The final years of your child’s high school study can oftentimes set the tone for their career chapters of their life. By road-mapping a career pathway in advance, even from as early as Year 9, you will be able to ensure that they have the best shot at their career aspirations.
Thinking in this way is particularly important if your child is interested in one of the health-related professions, such as medicine or dentistry. Given the competitive nature of these professions, your child may need to start preparing in advance. As a parent, it is important that you provide support by being acquainted with the intricacies around preparing applications for medical school and the hoops they will need to jump through at each application stage.
If you have done some digging around for your child’s entry into undergraduate medicine, you may have encountered the term ‘UCAT’ on a few occasions.
The University Clinical Aptitude Test, in short known as the UCAT is a skill-based, psychometric evaluation. A ‘psychometric assessment’ basically determines your child’s key cognitive abilities, like critical thinking and problem-solving skills in combination with core foundations of academic concepts. The UCAT exam has been adopted by most undergraduate medical schools in Australia and New Zealand since 2019 and has arguably become one of the important indicators, besides the ATAR to gauge prospective students for a medical interview and subsequently a career in medicine.
How Is UCAT Different To Your Child’s High School Education?
For starters, although the UCAT is designed to primarily challenge fresh school leavers, it is notably tricky and unlike the core syllabus high school examinations. The UCAT as stated earlier is unique in its assessment, and the question-types are largely skill-driven. For you as a parent, you need to ensure that your child is prepared for the UCAT type of thinking, while working under extreme time management constraints.
The second point to consider is that the UCAT is a highly time-pressured test, which sets the test apart from most other exams for that age group. Your child will have to answer 233 questions within a time of 2 hours in a novel exam format distinct to most other high school exams. As such, Your child will need to tailor their thinking to be decisive, quick and mature in their decision-making, whilst also taking into account possible repercussions that could impact their peers and patients.
The final point to understand is the importance of the UCAT score. This score is given equal preference at most undergraduate medical schools at the time of admission, despite your child’s ATAR, NCEA or GPA score. So it is important to have basic clarity about what the UCAT entails and the skills it demands, so you can help your child in their UCAT preparation as well as balancing high school studies.
There is no way to predict an exact UCAT preparation timeline, as it will differ from student to student. The main reason for this is because the UCAT occurs once annually, between July and August, so could be disruptive to internal assessments that occur differently in each school.
It is for this reason that we recommend a UCAT mentor help your child to balance their study habits against focusing on specific techniques for the UCAT. You can help your child to develop a study planner to prepare for their Year 9 subjects. On this basis, they have an organised plan around managing their UCAT and high school preparation, securing their future from an initial phase.
What Does My Child Mean By UCAT Subsections?
As mentioned earlier, the UCAT is delivered in an online format and comprises 225 multiple-choice questions that need to be answered within the strict time limit of 1 hour 55 minutes. The UCAT exam has been split into 5 subtests and the following duration has been assigned to each section:
Each UCAT subtest assesses an array of skill-sets and thinking abilities that have been deemed important for entry into undergraduate medical schools, and also in future practice as a doctor or dentist. However, bear in mind that the UCAT is a time-pressured test, so your child’s practice sessions should incorporate solving numerous questions against a ticking clock.
How To Help Your Child Understand UCAT And Prepare
How can you efficiently prepare for the UCAT while still in high school? Download the full infographic to create the perfect UCAT study schedule!
In order to succeed in the UCAT exam, there are three key aspects your child should focus on:
1. Practice Questions And Mock Exams
Practice questions and mock examinations are the bread and butter method of preparation to learn in-depth about the UCAT format and its pacing across each section. Your child needs to familiarise themselves with the breadth of question-types in order to develop relevant strategies that can both refine their exam tactic and thinking on test day. Once their understanding of the UCAT improves, it is relatively easy to introduce them to timed mock-exams, where they can focus on getting correct answers against a clock.
2. Study Planning
UCAT is unique in its question-themes and style of learning compared to most ATAR subjects. It is important to work in coalition with your child to make their core foundational knowledge around the UCAT strong, and secondly, work on their time management and accuracy. The way to best assist your child’s overall UCAT growth is if you, as a parent, can understand their abilities and shortcomings.
In high school, your child may have had a basic degree of soft skill development, like leadership, teamwork and communication skills to name a few. So it is important to reflect upon their key strengths. This way, you can provide insights on how to upskill their existing strengths and simultaneously allocate extra hours to overcome their weaknesses.
UCAT study is known to be more effective as a group rather than studying alone. If your child is a self-starter and a motivated individual, they already have a key skill suited for medicine, however self-study may not be as motivating compared to studying with peers. Group study constantly pushes your child to perform better and brainstorm new ideas with their friends to refine practical UCAT techniques. Group study for the UCAT exam is usually recommended so your child can also learn to function in a competitive group dynamic.
At Fraser’s, we understand that the UCAT demands a higher-order thinking ability and specific techniques that are vast in nature and cannot be compared to your child’s experiences from high school. Hence, our UCAT tutors recommend the iterative model of UCAT prep to help your child become a versatile learner.
The iterative process is an immersive learning experience which includes developing cohesive knowledge of concepts and engaging with peers, rather than old-fashioned rote-learning. Therefore, your child can explore different pathways to tackle the UCAT and gain necessary skills that could benefit them in their future practice as well.
How Can Your Child Prepare For The UCAT?
An initial exposure to the nitty gritties of the UCAT subsections can provide you with a broad overview of what the UCAT entails and pave the right direction for your child’s UCAT study timeline.
The strategy weekend course has been specifically designed to help high school students streamline their UCAT preparation, without having to compromise on their high school studies.
The strategy weekend course available on the Fraser's website is the perfect package to give you a detailed introduction on the constitution of the UCAT. The course runs for three full days and with a lot of time spent learning in small groups of 10-20 and an experienced UCAT tutor. The course also offers additional benefits such as access to over 2000 practice questions, 20 mini mock-exams and 10 full-length mock exams, so your child can implement the skills they learn from the course directly into the test.
If you are confused and concerned that your child lacks the right resources to understand the UCAT as a whole, then the strategy weekend is the right start for you and your child. It is also a great way to establish a connection with our experienced staff at Fraser’s and understand how our teaching practices will work for your child.
Where To From Here?
We hope this article has highlighted important UCAT aspects and has clarified some of your basic doubts around the intricacies of the exam. If you want to read more about the UCAT, we suggest you to checkout our range of Free Resources and Tools specially designed for students in high school to help them in their UCAT preparation.