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Repost: How I got 3000 in my UCAT: tips for medical and dental students.

UCAT was a pretty hard slog. I was kind of working towards it a year before- emphasis on kind of- and really started to knuckle down 2 months before my date. To be honest, I'm pretty disappointed in my score. I know I could've gotten a lot higher. So far I don't think it's held me back- anything above 2800 lets you be competitive- but I am a bit bummed. Read on for my advice and some detailed tips to acing your UCAT. I did a post a couple of months ago when I was actually in the process of revising for the UCAT about resources I'm using so that might be slightly more useful than me writing a couple months after. Click here to read it. This post gets more into the nitty gritty of each section and tips for each. I'm assuming you roughly know what the sections in the UCAT are about- if not, it this post may not be very helpful. I will write about what the UCAT is about in a later post.


So this is the title of the page I used to write all my notes on the UCAT:

and this is the most common piece of advice you will be given for the UCAT and is very very important. The more practice you do, the more you will understand how much time you should spend on each question. There are guides on how long you should roughly spend on each question, but my approach was just to do each question as quickly as possible and skipping the ones that might have taken a bit longer. This way, if the questions are nice I will normally get through all of them. If not, I should have a couple of minutes to spare and go back to the harder ones. It really depends on you, you will figure out timings. I had different strategies for different sections- read on for more detail.

Rough timings are :

VR- 21mins, 30s per Q

DM- 31mins, 64s per Q

QR- 24mins, 40s per Q

AR- 13mins, 15s per Q

SJ- I didn't write the timing down for this because you have more than enough time to do the questions and check several times.

A general tip: learn keyboard shortcuts- these will safe you loads of time.

  • ALT+V→ Takes you back to flagged questions

  • Alt+P/N→ Previous/ Next question

  • Alt+ F→ Flag

  • Alt+ C → calculator

Verbal Reasoning

My tips for VR may not actually be that useful since this is the section I screwed up on (610.) Here are them anyway.

Skip ruthlessly: the harder questions, longer passages etc.

Watch out if the question is asking for whether something is true or false; or if something can vs cannot x.

Don't be cynical- if you see something that looks like the right answer use it. Don't second guess yourself, there's no time.

First read the passage very roughly in order to get to know roughly what each paragraph/section is about then read the questions and go back to the passage.

Look for keywords by skimming over the passage but ensure you actually internalise the bits you skim over. I found I was too focused on looking for keywords so if a later question came up about the bit I skimmed over I'd have to reread that section. You want to reduce rereading as much as possible.

In true/false/can't tell questions, if you can't find the answer, answer with can't tell.

Answer false only if there is a contradiction, otherwise answer can't tell.

Perhaps skip questions requiring inference, these take a while.

Watch out for modal verbs- may, might, could

  • These are not the same as 'will'

  • Questions may ask whether x will happen for sure

Look out for qualifiers- some, many, sometimes, always never

  • Not the same as most/all

For questions about the entire text, it may be easier to eliminate options rather than look for answers.

Distinguish between false and cannot tell

  • Answer false if definitely false

Tips I didn't find very helpful:

  1. Read the passage completely before doing questions

  2. Read the question then read the passage

  3. Speed reading tips. Like exercises to make you read faster. Tried them. Couldn't be bothered.

Decision Making

Onto sections I did well in. Being a very mathsy person, naturally I enjoyed DM and QR more than VR. One game changing hint is to learn to touch type with the number pad. This is very easy to do and is very useful. A very common tip for DM and QR is to practice mental maths and learn mental maths tips. I feel like my mental maths is pretty average and so I tried this for a bit. However, I found just using the on screen calculator with the number pad much more effective. Now I haven't seen this tip anywhere else so either I've come up with an amazing trick or it's not very good. The idea is on every question press ALT C to get the calculator up and use the number to enter numbers but also symbols (like +.- , x). You always hear don't use the on screen calculator and I would echo this but with the caveat never use it with a mouse. It is just painfully slow if you don't use the number pad.

  • Drawing conlcusions

  • Learn to use the number pad quickly. I used the website

  • Spend longer on the questions with lots of statements and you have to say whether the statement follows or not.

  • It's a very good idea to draw out the information.

  • I mostly used venn diagrams but there are other useful tips if you search them up

  • Some-=more than 1 but not all

  • Not all= some

  • Some were not= Some were

  • For the questions where you add shapes together, assign a letter to each shape and do algebra.

  • When looking at complicated venn diagram questions, just see if each circle adds up to the right number. (You'll understand this one after doing some questions)

  • Evaluating arguments questions:

  • More in number does not equal more being done

  • Ie make more money available to government so they can sort climate change

  • Money might not be used to sort out climate change

  • Ergo bad argument

  • 'No' answers usually have to offer an alternative solution

  • Always be specific and relate directly back to the stem

  • Conclusions need to contain key words from the argument

  • Practice doing probability questions.

  • I normally have enough time on this to just work through the questions in order, skipping the odd hard one and returning to it at the end.

Quantitative Reasoning

Again, I didn't bother with learning mental maths tips and I did pretty well by learning to touch type with the number pad. I didn't find it particularly useful/time saving to use mental maths for problems like 57x96.

  • Learn to touch type with the onscreen calculator

  • Skip ruthlessly- if it looks like a longer question, skip it. You'll have an idea of what 'a longer' questions looks like after some practice.

  • Read the question properly- they like to catch you out on this section.

  • Also look carefully at units

  • For example they may ask for litres but you are given data as gallons

  • Also look carefully at answers

  • There may be one answer of 2m^2 but another as 2m^3

  • Learn suvat formulae

  • Remember to divide circle formulae by 2 for semi circles

  • +/- function is quite useful on the calculator

  • THis converts positive numbers to negative and vice versa

  • For example if you need to do x-y but you have y in the calculator. Turn that into -y and add x.

  • Look out for what they want you to round to

  • The memory function is quite useful- search this up

  • %change= (final number-initial number)x100/initial number

  • Learn how taxation and tax brackets work!

  • 1:25000 means 1cm=25000cm

Tips I've heard of but never used: - Learn formulae for simple and compound interest - Learn formulae for surface area and volume of common 3D shapes - Mental maths

Abstract Reasoning

I initially found this very hard but the most important thing you can do here is to practice. This is the common tip I think and at first I was sceptical, when I was still not getting it. But trust me, practice actually helps here. Make sure you actually see where you went wrong and learn from the mistake. I found it somewhat useful to keep a log of all the mistakes I made. You should also develop certain algorithms, ie if the pattern is like x then the rule is y. Examples below:

  • If shapes are arranged randomly

  • Look at no. of sides

  • Multiples of something

  • Colours

  • Arrow questions

  • Direction

  • Number

  • Number in a certain direction

  • Dictates rotation

  • What is it pointing at?

  • Conditional questions

  • A single shape

  • Rotational symmetry

  • Reflection symmetry

  • Corners touching edge of box

I have more algorithms or literally every type of question- message me if you'd like them! General tips

  • Look at the 2 simplest boxes and see how they are similar/different

  • Some shapes are distractors- ignore them

  • Look for common shapes/ common positions

  • Be specific when counting sides on shapes

  • Not 'white has more sides than black'

  • But white has 4 more sides than black

  • Remember:

  • Stars have 10 sides

  • Arrows have 7 corner

  • Fat crosses have 12

  • Arrow heads have 6

  • Lightning has 11

  • This will help you count faster

  • Create a checklist of rules you usually miss, this is mine:

  • Check:

  • Symmetry and rotation

  • Concavity

  • Angle

  • Parallel, tangential

  • Prime numbers

  • Curves

  • Constant positions

  • Enclosed spaces

  • For sequence questions look out for alternating sequences

  • Look at every other box

  • Also be aware of n+1 patterns and periodic sequences

Situational Judgement

I personally thought this was fine. Just make sure to practice and know where you went wrong. Like the AR algorithms, develop rules for different situations. For example whether someone enjoyed watching a procedure is of minor importance or if anything is said unsympathetically it is inappropriate- even they deserve it. Again contact me if you would like them.

General tips:

  • First figure out if the situation is net positive or net negative and then look for nuance

  • Note this is about what you should do rather than what you would do

I am very willing to give advice if anyone would like any- contact me!


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