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5 Things to know before beginning your UCAT preparation

5_tips_for_starting

So you want to get into medicine and you have realised that the UCAT is pretty important. And by pretty important I mean absolutely crucial. You need to do extremely well in UCAT to get into Medicine. The key to that success is to know what you are up against and to prepare well and in a more intelligent way than everyone else. So keep reading, and consider implementing these tips into your UCAT preparation. I did, and they helped me score in the 98th percentile.

1. START NOW! Time is your key to success

It doesn’t matter if you’re starting a year or a month before the actual UCAT, you will always be pressured for time. That’s because there is an enormous amount of work required to prepare for UCAT and you have to balance that with high school / university, other medical preparation (interviews and applications) and perhaps, somewhere in that mix, a life!

The key to having more time is to start NOW. Don’t wait for next week, or when you’re a little less busy or when you don’t have an important assignment. Start now and do a little bit of UCAT preparation a few times each week. This is unquestionably better than cramming for innumerable reasons, which include a greater exposure and a greater ability to adapt to the UCAT exam style. Also, you will be less stressed and you will inevitably be more confident. So to avoid the stress of cramming and comfortably complete a sufficient number of UCAT questions, start your UCAT preparation journey now.

2. DO THE UCAT PRACTICE EXAMS!

You can answer all of the UCAT practice questions that you like, but until you experience the frustration of a full 2 hour UCAT exam you will not be ready for the real thing. The first practice UCAT exam you do is always a surprise. I was given an estimated 32nd percentile. It was a serious blow. I’d done about 10 hours of answering UCAT questions and thought I was in a pretty good position…at least a better position than 32nd percentile right?

However, getting this shocking UCAT score was the best thing that could have happened. It encouraged me to change the way I was studying. I spent more time formulating planned approaches for each UCAT question type, and whenever I finished a set of UCAT questions I would review all those that I had answered incorrectly; learning why I had answered wrongly and endeavouring to change.

So…once you’ve done your first UCAT practice exam, start spacing out the rest. You get three on the official UCAT website, however you get up to 16 with MedEntry, so I did a full 2 hour UCAT exam every second Sunday. The consistency of doing a regular UCAT exam, reminding me of the time pressure of the real thing, and how much I needed to improve, did wonders for me and it will for you too!

3. Work with others

No matter when you’re starting your UCAT preparation, the journey can be tough. There are thousands of UCAT questions to be answered, countless hours hunched over a computer studying, and the endless frustration of getting questions wrong.

The key to mitigating these problems is to work with others. Find out who else will be sitting the UCAT, be it people from school, sporting club members or family friends. If you can get a regular UCAT study group it will make the process so much easier.

I had a study group with 5 other students and it made my UCAT preparation much more enjoyable. We caught up once a week for 30 minutes to an hour and chatted about UCAT. We didn’t answer any new UCAT questions, we just sat in a circle and talked. We discussed specific UCAT questions that we didn’t understand, types of questions that we hadn’t pinned down yet but more importantly we encouraged each other to keep studying and struggle on. Thanks to that study group I had variety in my UCAT preparation, a group to ask questions of, and to help and vent over the UCAT.

4. Be smarter about your approach to different UCAT question types

There are a range of question types across all 5 sections of the UCAT and they each show patterns. If you can learn these patterns and the ‘art’ of each UCAT question type, you will be in an excellent position for the exam. With this knowledge, you can create specific strategies for the different UCAT question types and employ them when needed, even if it’s only as a backup. The worst thing that can happen from this approach to studying is that you don’t use the strategies for some UCAT questions, but when you come across one that really stumps you, you have something to fall back onto. Best case scenario, you’re sitting in the UCAT exam and each question you come across is familiar and you know exactly how you want to approach it. Luckily the resources on the MedEntry LMS include detailed notes on each type of UCAT questions, and even specific strategies formulated for you. If you do decide to go with MedEntry, then make sure to utilise these fantastic notes, to help you understand the UCAT questions that you are answering.

5. Review your incorrect responses

When it comes to UCAT preparation, you should treat every answer you get wrong as your best friend. Everyone tells you that you only learn from your mistakes and as annoying as this advice may be, it is still correct. Every time you complete a set of questions or a UCAT  exam, give an allotted time to review them and in particular, all the ones you got wrong. There is always a reason why you got something wrong. It may be a simple error, but more likely it is because there is a flaw in the way you are approaching the question.

I would recommend making some sort of note/log of the type of UCAT questions you are getting wrong. You may find, over the course of a few weeks, that you are consistently making mistakes in a few select areas. Knowing what your weakest areas are, is a crucial step in refining your UCAT preparation.

These are five of the most important things I implemented in my UCAT preparation and hopefully they will help you as they did me. But remember; be an active learner. Don’t be afraid of changing your study up, differing from my method or simply trying something new. They key is to find a routine that works for you and helps you get the most out of your time.

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Jeremy achieved 98th percentile in UCAT and is now studying medicine.

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