Preparing for the UCAT alongside ATAR Studies

Want to learn how to balance UCAT studies and your regular ATAR studies? We dive deep into how you can do exactly just that.

4 months ago   •   6 min read

By KIS Academics
Photo by National Cancer Institute / Unsplash

The University Clinical Aptitude Test or UCAT is the younger, meaner version of the UMAT which is a computer based test from the UK used by Universities as a standardised intelligence and aptitude test for Undergraduate Medical Degrees and Dentistry Degrees.

Who and what is the UCAT for?

Many undergraduate Medical and Dental Schools across the country require a UCAT result to be considered for an interview/entry, and often there will be a high cutoff depending on the university and the cohort of applicants. A list of universities can be found here, and each university will make it clear whether or not it is a requirement. So, if you’ve got an inkling to do either medicine or dentistry, I would highly recommend looking into the requirements for the Universities you’re looking to apply for.

How to Study/ Prepare for the UCAT Test.

If you haven’t read my previous UCAT blog, I’d suggest starting by reading that Here, this will give you a good overview of everything you need to know about the test, plus some good tips for each section.

The UCAT isn’t exactly a test you can study for, it’s more something you prepare for. Taking the UCAT is a skill, and like all skills, people will be at all sorts of levels when they first start, but with targeted and focused practice/training there's no reason you can’t achieve your UCAT goals.

The best way to prepare for the UCAT is making a detailed plan, and doing your best to stick with it as much as possible. I get it, year 11/12 can get busy and there’s all sorts of other things you’d rather be doing with your time, as well as many commitments which can make it hard to allocate time for something like the UCAT, however, for every new episode of Love Island you watch, there's someone out there doing some UCAT practice. So, let your drive to get into medicine fuel you to making sacrifices and sticking to your schedule.

Time Management

The biggest thing that competes with UCAT preparation is your ATAR studies, which are equally –if not more– important, so let's take this right back to the very start.

So, you’ve decided to sit the UCAT, you want to get into Medicine, Dentistry, or for whatever other reason, but you’re committed. You’ve done a couple of the free practice tests that UCAT supplies, and you’ve bought a training resource. Hopefully this decision has come with plenty of time, but personally, I felt I had left it pretty late before I started preparing, which had some negative consequences. So, I recommend starting to get serious 6 months before the test cycle begins. You want to give yourself as much time as possible, because like I said while you're relaxing, there’s someone out there practising the UCAT.

To get the most out of your time it’s really important to set a plan early and stick to it. If you're practicing inconsistently for the first few months, it’ll suddenly be 3 months away and you won’t have seen any improvements.

If you study little by little, day by day, you will ALWAYS beat the person who only does 4 hours one day and nothing for a week. For the first few weeks, aim for half an hour each school day, and then, maybe an hour each week day. Use this time to get your head around the test, read about the question styles, study some of the theory behind the test while also doing some real practice. Once you feel you have really got a handle on it, there’s not much point in doing heaps and heaps of theory, you need to start practising the questions.

Each section is different, with a few different styles of questions in each, I’ll refer you again to my UCAT Guide. These will all require different approach strategies and techniques, so again it’s important to start practising the questions early to develop these strategies. Possibly the biggest struggle of the UCAT is keeping that ultra high level of concentration for the entirety of the test. So, once you’re practising questions, I’d recommend aiming for one full practice test each weekend. Make the most of this by checking which questions you got wrong, attempting them again, and making notes to yourself for next time.

So, your UCAT preparation is in full swing, but it's already week 6 of term 1, assignments are piling in, you have a Chemistry Data Test next week, and your netball team made the semifinals. I’ve never met someone preparing for the UCAT who wasn’t at least a little stressed out and short of time, and it may seem like an easy fix to take a few days off UCAT each week just to relax, but this is a trap you need to avoid. If you’ve decided on 2 hours a day, then maybe you can scale it back during busy times, but if you’re doing 30 minutes, cutting that out completely will be pretty detrimental to your UCAT, so you need to manage your time really effectively from the beginning of the term so this isn’t something that you get tempted by. If you want some more time management advice, check this out.

Taking Care of Yourself

First and foremost, you need to take care of yourself. You won't be productive if your 30 minutes of UCAT is while you’re half asleep at 11pm on Thursday night, in that moment it’s better to just go to sleep, but you need to be honest with yourself.

Unfortunately, and as much as I personally tried, you just can’t do everything, you’ll need to make some sacrifices in year 12, but this absolutely cannot come out of your sleep, or your personal time. Scheduling in UCAT practice, work or ATAR study is no more important than scheduling in time to do the things you love, spend time with family and friends, and to relax.

If you take anything away from this blog, I hope it's this; you won't be productive if you’re in a bad mindset, but similarly if you skip too much UCAT practice, you’ll end up stressing yourself out even more if you aren’t seeing improvements from consistent practice.

It’s all about balance, you’ll need to figure out how to balance your time between all your needs, it's good to be busy, but don't spread yourself too thin.


Top Tips

  1. USE YOUR CLASS TIME FOR SCHOOLWORK

This is a huge one, if you can use that hour of class for your assignment, rather than sitting on your phone or talking to your mates, you’ll have an extra hour when you get home, which is huge. On the flip side, if you spend 5 out of the 6 school hours mucking around, you’ll have to catch them up somewhere, so it’s best to use this time when it’s given to you.

2. Pick and Stick

Make a preparation schedule and stick with it, consistency is KEY. You’ll thank yourself for this when you see your hard work pay off, and it’s a well proven fact that a small amount like 30 minutes a day is far better than a large amount once a week

3.Scheduling your UCAT

You’ll hear a lot of advice as to when in the cycle you should book your test; Personally I’d strongly recommend booking it in your school holidays, this gives you all the time in the world to be as calm and collected going into your exam as possible. However, this tends to be towards the beginning of the cycle, so you’ve got to decide whether you think you started early enough to book an early test, or if you need that extra month of preparation. But be warned, the first month of term 3 year 12 is a busy busy time.

Like I started with, year 12 is super busy, you’ll have all sorts of commitments, obligations and hobbies that you don’t want to miss out on, there’ll be things that come up last minute, social events, extra homework, camping trips, and god forbid floods or fire, that will try and throw you off your schedule, and that's why it’s super important to start with a really good plan and do your best to stick with it. When things come up that you can't control, well you can't control them and you can only do your very best to make it all work, but put yourself in the best position to deal with it and you’ll be thankful. Remember why you booked the UCAT test in the first place, when your friends are out and you’re home studying, use your passion and drive for your goal to keep yourself focused.


Written by KIS Academics Tutor Ned Woodgate. Ned is currently studying a Bachelor of Medicine/ Bachelor of surgery at JCU and is well on his way to becoming a doctor. You can view Ned's profile here and request him as a tutor. Find our UCAT tutors here.


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