10 Essential UCAT Keyboard Shortcuts

One of the greatest challenges in the UCAT is the time restrictions put in place for each subtest. You'll need to find ways to shave off seconds wherever you can, and these 10 keyboard shortcuts are an essential place to start in order to improve your technique.

Last Updated: 1st April 2024

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As well as testing a wide variety of essential skills for doctors, the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is also a test of your speed due to the short amount of time available to answer all questions in each subtest. 

While preparation and practice will help you build up your UCAT skillset and allow you to work through questions faster, it’s still important to find ways to save time wherever possible. One of the key ways of doing this is through UCAT keyboard shortcuts. 

In this guide, we’ll explore why it’s important to focus on timings in the UCAT, learn 10 shortcuts available within the official UCAT testing programme and look at a few other tips for improving your speed. Let’s get started!

Why Are Timings Important in The UCAT?

The UCAT as a whole lasts 2 hours across five separate subtests. Each of these subtests has its own unique time limits and question counts: 

SectionQuestionsTiming Scoring
Verbal Reasoning4421 minutes
300-900
Decision Making2931 minutes
Quantitative Reasoning3625 minutes
Abstract Reasoning5012 minutes
Situational Judgement6926 minutesBand 1-4

As you can see, there are 228 questions in total across the whole of the UCAT. If all timing were equal, you would have around 30 seconds to answer each question, but there’s one key thing to consider. 

The different question types have different content. For example, a Verbal Reasoning question will have a 600+ word passage to read through while an Abstract Reasoning question will feature no words at all. All of this is reflected in the subtest timings and question counts. 

Since there are different time limits for each subtest, you’ll have different time limits per question to hit. Time doesn’t transfer between sections so you’ll need to make sure you’ve answered as many questions as you can before moving to the next subtest. 

While the ‘Time Per Question’ limit isn’t essential for you to follow, aiming to answer questions within these times will help ensure that you can get through all of them. The Time Per Question for each subtest is as follows: 

Decision Making questions are the most generous with time while Abstract Reasoning gives you less than 15 seconds to work through each question. As we said, these timings are determined by the length and style of each question, but it’s still important to approach all of them with the intention of working fast.  

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UniAdmissions has been providing support for the UCAT for over a decade, so our expert tutors know the best ways to shave off seconds from your test while ensuring you get a high score. Through one-to-one tuition sessions, an interactive group course and hundreds of practice questions and preparation materials, our UCAT Programme will give you the best chance of acing your UCAT. 

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10 UCAT Keyboard Shortcuts to Improve Your Timings

Now we understand why we need to work quickly in the UCAT, let’s look at ten shortcuts that will save you some time while in your test. 

To provide a bit of context, the UCAT is a computer-based exam, meaning no pen or paper is used throughout. The UCAT is sat at Pearson VUE testing centres, meaning you’ll be using their hardware. The UCAT itself is run on specially-made software that houses all of the required features for taking the test, including an on-screen calculator. 

We would highly recommend getting to grips with the UCAT software by trying out the practice tests on the official UCAT website, which run on the same system that you’ll encounter for the real thing. 

One extremely helpful feature included in this system is the keyboard shortcuts. By inputting certain keys together, actions will be performed on the software. These aren’t exclusive to the UCAT; in fact you probably already use them all the time when using your computer. As an example, holding CTRL + C and CTRL + V together are keyboard shortcuts for Copy and Paste. The same principle applies to the UCAT shortcuts. 

These ten shortcuts can be placed into different categories: 

Previous/Next Question Shortcuts

Starting off simply, these two shortcuts will move you to the next or previous question:

These ones are pretty simple but you’ll likely be using these more than any other during your test. Have a finger close the ALT key at all times because almost every UCAT keyboard shortcut includes it. 

Calculator Shortcuts

As we said, the UCAT system features a digital calculator which can be used with the mouse. However, this is very time inefficient, so it’s better to use the keyboard for all calculator actions:

ALT + C brings the calculator up while backspace wipes anything currently on the calculator. You can also use the various arithmetic symbols on the keyboard to input the relevant actions (e.g. +, -, =).

As a bonus shortcut, you can also press NUMLOCK to activate the additional number keypad typically seen on the right side of some keyboards. Try to get used to using this area of the keyboard as it can save you a bit of time when typing in calculations. 

Flagging Shortcut

Flagging is an essential part of effective UCAT test-taking. What this means is that you can, at any time, flag a question that you are struggling with in order to highlight it so you can easily get back to it before the subtest finishes. 

This is important as it can allow you to move on without the fear of losing that question when you’re ready to come back to it. Trying to answer every question in order will end up wasting your time, so it’s better to leave any questions that may take you longer than recommended so that you can carry on and gain more points from easier questions. Bear in mind that you should still leave an answer anyway in case you run out of time – never leave a question without an answer selected. 

Review Screen Shortcuts

The review screen is a summary of all the questions in a given sub-test, displaying the status of each question. This display can be filtered using keyboard shortcuts: 

These shortcuts will be important once you’ve completed your first run through the questions. You will need to use the review screen to look back on your progress and find any questions you left behind or flagged to take another crack at them. 

While you can view incomplete questions with ALT + I, ideally there shouldn’t be incomplete questions but flagged questions instead. Some can fall through the cracks however so this feature is perfect for ensuring you don’t accidentally miss any. 

While these shortcuts aren’t going to save you massive amounts of time when compared to performing these actions with the mouse, it is still important that you learn to do these naturally as they will help with the overall flow of your UCAT technique. Once you’ve gotten to grips with the system, the only obstacle you’ll have will be the questions themselves. 

Additional UCAT Timing Tips

Before you start practising those shortcuts, here are a few additional tips to help improve your speed during your UCAT test:

1.

Read Questions Before Passages/Data

When it comes to any admissions test that involves large amounts of text or data, it’s always recommended to read the accompanying questions before going through the text. 

This is recommended because reading the questions (and potentially the answer options too) first will let you know exactly what you’re looking for rather than going in blind. It’s also possible to skim-read the passage, but this should be done very cautiously as it’s easy to miss information or make simple mistakes. 

2.

Guess!

Sometimes, a question just isn’t going to click with you. You may be able to get it right after a few minutes of thinking, but this is the UCAT, so you don’t have a few minutes to spare. 

If a question looks like it’s going to take some serious thought to figure out, make an educated guess and move on. This could be based on your closed estimate, or you could rule out any answers you know are incorrect and guess from the remaining options. Either way, it’s better to get something down than to leave it blank and have a 0% chance of getting the mark. 

3.

Practice in Smaller Chunks

While practice under exam conditions is important, it’s not always the best way to approach your preparation. Sometimes, you’ll just want to do a quick 10-minute session as a refresher. 

This is absolutely possible for UCAT prep due to the quick-fire nature of the questions. While these practice sessions don’t always need to be time-sensitive, it’s still extremely beneficial to aim for the Times Per Question listed earlier. With enough exposure to this in short bursts, you’ll soon be able to complete questions in these times like a natural. 

4.

Understand All Of The Subtests

There’s a lot more complexity to each subtest than you may think, with different question structures and styles. Therefore, it’s important that you study each of the five subtests to gain a wider understanding of what to expect. 

If you’re not sure where to start, we have comprehensive guides to each of the five subtests that cover what kinds of questions you should expect, as well as preparation tips:

That’s all you need to know about UCAT keyboard shortcuts. It can be tricky getting used to them initially and can feel slower forcing yourself to remember them all compared to just using the mouse. However, given time and practice, these shortcuts will feel extremely natural to the point where you won’t have to think about it.  

Of course, these shortcuts are far from the most important thing you should practice for the test, so be sure to continue studying and preparing for the UCAT. There is a wide selection of materials available to help you, including our free UCAT Guides and the UniAdmissions UCAT Programme and Medicine Programme. We hope this guide has been helpful to you and we wish you the best of luck with your application!

The UCAT is more important than ever, so ensure your success with UniAdmissions

The UCAT is one of the most important stages of the UK medicine admissions process and can be difficult to prepare for. Thankfully, UniAdmissions has over ten years of experience in providing expert UCAT support using our specially crafted curriculum, You can enrol on our UCAT Programme to gain access to knowledgeable medicine tutors, a full-day intensive course and hundreds of UCAT practice materials. 

Discover our UCAT Programme below and find out how you can enrol and triple your chances of success.

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