4 Steps to Transform your Weakest UCAT Subtest into your Strongest
6 months ago by Rob
Although I had been preparing for UCAT for over 6 months, with less than 2 weeks to go until the UCAT, I still wasn't feeling confident about UCAT Abstract Reasoning. I was consistently scoring in the high 80th or 90th percentiles for other UCAT subtests on the MedEntry online platform, but was still ranging from 40-70th percentile in UCAT Abstract Reasoning. Since I was happy with my performance in the other UCAT sections, I decided to do some intensive UCAT Abstract Reasoning study to improve my skills as much as possible before my UCAT exam.
This involved doing a couple of hours of Abstract Reasoning practice every day. Although this may not seem like a lot, I had previously taken a slow and steady approach to UCAT, doing a couple of hours of UCAT preparation a week for several months, so this was a change of pace. Alongside this, I also completed the last couple of full length UCAT exams I had left. I stopped studying approximately 48 hours before my UCAT exam to make sure I was fresh for UCAT test day.
The following 4 steps helped me to drastically increase my Abstract Reasoning score.
Reflect on UCAT prep
In the early months of my UCAT preparation, I allocated my preparation time evenly to each UCAT subtest. In retrospect, it would've made much more sense to allocate more time to the section I struggled the most with while I still had plenty of time to prepare. The reason I didn't do so was because I didn't actually think that deeply about how I was allocating my time. Instead, I was patting myself on the back as long as I did some UCAT prep. Being more reflective about my UCAT preparation would've led me to change my time allocation strategy earlier. Therefore I think it is important to reflect periodically on the efficiency of your own UCAT prep, not just the quantity being completed.
Adopt a growth mindset and challenge self-limiting beliefs
Another reason I initially didn't allocate more time to UCAT Abstract Reasoning was psychological - I didn't want to face doing more Abstract Reasoning questions. Because I struggled with it, I didn't enjoy it. I believed I was good at reading and maths but not so good at visual tasks, and this shaped my initial attitude to Abstract Reasoning. This was a self-fulfilling prophecy as without doing more UCAT Abstract Reasoning, I couldn't get to the point where I was good at it and found it enjoyable. Closer to the UCAT testing date I shifted to a growth mindset which helped me tackle this. I realised that I wasn't good at UCAT Abstract Reasoning yet, but there was no reason I couldn't improve with practice. Therefore, it can be useful to reflect on and challenge your own self-limiting beliefs.
Engage in intensive practice
Once I decided to get serious about my UCAT Abstract Reasoning prep, a couple of different strategies helped me improve. The first was increasing the amount of practice I was doing, while also trying to be more systematic about my approach to the UCAT questions. Over time, I developed the ability to be able to quickly deduce which type of Abstract Reasoning pattern was likely from a given set. Exposure to many different UCAT Abstract Reasoning patterns was crucial to this. I had already completed and taken notes from the Abstract Reasoning video guides on MedEntry, so I finished any remaining Abstract Reasoning questions and subtest mocks.
Learn from others
The other strategy that really helped was looking at the way other people approached UCAT Abstract Reasoning questions. Reading through the worked solutions on MedEntry was helpful for this, as well as watching videos in the Abstract Reasoning module where solutions were explained. This gradually made my approach to UCAT Abstract Reasoning more efficient, as I developed thought processes that helped me answer questions more quickly and I became more effective at identifying patterns.
This preparation regime allowed me to go into the UCAT feeling confident about my Abstract Reasoning skills. This meant that I was in the right headspace sitting the exam. In the live UCAT, I wrote down the SCANS acronym (shape, colour, arrangement, number, size) on my noteboard before starting UCAT Abstract Reasoning. Although I didn't personally use SCANS when approaching each question, writing it down reassured me that if I went blank looking at a UCAT question, I could look down at the UCAT noteboard and remember some possible patterns.
After all my practice, I walked away from the UCAT with a score of 870 in UCAT Abstract Reasoning. This hugely contributed to my 99th percentile overall score. This is why I believe focussing on my weakest section was so important.
If I were to begin my Abstract Reasoning preparation again, I would have recorded a list of patterns I had come across that I could refer back to, especially those I did not correctly identify. I think revisiting this list would've made my UCAT Abstract Reasoning prep more efficient, possibly saving me from having to do intensive prep in the weeks before my UCAT exam. It also would've been useful to collaborate with others during my UCAT prep to learn from their thought processes and strategies. Although my experience was specific to UCAT Abstract Reasoning, the four steps I have outlined can be applied to any subtest. Now is the time to start working on your weakest UCAT subtest to reap the rewards!
Written by Elizabeth, a past MedEntry student who scored 99th percentile in UCAT and is currently studying medicine.