As much as you will probably hate to hear it, the UKCAT does require a lot of preparation. If you are applying for a course which uses the UKCAT as one of its entrance requirements, chances are, you will have a spotless academic record, plenty of work experience and volunteering, as well as a whole range of other extra-curricular activities. You probably can’t even count the number of hours that you have dedicated to getting into university, so at this point, it’s worth spending a few more to maximise your chances of getting into a university of your choice.
In my opinion, the key to succeeding in the UKCAT is practice. Of course, there are the exceptions – there’s always going to be that one person who denies ever opening a book and walks out the test in the top 5% of the country, and equally, there will be the unlucky few who slip up on the day and find themselves with a lower mark than they perhaps deserved. You can never guarantee what will happen on the day, but practising as many questions and mock tests as you can possibly get your hands on will ultimately build your confidence, improve your technique and familiarise you with the exam style.
Personally, one of the things which I found most frustrating with the UKCAT was the dreaded on-screen calculator. Please, please, please spend time practising questions with an on-screen calculator. If you are out and about, without a computer, use a pocket calculator or the simple one on your phone, but don’t spend time practising with a scientific calculator. Minimise the amount of time you spend using the calculator because it can be time-consuming, particularly if you are just using it to check some simply arithmetic.
Timing is probably the biggest challenge that you face when it comes to the UKCAT. YOU WILL BE VERY TIGHT FOR TIME! This is deliberate. If you know that a certain question is going to take you more time than you have, guess, flag and move on. Then, if you have spare time later, go through it properly. Sometimes you might not be able to spot the pattern in an abstract reasoning question. This is not the end of the world! Move on. It’s not worth spending loads of time answering one question when you could have answered 3. Questions aren’t weighted depending on difficulty. Doctors in warzones are taught to treat as many people as possible, as quickly as they can – in fact, they are supposed to treat the most treatable first (obviously very different to the NHS…) – this is how you need to prioritise. Answer the most answerable questions first. Then tackle the difficult ones.
For the SJT, it’s worth reading the GMC guidance for Good Medical Practice. It’s a relatively quick document to read, and will be time well-spent since you would need to read it before interviews (I was asked direct questions about it at one university!). Lots of people find the questions for the SJT section to be common sense, whereas some people do struggle here – if you find you aren’t doing as well as you hoped, make sure you read the explanation that accompanies practice questions, and then try and apply the same logic the next time. And then, practice, practice, practice.
On the day. You will probably feel nervous before your exam, but make sure you have had something to eat and drink to help your concentration. You will go into the exam room with nothing but a mini-whiteboard, pen and your locker key. The exam room will be with people doing other tests such as driving theory – if you are distracted easily by noise around you, put the headphones on that will be at your station. Try and keep calm, and hopefully if you have done enough practice exams, you will find the timing to be the same as what you are used to. Chances are, the adrenaline will make you rush, but try to read the questions properly before answering. Relax, and remember that you don’t need to answer every question to get a good mark.
Good luck, keep motivated, and carry on practising!