UCAT Update - 2nd July 2020
📬UCAT Bookings Are Now Open
Registration and bookings for the UCAT tests are now open as well as the UCAT bursary schemes. If you want to take the UCAT at a PearsonVUE test centre, we would recommend booking as early as you can it is likely that test centres will have limited capacity. Set your alarms and reminders for the day before, UCAT will release more information in the following weeks and thus ensure that you wake up and are ready in good time before bookings open. You could always decide to reschedule a UCAT Test Date - being proactive will be key in these weeks-months to come.
However, you can only take your UCAT once and you now have plenty of spare time on your hands. Don't decide to rush and do the UCAT as soon as you can if you're not ready. The benefit of doing it at home is that the format and environment that you do your practice papers and the real thing will be the exact same.
🏠Opportunity to sit UCAT at home
Candidates will have the choice to sit the UCAT either at home or using Pearson VUE's online proctoring service (OnVUE) or at a Pearson Vue Test Centre (as in the past). The online UCAT taken at home will be (unimaginatively) called UCAT Online. By using both options, they can ensure that all UK and international candidates have the opportunity to take the UCAT.
🖥️ Test content will remain the same
Although the delivery model may change, the UCAT test will stay exactly the same between a test at home and one taken in a test centre.
🤖 Usage of AI & Live Monitoring to Safeguard
UCAT Online will use artificial intelligence combined with live monitoring to safeguard the security of the test.
💭 Would you prefer to take the UCAT exam at home or at a test centre?
Some students may feel more relaxed and comfortable if they took the UCAT exam at home whilst others may prefer to take the exam at a test centre as it can make them feel more alert and exam-ready.
🖥️ 2 to 4 weeks of moderate preparation with 2 weeks of intense revision is more than enough preparation
Given the circumstances, it is important to ensure that you do not peak too early and that you pace yourself so you stay motivated and sharp. Remember there is no magic formula to the UCAT preparation; it will depend upon your intensity and varies from person to person. The tricky thing is to balance UCAT preparation alongside all the other dimensions of your application and life!
✔️ Reduced testing window
With booking opening in July rather than May, the actual testing window will now be between 3rd August and 1st October. As such, it is important to be proactive and be strategic. Remember that in usual circumstances, you find out your UCAT results on the day of your UCAT exam. The earlier you do your exam, the more time you have to adapt, choose the medical schools best tailored to your UCAT score and potentially tweak your personal statement.
Importance of the UCAT
🛬The UCAT can only be taken once per admission cycle
Your UCAT score is only valid for one application cycle, so applicants would have to resit the test if they have, for example taken a gap year. Although you will receive your scores as you leave the test centre, Universities receive your UCAT score directed through the UCAT office, and each use the data and scoring differently, which is outlined below.
🌫️Average test scores vary year on year
Average test scores vary year on year dependent on the cohort of candidates, so although you receive your scores on the day it is sometimes difficult to gauge which percentile they would fall into. It can be helpful to look at the percentiles for past years, which can be found on the UCAT website.
🏫Different universities have different UCAT weightings
Tests taken in the UK/EU - £75
Tests taken outside the EU - £120
💬Different Name; Same Exam
Before 2019, the UCAT exam was previously known as the UKCAT exam. Although it has changed names, the test content is still the same
Verbal Reasoning Tips
📚 Practice your speed reading
Practice your speed reading using this test: http://www.readingsoft.com
🗞️ Practice at any opportunity
Read articles online or in the newspaper (these do not need to be scientific) and summarise the content into a couple of bullet points for practice.
❌ Do NOT use your own knowledge
To answer the question’s use only what is provided in the text (do not use your own outside knowledge or make assumptions).
⏱️ Save time
Always read the questions posed to you before reading the passage. This way you will save time by looking for key words in the text.
⭕ Look out for absolutes
When answering the ‘True/False/Can’t tell” questions look out for words such as ‘sometimes’, ‘always’, ‘never’, ‘possibly’, ‘rarely’. These words can help to critically determine whether something is explicitly stated or implied.
😱 Don’t panic and move on
Remember that all questions in the UCAT are equally weighted. Take care to not waste time on the longer passages of text and miss out on answering the shorter questions.
🔍 Be strategic
Candidates tend to find the “Free text” questions trickier and that they require more time than the “True/False/Can’t tell” questions. When practicing these questions one strategy to trail would be to answer the “True/False/Can’t tell” questions quickly to save more time for the “Free text” questions.
⚙️ Be efficient
If you feel that you have found the answer, move on. Do not finish reading the text as this simply wastes time.
Decision Making Tips
✅ Practice under the right test conditions
The whiteboard and online calculator feature is going to be very useful in this subtest, so make sure to keep using these throughout your practice.
❌ Do NOT use outside knowledge
Make sure you’re only using the information you’re presented with when coming to an answer – don’t make assumptions based on your outside knowledge. This is especially important in the syllogisms and interpreting information questions.
Be objective and do not let your personal beliefs influence your answers in the recognising assumptions questions.
🔬 Be objective
Take care to only use information that is relevant for answering the question in the Venn diagram questions. Doing unnecessary working out will waste valuable time.
⏰ Do NOT waste time
Revisit common GCSE maths topics such as probability (especially using the AND and OR rule), percentages and Venn diagrams.
➗ Revisit common GCSE maths topics
Do not limit yourself to practicing with only UCAT resources. GCSE maths and A Level Biology past papers can be used to practice interpreting information from graphs and BMAT section 1 past papers will help you to develop the skills necessary for the evaluative questions.
✏️ Think outside the box when practicing
Quantitative Reasoning Tips
💯 Develop your Mental Maths
The QR section relies very heavily on mental arithmetic, as you are forbidden to bring a handheld calculator into the exam, and the on screen calculator is very slow and time consuming, not to mention difficult to use. After at least 1 year of A-Levels, you will be very reliant on your calculator for any maths work you're doing, meaning your mental maths will now be surprisingly bad, especially if you haven’t been taking a maths A-Level. Relying on the UCAT Calculator (which can be found here) for anything that isn’t absolutely necessary, will drain your precious time. The answer to this, sadly, is spending hours and hours speeding yourself up. Spend as much time as possible practising maths without a calculator, because the more you do, the quicker and easier it will become.
🙋 What do you need to learn?
In fact, you are unlikely to need to learn anything, as the maths required is basic GCSE knowledge, and can mostly be done mentally with ease (if you practise!). However there is a series of common skills that will serve you well for the majority of the questions in the QR section.
Times tables up to 12 (and multiplying larger numbers by single digit numbers)
Adding and subtracting up to 4-digit numbers
Unit conversions (milli to micro to nano, kilo to mega to giga etc.)
Convert Fractions, decimals and percentages, and calculations involving these. (Top Tip: these calculations can be done either way around, e.g. 40% of 25 is the same as 25% of 40, and the latter is much easier to deal with mentally)
Working with different types of average (mean, median, mode and ranges)
Speed = Distance/Time calculations
Rearrangement of formulas and equations, and basic algebra
Areas and perimeter of Triangles, rectangles, circles and parallelograms
Volume and surface area of spheres, cubes/cuboids and cylinder
Interpreting information from complex graphs and tables
Rounding where applicable (detail further down)
Practising these so that you are able to do simple calculations involving them quickly and without the need for writing or using a calculator will help you keep to time and allow you to score higher.
🧮 Using the Calculator
The online calculator provided by the UCAT exam (found here) is very different to what you will be used to. Although mental maths should get you through much of the exam, there will be a few times where the calculator may be necessary, and being confident in using the calculator quickly will save precious seconds. I recommend practising using the calculator for more complicated calculations as part of your QR training, so it accurately simulates the exam conditions. I would recommend familiarising yourself with the memory function and other shortcuts (such as not typing the 0 before a decimal point) which may make you as fast as possible.
Sometimes a question will have numbers which are difficult to work with, and require frustrating use of the calculator. In these questions, it may be useful to take a glance at the answer options, and if they are far apart*, doing a calculation using rounded values. This will hopefully give an approximation near to one of the options, saving the hassle of getting the exact figure on the calculator. Remember to keep note of whether you’ve rounded up and/or down, as if you’ve rounded up on most values, the true answer should be smaller than the approximation you get, and vice versa.
*“Far apart” is relative. 8753 and 9463 may be further apart than 79 and 43, but depending on the starting values, rounding may or may not be reliable in each case.
🏃♀️ Moving on
Sometimes there will be questions which are confusing to you. As someone from a scientific background, you are used to problem solving to get the answer, even if it takes you a long time. In this test however, it is often best to move on if the data for a scenario, or the specific question is befuddling you. Like the rest of the test, the difficulty of questions in the QR section vary greatly. There will be some questions you can do easily and quickly, and you do not want to be forced to guess them all in the last minute when you don't have time to work them out.
Instead, if you make no headway on knowing what to do for a question in the first 20 seconds or so, pick a random guess, flag it, and move on to easy ones, to guarantee some points. You may find that in any leftover time you are able to work it out with a fresh pair of eyes. If you do plenty of practise, most question formats and data presentations will be familiar and you should recognise what to do easily.
⏰ Get Your Timing Right
A good way to think about timing is to aim for 1 minute per 5 questions, leaving a 2 minute buffer at the end for more difficult questions. For type 1 and 4 questions, this gives 1 minute for the set, and for type 2 and 3 questions it gives 12 seconds per question. This will make more sense as you continue to read about question types. Due to the nature of the exam, being strict with yourself on time is one of the most important aspects to your success.
💨 Build up Speed
It is important you build up speed slowly. Jumping into full speed will ultimately stop you being able to succeed, or develop any basics, and learning will actually take longer. Instead use the large number of practise banks out there to practise identifying patterns with no time limit. Some of them may take 5 minutes or more, but I guarantee that once you figure it out, you will always be able to recognise similar patterns. Slowly introduce time limits, and gradually build your speed. Start many weeks before the exam to give yourself the best opportunity to succeed.
🤔 Understand Question Types
There are 4 question types that you will come across, all of which require similar pattern recognition skills, it is important you become familiar with each format to allow you to quickly and easily answer questions. Each type is explained below.
✍️ Question Type 1
This contains 2 sets of 6 ‘Shapes’ (boxes with patterns) labelled ‘Set A’ and ‘Set B’. There will then be 5 question shapes which you must place in either Set A, Set B, or Neither. The pattern within Set A and B are almost always linked in some way, and sometimes even direct opposites of each other.
As you have roughly 1 minute per set, I would recommend allotting 30-35 seconds to determine the patterns within the sets, then allowing 5-6 seconds per question shape to determine which of the sets it fits into. If it is not immediately obvious whether a question shape fits into either of the sets, it is likely to be neither. If you cannot identify a pattern after 40-45 seconds, move on! (Remember if you stick to timings elsewhere, you have that buffer).
⌨️ Question Type 2
This contains a sequence of 4 shapes, in which one or more things change each time. You will be provided with 4 options and asked to select which of the four will be next in the sequence.
You will have different sequences for every question, so working on the assumption that we are doing 5 per minute, you need to have this answered within 12 seconds, I would recommend trying to identify a pattern in as little as 8-10 seconds, to allow enough time to correctly identify which option is correct from the 4 options. If you cannot identify a pattern after 15 seconds, you should move on and come back if there is time at the end. As these questions are not grouped into sets of 5, you may not necessarily have 5 of these question types in a row, and instead have a variety of them interspersed within the AR section (they will not pop up within a set of type 1 or 4 questions).
📝 Question Type 3
These questions will be phrased as “A is to B as…”. There will be a shape in the top left which has been transformed into the shape in the top right using one or more rules. You must then apply these rules to the shape in the bottom left and choose which shape satisfies these transformations out of 4 options.
Similar to Type 2 questions, these will all be independent questions so will be interspersed within the AR section, and a timing of roughly 12 seconds should be aimed for, 8-10 of which should be spent identifying the pattern and the remaining on selecting the correct option. Move on if you cannot spot anything after 15 seconds.
✏️ Question Type 4
These are similar to type 1, in that they have 2 sets of 6 shapes labelled ‘Set A’ and ‘Set B’. However this time in each question there will be a question of “Which of the following test shapes belongs in Set (A/B)?”, and you will be provided with 4 options. The sets are in exactly the same format as Type 1 questions, so are very similar.
The timings are also very similar, spend 30-35 seconds to identify rules within the sets, then 5-6 seconds identifying each correct option. Move on if you cannot identify anything after 40-45 seconds.
⚙️ The SCANS Mnemonic
One way of remembering what to look for in sets and sequences when training is using the SCANS mnemonic. It stands for:
What shapes are there?
Irregular or regular shapes?
Shapes may be white, black or striped
May correlate to number, arrangement, shape or size of the shapes
Unlikely to be a pattern on its own, and is often used in conjunction with other variables
Shapes may be arranged in different ways between sets or individuals in a sequence
Direction of rotation?
Shape pointing towards anything?
Position relative to other types of shape? (e.g. triangle always to top left of star)
Can correlate to colour, shape, size and number (e.g. anything above circle is black, anything below white)
Number of vertices/sides?
Always odd or even numbers? If not, do odd/even boxes correlate to colour or shape?
Total number of shapes (or type of shape, e.g. 2 Triangles)
Number of intersections?
Can correlate to colour, arrangement, size and shape (e.g. White and black shapes have equal number of sides in A, white has half number of sides as black in B)
Often not a pattern on its own and is used to make more complex rules when used in conjunction with other variables
E.g. Odd number of sides are larger in A, but smaller in B
In sequences may be alternating sizes or continuously growing/shrinking
These are only suggestions of the rules you may find within sets and sequences, and is not an exhaustive list. You also will not have time in an exam to go through each individual point and see if that is the rule, as that would take too much time. This can instead be used as a reminder when first training slowly, to help guide your thinking. Do not let it confine your thinking, however, as there may be particularly strange rules which require thinking outside the box. As you practise over many weeks you will get better at recognising patterns quickly.
🏃 Moving on
There almost definitely will come times in all sections of the UCAT where the question is taking too long to figure out, and due to the high time pressure, you need to move on. Remember, there may be some really easy questions later that you want to get, rather than spending ages to get a difficult one. When moving on, make sure to guess an answer anyway, as if you do run out of time, a guess is better than nothing! Also click the flag button, so when you reach the end of the section, you can easily find which questions you needed to go back to. The UCAT software makes this easy to do, and you should make yourself aware of how to do this with the practise exams on the UCAT webpage.
Unfortunately there is no secret easy way of doing this exam. Due to the strict time restraints, the only way to get good at the AR section - or all sections for that matter - is to practise as much as possible. As I said above, you must develop this skill over many weeks and months, to be able to recognise patterns quickly. The best and only way to do this is practise questions. The UCAT website has many question banks, as well as other websites, which may offer some free. If you have exhausted these, and cannot afford paid online (or paper copy) question banks, find a friend (preferably someone who has taken or is going to take the exam) and ask them to make up some questions for you, you can do the same for them, and help each other out. You may have also forgotten a lot of the questions, so don’t be afraid to go back over old question banks and redo them.
⭐ Practise, Practise, Practise!
Situational Judgement Tips
🤔 Understand the Question Formats
There are 3 question formats and all include responses to scenarios you may come across as a doctor, a medical student or even someone going about day to day life – they therefore test your ability to react appropriately using your interpersonal qualities, such as decision making, professionalism, patient-centred care, and many more. Knowing exactly what is being asked is key to being able to identify the most appropriate answer.
📋 Appropriateness Questions
In this question form you will first read a scenario, then be provided with multiple questions, posing a possible action. You must then rate how appropriate that action would be. The 4 options are always:
Very appropriate - You should answer with this if it will resolve or make the situation better.
Appropriate, but not ideal - You should answer with this if the response won’t negatively affect the situation, but there is a better way of going around it.
Inappropriate, but not awful - You should answer with this if it shouldn’t be done, but it won’t make the problem worse
Very inappropriate - You should answer with this if it will make the situation worse
📑 Importance Questions
In this question form you will first read a scenario, then be provided with multiple questions, posing something that could be taken into consideration when making decisions. You must then rate how important that factor is. The 4 options are always:
Very important - You should answer with this if the situation cannot be solved without considering it
Important - You should answer with this is the situation could improve with considering it, but it is not vital
Of minor importance - You should answer with this if consideration won’t make a difference
Not important at all - You should answer with this if you shouldn’t consider the idea at all
🥇 Ranking Appropriateness Questions
In these questions a scenario will be described to you along with three possible courses of action. You will then have to drag and drop the most and least appropriate action. This requires a similar way of thinking to the appropriateness questions.
📖 Read ‘Good Medical Practice’
This document is the GMC’s guidance on how doctors should behave, and provides detailed guidance which will help hugely with the SJT. Although it will not provide answers for each individual scenario, it will give you the base theory which can be applied to all scenarios. There is also a version for medical students called ‘Achieving Good Medical Practise’. It does not make for very exciting reading, so when you are going through, instead of just reading, make notes and summarise your findings to keep you more engaged, and also provide a great revision resource, not just for the UCAT but interviews too. Keep these themes, along with the qualities of a good doctor, in your head at all times when revising and taking the test.
🔎 Read the Scenario Carefully
The appropriateness and importance of actions often relies heavily on your role within the scenario. A medical student cannot do some actions that a doctor can (revealing news etc.), and sometimes calling for a doctor is unnecessary nervousness. This intuition develops with time, but when you are first practising, keep that in mind, be confident but not reckless with your decision making.
Also, sometimes an individual within the scenario does something very inappropriate. This can sometimes bias your mind to put that as your answer, however it is best to ignore those actions after reading them, and focus on the question. For example, an apology for something inappropriate is a very appropriate action.
🤨 Isolate the Action in the Question
Often, we know that something should be done in a situation, for example an apology. However if the question isn’t about an apology, and hasn’t been a previous question, it doesn’t mean that action hasn’t been taken. Some people have a tendency to rank down responses in the ‘appropriateness’ questions because it isn’t everything they would’ve done, however you must isolate the question, and decide whether that individual action is a good or bad thing, ignoring what else you think should be done.
⏰ Get the Timing Right
The SJT is the least time-pressured section, allowing you space to think. I would recommend reading a scenario in 20 seconds, which leaves 16 seconds to read the question and provide your answer. If you can, aim to bring each of those numbers down, as it will provide time at the end for any flagged questions that you were unsure about.
Often, we’ll be able to tell if a scenario is appropriate or not, however then deciding whether to place ‘very’ infront can take some deliberating. You will receive some marks for correctly stating on the same side (i.e. some marks if you put ‘very appropriate’ when the answer is just ‘appropriate’). So do not waste time flipping back and forth between two, just pick one, flag it, and move on. If you are efficient with your timing, you will have time at the end to go back and give a final decision.
📚 Read the Explanations when Practising
When completing practise questions (lots of resources on UCAT website), even if you get a question right, study the reasoning that was used for it, to gain a deeper understanding of the test, and the things you should be taking into consideration.