UCAT is the main undergraduate medical school entrance exam adopted by the majority of universities in the UK, Australia and New Zealand. The UCAT is so prolific because it gauges a broad spectrum of abilities that have been deemed to be important for the practice of medicine.
Consisting of a mammoth of 225 questions, the UCAT has been divided into five subsections, each differently timed to assess your visuo-spatial interpretation, numerical and verbal reasoning, and astute problem-solving abilities. This might not sound too bad to you so far, but with an exam timeframe of only 2-hours. You will be thinking faster than you have ever had to for any exam to date.
One of the reasons UCAT continues to be known for its uniqueness is due to the fact that the UCAT question-styles are so intricately designed that only a highly streamlined preparation timeline can guarantee a satisfactory test day experience. As a future UCAT test-taker, it is your responsibility to be on top of your UCAT study and set achievable milestones on a day-to-day basis that accommodates your social commitments and leisure time.
Helping your to balance your commitments is the main intention behind this article, to help you develop a UCAT preparation timeline that does not compromise on your important commitments outside of pursuing your dreams of medicine or dentistry.
How can you efficiently prepare for the UCAT while still in high school? Download the full infographic to create the perfect UCAT study schedule!
How to Develop a Proper UCAT Prep Timetable?
For starters, an ideal UCAT prep timetable needs to be sequential, which enables a gradual transition into attempting the practice tests. By kickstarting your UCAT study with practice tests that closely resembles the real UCAT exam, you are able to apply theory as well as develop skills that best help you to show the examiners exactly what you know!
On a side note, an ideal preparation plan for someone else need not necessarily be applicable to your UCAT study, purely because we all have different lifestyles and other commitments. Therefore, it is crucial to develop a personalised UCAT study planner that prioritises your highschool studies once your school curriculum catches pace.
The below graphic representation is only a rough but not an absolute estimate of time you should dedicate to UCAT study:
UCAT Prep During the Start of Summer Holidays
UCAT Study After High School Kickstarts
Final Weeks Before the Real UCAT
Why Should UCAT Test Sitters Also Focus on High School?
Your high school examinations and assignments are determinants of your final ATAR, and as you are probably well across, are a key prerequisite to be eligible for any undergraduate degree - including medicine. There is not much point in diverting all of your time and resources to practising for the UCAT alone when your grades at school are compromised.
As a student, your daily routine will become chaotic if you do not map out a realistic schedule that allocates sufficient time to high school research, internship/employment and extracurriculars. If you are juggling between the aforementioned errands, it is likely that you will be drained of your creative energy which could lead to procrastination of your UCAT study.
Hence, our UCAT experts advocate students to commence their UCAT study as early as 6 months prior to the actual UCAT test date. Six months of UCAT preparation will significantly reduce your amount of stress so that you can excel in the exam, and will also allow adequate time to improve necessary skills that you may not yet have cultivated. If you follow our formula, on UCAT test day you will be prepared and confident to deliver a high quality performance.
Typically, the UCAT testing window for each admission cycle is between July - August. For this reason, most UCAT prep companies advise students to commence their UCAT prep during the new year, in January. However, our UCAT mentors are more inclined towards beginning to study for the UCAT in the month of December. We do this because we have found that it allows students to begin their UCAT preparation in such a way that minimises stress and overall impact on your life’s other commitments.
The Three Phase UCAT Preparation Plan
1. Developing Foundational Knowledge for the UCAT
The UCAT exam is an assessment of your skill rather than your ability to attain and hold knowledge. In saying that, we cannot neglect the theoretical framework of the UCAT. Especially because simple concepts like individual test timing, the nature of question-types, and the sheer amount of detail in each question will make a considerable difference to how you perceive the UCAT subsections. Only with a sound understanding of the fundamentals in the UCAT can you apply different principles and gauge which approach suits a question-type the best.
On an average, each student needs to spend at least 2 weeks at the early stages of their UCAT prep to polish the UCAT theories and understand the principled explanations behind each question-type.
2. The Importance of Application in UCAT Study
UCAT as an exam format might seem particularly enigmatic, however, each one of you have existing skill-sets that you need to work with in parallel to ensure your UCAT preparation is harnessing your strengths and minimising your weaknesses. Once you gain an understanding of the foundations of UCAT, your focus should shift to identifying the extent of your existing cognitive abilities and skills with guidance on how to attain skills that are essential for UCAT success.
This is specifically when the ‘Application’ phase appears in your UCAT preparation endeavour. At Fraser’s, we believe that this stage is all about unravelling multiple strategies and improvisation to solve different question-types. In addition to this, the application phase is crucial for you to ‘test-and-trial’ a range of strategies during practice tests and mock exams to understand the limitations of your skills. It goes without saying that the mentors at Fraser’s will always be around to provide methods to improve on them.
In our UCAT comp and concentrated courses, the application of these UCAT approaches spans over 1 - 2 months of the course. At this point, you are shrewd at recognising the relevant and minor details within a question and can smartly avoid distractions that are simply meant to stray you away from the purpose of the question. You are also exposed to our PBL sessions which give you access to a collaborative peer’s point-of-view, supported by the guidance of an experienced UCAT mentor.
Most students assume that once you master accuracy in UCAT, time management will be a piece of old tackle. If you are under a similar assumption, then we advise you to alter this mindset.
The time efficiency phase is the most important aspect to your UCAT preparation and essentially, a period of at least a few months needs to be dedicated to attune your ability to tackle UCAT questions against a clock. Also, bear in mind that the UCAT subsections are differently timed, which basically means you have to continuously change your approach from one subtest to another, whilst maintaining accuracy. As you can see, this is the tricky part about UCAT, the slow transition to a timed-testing procedure.
Furthermore, getting the correct response under a time-pressured situation like this can be overwhelming. Hence, the reason behind our advocating for students to focus on mastering time management as a steady growth process over the months whilst implementing one minor change at a time to build accuracy and confidence. This is what we call the ‘snowball effect’ and it is highly effective for your UCAT prep.
Use an App to Keep you Focused on your UCAT Prep
One of the most challenging aspects about UCAT preparation is maintaining active focus without succumbing to other distractions.
Based on the past experiences, we have come to the conclusion that high performing students are not necessarily consistent or devote prolonged hours in their preparation but are more attentive and targeted when they prepare for the UCAT. For this reason, their UCAT prep becomes more strategic and engaging than a monotonous routine.
Considering how far technology has advanced, it is also easy to get distracted by scrolling on social media. However, being accountable is an important facet to growth in your UCAT study. In order to overcome distractions and retain focus, we recommend an application like ‘Forest’, which has had positive results on students’ mental endurance, limits phone usage and genuinely keeps students hooked to their UCAT study.
And the interesting part you ask? Each time you set a timer on Forest to study, you plant a tree, well and truly making your study hours count.
UCAT Practice Tests
When you begin your UCAT study, the question banks and practice tests are your bread and butter to improve your overall comprehension of the UCAT. Bear in mind that, these practice tests and question banks are a reality check, and it is normal that you will score in the lowest decile in the initial phase as you are relatively new to the UCAT format.
However, these tests are originally meant to give you the gist of the UCAT challenges and even the silliest mistakes you could possibly make during the exam. Furthermore, it is important to attempt at least one practice test every few weeks, whilst reviewing your approaches to gain insight into how your skills are developing.
A key takeaway from attempting these UCAT prep questions is that you need to be patient while reviewing your mistakes, as this could seem like a mundane task. But bear in mind that reviewing your performance is an integral part to skills growth in the UCAT domain.
Is 2 months enough to prepare for UCAT?
The last two months leading up to the UCAT exam are truly essential.
It goes without saying that two months before the exam is the peak in your preparation timeline. This is when you have to become a self-critique, which can be challenging as giving brutal feedback is not fun for anyone. Each time you attempt a timed-mock exam, allocate at least 45-minutes to review your mistakes. Besides, you can also do practice tests that are not timed, to continuously implement your strategies and engage with the UCAT format to improve confidence of the UCAT format for test day.
Fraser’s UCAT Strategy Weekend
The UCAT Strategy Weekend is a three-day introductory event designed to inform you about everything there is to know about the UCAT exam format from leading Australian UCAT mentors. One of the advantages of Fraser's strategy weekend is the small classroom sizes, making your learning experience more personal. Those who enrol into this 3-day event also gain exclusive access to over 500+ practice questions and diagnostic exams that can help you identify your strong and weak areas in the UCAT.
As someone aspiring to do the UCAT, strategy weekend is a great way for you to test the waters of UCAT and understand Fraser's teaching philosophy. Besides, you get to the brass tacks of the UCAT in early December, which is an ideal time to strengthen your UCAT fundamentals before your school commitments take shape.
By starting your UCAT prep early, you jump into the new year with more clarity around the question-styles, test timing, and the best UCAT practises to excel in the exam. In addition to this, strategy weekend is a great program to understand Fraser's teaching pedagogy to undertake our comp and concentrated UCAT courses. On this basis, you shift from the basics of UCAT comprehension to:
Learning under the guidance of a personal mentor; And
Subsequently modifying your UCAT study hours to allocate time for school.
Can I Sit UCAT After Year 12?
The eligibility to sit the UCAT is pretty straightforward. Students who are currently in or completing Year 12 in Australia and Year 13 in New Zealand are qualified to undertake this test. With regards to whether or not you can register for the UCAT when at university, well you are allowed to take the test if you have commenced or completed an undergraduate degree program.
However, kindly note that not all undergraduate degree programs that consider your UCAT score percentile as a prerequisite offer places for non-fresh school leavers. It is important that you cross-check the undergrad med schools under the UCAT consortium to thoroughly understand which healthcaree course you can undertake with your UCAT score.
Our UCAT Strategy Weekend program is constructed to encourage students in their early years of high school starting from Year 9 to Year 12 to understand the ropes of the UCAT. High school students, like yourself, will be given a mock exam first followed by a predicted score. Based on your performance, you receive personalised feedback in real time from our UCAT mentors to understand where your skill sets stand with regards to UCAT success.
On that note, we hope this UCAT preparation timeline and tips have been useful advice that can help you develop a personalised study planner for the upcoming UCAT season.
We wish you the best of luck for your upcoming UCAT test window!