Entry into medical programmes across Australia and New Zealand is an arduously long and highly competitive process. The University Clinical Aptitude Test, or UCAT, is a psychometric test containing 225 multiple-choice questions, used for admission into undergraduate medical, dental, and clinical science programs at universities under the ANZ Consortium in Australia and New Zealand.
It is a prerequisite for most undergraduate medical programmes across Australia and New Zealand. The UCAT has been previously described as a difficult test, where it assesses cognitive skills that you may not be utilising on a regular basis at school or university, at least not explicitly.
One of the most common lines of questioning that UCAT tutors receive across-the-board when it comes to UCAT preparation is: what can be done during highschool that will maximise your chance of getting into an undergraduate medicine course? What are the best subjects to study in Year 11 and 12? What subjects can I study for medicine in Year 12? Can I fail the UCAT? Are there any year 12 subjects that I can study in anticipation of medicine? Or, as we will answer today, what are the best subjects that I can study in Year 12 to prepare for the UCAT?
The UCAT is primarily concerned with cognitive skills learned in mathematics and English classes in highschool; skills that you will likely already have, perhaps with the exception of time management skills and balancing your highschool study with UCAT study.
With that said, it is worth considering how you can maximise on the free resources available in school and online in order to achieve a competitive UCAT score.
UCAT English and Literacy
A great deal of the UCAT exam is based on your reading comprehension abilities. With that said, classes in English literature will provide the best foundation for high performance on the UCAT exam.
English literature is described in the Australian curriculum to broadly involve the analysis and interpretation of texts and prose of various lengths and complexities. This is an excellent foundation for the Verbal Reasoning and Decision Making subtest, and will also assist in your understanding of what is being asked more broadly across other sections. There is also an emphasis on the implications of text, such as: beliefs, assumptions, and comprehension.
Understanding written, and perhaps subliminal, implications in the UCAT can improve your capacity in the Situational Judgement Test, as you will be able to more deeply and effectively consider the implications of various decisions and responses.
It is worth noting that while English literature will be the most closely aligned with the type of questions you will find on the UCAT, any English course will ultimately serve you well and improve your approach to those tricky reading comprehension questions.
Unlike English, there are more particular skills that it will be important for you to learn in maths. The UCAT exam will contain questions drawn from: probability, algebra, statistics, arithmetic, geometry, and Venn diagrams. On this basis, it is recommended that you select a maths stream that will cover all of these skills. While you will likely cover most, if not all of these topics in any maths stream, some medical universities will require that you study a particular level of maths.
While the emphasis of the UCAT will be on the above topics, it is also worthwhile trying to build as much capability in maths as possible. As alluded to earlier, one of the core challenges of the UCAT lies in time management, meaning you will often be racing against the clock in order to complete all of the questions.
On this basis, you will benefit from building a strong competency in basic mental math skills in addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, as you will not have the time to solve these questions on a calculator.
Abstract Reasoning, the fourth subtest in the UCAT, relies on more implicit cognitive skills that may be learned from mathematics, such as recognising trends and patterns within data. Abstract Reasoning may require more practice compared to the other UCAT subtests, as its question style is unlike anything you may have already encountered in highschool.
Developing an understanding across all of these areas will ensure that you aren’t left wondering how to solve the more math based problems found in Decision Making and Quantitative Reasoning.
So What High School Subjects Should I Study?
As the UCAT is largely concerned with cognitive skills learned from English and mathematics, you likely already have the foundational skills required to succeed in the UCAT. Further, as the UCAT is a psychometric test, you may want to look at some targeted UCAT study instead.
You may want to spend some time understanding medical ethics in the Situational Judgement Test, perhaps dive into the theory behind the mathematics in Quantitative Reasoning, or even review your understanding of probability for the Decision Making subtest. Developing your own personalised UCAT study plan can also help you to succeed in your UCAT study.
What To Do Next?
Looking for some guidance for the UCAT in 2022? Enrol into one of our ultimate UCAT online courses - get a chance to learn from expert tutors, take multiple practice tests and sit stress free for the exam.
If you are applying to a medical school that gives a significant preference to medical interviews, check out our mock interview courses and take advantage of our freely available articles and tools. They highlight the intricacies of stepping into medical school and discuss the various question types presented at medical interviews, be it MMI or a panel interview.