Distributed Practice and the UCAT: What you need to know Part 2
9 months ago by Rob
In part 1 of this blog, we looked at why it is important to study with distributed practice for the UCAT. In part 2, we will look at how to implement distributed practice into your UCAT plan.
How to implement distributed practice for UCAT
Here are some tips and strategies on how to best use distributed practice in your UCAT preparation (you can also use them in your secondary school and university study; or when acquiring any skill for that matter):
1. Plan out a UCAT study schedule/timetable
This is an important step. You need to make time for your UCAT preparation, even if it’s a small amount. Make a timetable and slot in UCAT preparation on a regular basis depending on how much time you have. Then follow this timetable and complete the UCAT tasks you have set yourself. You can plan your UCAT preparation easily using MedEntry’s interactive UCAT calendar.
2. Actively acknowledge the skills you have learnt during a UCAT study session
After a UCAT study session, take a couple of minutes to reflect on what you have learnt. If you are simply answering UCAT questions with no consideration to the broader scheme of the UCAT you will not be learning much or making the most of your UCAT preparation. So, take a moment to reflect on what was difficult, where you can improve and things you should remember for the next time you sit down to do UCAT preparation.
3. Revisit UCAT strategies
Every now and then you should go back and review UCAT strategies and concepts you found difficult, consider why you found them difficult and if you have improved. The best way to improve in UCAT is not by aimlessly repeating UCAT questions, but by retrieving those reflections you have made in the previous step, and reviewing what has happened since. You could keep a notebook to record your reflections.
4. Review formative assessments
Three UCAT exams completed over a 3 week period will be more likely to result in long-term improvement than three UCAT exams completed in consecutive days. Naturally, these assessments will be summative in results but reflect on them in a formative sense. See if your UCAT time management has improved, or if you are more comfortable with the UCAT strategies you’ve been working on. After these considerations move on to consider your UCAT percentiles and scores. These assessments should be signposts in your distributed practice journey, reminding you where you need to direct your future UCAT studies.
Enormous amounts of research has been conducted demonstrating the relationship between memory retention/skill development and quality of sleep. So sacrifice the 2am study session or the gaming all-nighter for some quality sleep and you’ll reap the rewards in the long run.
6. Engage in spaced learning
The final and crucial tip is to space out your UCAT learning. Don’t try and master all UCAT strategies in one 30 minute period. Give yourself time to absorb information. Remember, UCAT is a marathon, not a sprint. Start with a manageable load of information (UCAT strategies, tips and reflections) and move on to the next load once you get comfortable.
Why does the UCAT Consortium advise only 6 weeks’ preparation for UCAT?
There are many reasons why the UCAT official website and some others say that 6 weeks’ UCAT preparation is sufficient. They include:
- The UCAT consortium don’t want you to prepare and develop the skills required to succeed in UCAT: they just want you become familiar with the test environment so no one gets a competitive advantage.
- Most UK students will be on their summer holidays in the weeks leading up to the UCAT so they have additional time to prepare. For UK students, 6 weeks preparation may be sufficient. This is not the case in other countries such as Australia and New Zealand, where the students will have demands of schoolwork and university. The UCAT consortium hasn’t quite understood this.
- Even for UK students, developing UCAT specific skills cannot be achieved in a few weeks: it takes longer. In a few weeks you can only ever aim to develop familiarity with the UCAT. Aptitude test designers pretend to believe in a ‘fixed mindset’ rather than a ‘growth mindset’ because it suits them.
- The UCAT consortium feels it will be a threat to the integrity of the UCAT test if they encourage long term preparation and promote coaching (for example, possible leakage of valuable questions from their limited question bank). This is the main reason why there is a general attitude of ‘it’s OK to get coached for school/university exams but not for aptitude tests’.
Essentially, preparing for UCAT effectively using distributed practice makes it harder for the UCAT consortium to do their job of distinguishing between applicants, because it makes it easier for you to succeed in UCAT!
How will MedEntry help you implement distributed practice?
MedEntry has been preparing students for aptitude tests related to medical entry for over two decades. Over that time, we have developed an understanding of how to best prepare for tests such as UCAT. Because we know that distributed practice is the best way to prepare, we provide access to all resources immediately upon purchase, and access is provided right up to UCAT. This means you can prepare for UCAT over an extended period of time, gradually developing and building up your UCAT skills. This will give you the best chance of UCAT success.
On the MedEntry Online Learning Platform you will find numerous tools to enable you to begin your ‘distributed UCAT practice’.
MedEntry offers headstart packages for those students who would like to start preparing in their earlier years of secondary school. Remember, the earlier you begin your UCAT preparation, the better!