,200 - 3,600
Total Average for Cognitive Subtests 2,511

The UCAT Situational Judgement subtest is scored separately to the cognitive subtests; rather than a scale score range, the raw scores for the Situational Judgement test are expressed as a band (1-4). More information about the Situational Judgement scoring, as well as the cognitive subtests, can be found in our UCAT 2021 – Complete Guide blog and on the UCAT website.

UCAT Advice / UCAT Tips

Finally, some useful tips and advice for preparing for the UCAT:

  1. Use your revision time wisely
    Create an effective study plan and use it to stay focused on revising for the individual subtests. Things such as UCAT books are great for learning strategies for tackling each of the subtests, but avoid flicking aimlessly through a book and make sure this doesn’t replace your dedicated study time.
  2. Take the UCAT in the summer
    The benefit of undertaking the UCAT during the summer, if possible, is that you’re likely to have a break from your usual term-time commitments, eliminating these distractions and providing additional time to dedicate to your UCAT revision, which may allow you to prepare more effectively.
  3. Reflect on each revision session
    Try to spend a few minutes after each revision session to identify areas for development. Making a note of particular questions or subtests that you’re finding more difficult will help you to identify areas which you need to focus on more, so you can adapt your study plan to include more time for these. Remember, our adaptive question bank does this for you automatically, by identifying your areas for development and providing tailored questions to further your learning.
  4. Brush up on your maths skills
    While the UCAT does not aim to test your academic ability, strong maths skills will support you with several areas within the exam, including the decision making and quantitative reasoning subtests. Quick mental arithmetic will also save you valuable time during the test, so it’s well worth making time to practise your maths skills if you need to.

The following website has been used for the research of the UCAT assessment, which you may also find useful for further information:

The UCAT website

Contents

Thousands of questions and comprehensive answers written specifically for UCAT preparation, with more getting added.

The Medistudents platform has been designed to replicate the actual exam, so you won’t get any surprises on the day.

Each question and explanation you receive will be chosen by our AI algorithm, specifically for you.

The only question bank available that tells you if you’re actually getting better and not just how many questions you’ve answered correctly.

We don’t just pick the questions for our mock exams at random, we follow a similar process to the actual exam board by calibrating every question for difficulty, based on the abilities of 100s of medical students. This means your score will be a much more accurate reflection of the real thing.

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You can access our platform anywhere and it works on desktops, tablets and phones. This means you can revise at home or on the go.

When the Medistudents team were preparing for the UCAT, working out where to start was quite overwhelming. The online resources offered thousands of practice questions and lots of generic advice. However, the only way of getting help that was specifically targeted at you was by paying for expensive tutoring.

This didn’t seem right to us. The personalised learning you get with a tutor has been shown to improve exam results across all fields of education. So why when it came to the UCAT, an exam that is vital for medical school, should it only be available to those who could afford a tutor?

The good news is artificial intelligence has changed everything! Super smart algorithms can now identify exactly where your strengths and weaknesses lie, ensuring that every minute of your revision is focused on areas that will have the biggest impact on your exam score.

Here at Medistudents we’ve used the latest educational technology and combined it with our deep understanding of the UCAT, to produce the first ever AI-powered, adaptive UCAT question bank.

Our sophisticated question bank platform will adapt seamlessly with every question you answer. As you improve, the type and difficulty of the questions you receive will change with you, ensuring that at all times, you only receive the most relevant questions.

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We know that once you’ve tried our adaptive UCAT question bank, you’ll want to tell your friends about it.

To make this easier, we’re giving every student who signs up a unique referral code to give to their friends.

Your friends will benefit with an exclusive discount and you’ll earn money every time someone signs up using your code.

A resource you can trust

The Medistudents team has been creating educational resources for medical students and doctors for years. We’ve helped thousands of students pass their exams and we’ve put all of that experience into our UCAT question bank.

We stay up to date on all the latest educational science, so you can be sure that the techniques we use are state of the art.

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Frequently Asked Questions

How does the algorithm work out what my ability level is?

As you progress through the question bank, our algorithm will be performing complicated statistical analyses of the way you answer questions. All of our questions have been tested on hundreds of 1st year medical students so the algorithm knows exactly how difficult each question is.

The algorithm looks at how you answer questions across a range of different difficulties to work out what your current ability level is.

How does the algorithm know what questions to give me?

Every question in our database has been tagged based on the skills required to answer it and its difficulty level. Once the algorithm has worked out what your ability level is and the areas you need to target, it ensures that the questions you receive focus on these areas. As you get better, the algorithm adapts with you, moving you onto new areas based on your needs.

How similar to the UCAT are the Medistudents questions and explanations?

Every single question in our question bank is written specifically for UCAT preparation and is reviewed by our editorial team to ensure it is as close a match as possible to the UCAT standard. We don’t borrow questions that have been written to prepare for other exams. In addition to this, all of our questions are calibrated by 100s of first year medical students who have recently taken the UCAT, which allows us to remove any outliers and ensure consistency.

What if my exam gets delayed by COVID?

If your exam gets delayed by COVID, we’ll extend your subscription for free until the new date of your exam.