6 Tips for Preventing Burnout during UCAT Preparation
7 months ago by Chris
Burnout is something almost everyone will experience in their medicine entry journey. Burnout can significantly impact one’s ability to perform, and how an individual copes with burnout can, in some cases, make or break their chance of admission into their dream course. In this blog, I will be focussing on the burnout associated with UCAT preparation, and strategies which I used to help prevent burnout.
1. Evenly distribute UCAT practice
UCAT preparation can be very full on, so being able to evenly distribute practice is vital to ensuring you don’t burn out early. Consistent practice wherever possible is more effective in UCAT preparation than inconsistent bursts of intense practice. Completing a high volume of UCAT questions in a short period of time will inevitably lead to burnout, and is an ineffective way to prepare, given UCAT is a skills-based exam and not a content-based exam. Keep in mind that UCAT preparation can be intense. For example, when doing my UCAT preparation, I often found that completing even one mock UCAT exam seemed to drain me more than hours of completing practice papers for high school exams.
2. Create a schedule
Creating a schedule is one of the best things you can do to keep yourself accountable for consistent practice. MedEntry’s online platform calendar tool is something which I used in my preparation, and I found that being able to assign certain questions or lectures to each day helped me stay on track with consistent UCAT practice. Assigning UCAT questions in advance to each day allowed me to personalise the amount of practice I had to complete, and the convenience of being able to navigate straight to the UCAT questions I assigned myself from the calendar made UCAT preparation just that much simpler.
However, creating a schedule does not only entail creating a schedule of UCAT study, but also one for all of your other activities. It is also important to schedule recreational activities and exercise. UCAT preparation, often occurring at the same time as high school exam preparation, is bound to be a stressful time but this does not mean that you cannot do the things you enjoy.
3. Make sure you leave time for yourself
Elaborating on the last point, leaving time for the things you enjoy is absolutely vital. Personally, I always made time to walk my dog, go to the gym and play volleyball, because I’m a fairly active person. You might be completely different and prefer to stay indoors and maybe play boardgames or watch a movie, and that’s okay! However, you should try to get in some exercise and some fresh air where you can, as this could make all the difference. When preparing for the UCAT, it can really feel like it’s all you can think about, but you must remember that there’s more to life!
4. Talk through your emotions with friends or family
Talking through your emotions with friends and family is a great way to get the burden of UCAT off your chest. Sometimes, your family and friends have no clue what you’re going through, so letting them know and ensuring you have a solid support network can make you feel as if you’re not alone. Setting aside some time to talk about your emotions, whether it be daily or every couple of days, is essential to preventing a buildup of stress. At the same time, being able to open up about how you feel, and discuss your emotions with those you trust is something that will prove to be invaluable throughout medical school.
5. Prioritise sleep
This is not so much a tip specifically for preventing burnout, but one that will improve every aspect of your life. Sleep is vital to all aspects of health and mood, and is proven to decrease blood pressure, improve mood, and aid cognitive function. Guidelines generally suggest a minimum of 7-8 hours of sleep per night, and ideally, this guideline should be made non-negotiable. Of course, everyone’s circumstances are different, but setting an alarm for when to sleep, or start getting ready for bed can help you to stay on track with your sleep goals. That feeling of complete exhaustion associated with burnout could potentially be solved with a solution as simple as sleeping 2 extra hours a day. Although this will take 2 hours out of your day, the quality of your UCAT preparation, your mood, and all other aspects of your life will benefit greatly.
6. Eat well
Once again, this tip helps to improve all aspects of your life. Eating well does not simply mean eating healthy foods, but also eating healthy amounts and at consistent times. Of course, you’re going to feel burnt out if you haven’t been eating enough, or if you have certain nutritional deficits.
As a side note, treat yourself every now and then! Having a meal that you really enjoy after completing some practice or after a UCAT exam can really help to revitalize you and uplift your mood.
These tips I have provided are of course easier said than done, and what worked for me may not work as well for others. However, these are a good set of guidelines which can be followed to ensure you are able to go the whole way in your UCAT preparation journey.
Written by Eassen, who achieved 99th percentile in UCAT and is currently studying medicine.