Year 12 is a stressful time. Add in UCAT and the pressures of getting into medicine, and stress levels can rapidly sky rocket. As a parent it is easy to succumb to feelings of powerless as you watch your son or daughter struggle to prepare for such an important and difficult exam. However, there are many things you can do to boost their performance and have a positive impact on their wellbeing.
1. Provide a sound working environment
UCAT is a two-hour test requiring extreme concentration. The best way to prepare is to complete full length trial exams under test conditions. When your son or daughter attempts a trial exam, assist them by minimising or eliminating distractions: keep younger siblings away, minimise household noise, provide a separate room for them and avoid interrupting. This will simulate the UCAT test experience, and help your son or daughter develop their concentration and focus, which is vital for test day.
2. Lighten the load
If your son or daughter wants to pursue a career in medicine, UCAT will be the single most important and most difficult exam they will ever face. Therefore, in the weeks to months leading up to UCAT, do whatever you can to lighten their load and allow them to focus on their UCAT preparation. Reallocate household chores to younger siblings, encourage them to take a break from non-essential commitments, and avoid scheduling family events. Do whatever you can to provide them with the time they need to get prepared for UCAT.
3. Help manage stress
Studies have shown that a small amount of stress is important and necessary to optimise performance. However, significant stress can hinder performance and lead to burnout. There are many strategies available to manage stress. As a parent, you can help by ensuring your son or daughter eats well, sleeps well and exercises regularly. Encourage relaxation techniques such as deep breathing, mindfulness and progressive muscle relaxation. Let your son or daughter know that they can talk to you if they are feeling stressed or overwhelmed. All these strategies can have a significant positive impact on their psychological wellbeing and performance on the day of UCAT.
4. Provide encouragement and support
Many studies have demonstrated the power of a positive attitude in facing difficult exams such as UCAT. In the lead up to UCAT and especially on test day, give your son or daughter an encouraging pep talk. Ask them to think about all the reasons that they should feel confident: they have undergone quality preparation, they have completed full length exams of similar or harder difficulty than UCAT, they are well ahead of others etc. Remind them that ultimately, they can only do their best, and that is all anyone can ask of them. Although the UCAT is an incredibly important test, it should also be kept in perspective. If your son or daughter does not do well in UCAT, there are other options for getting into medicine – such as taking a year off and re-attempting UCAT or opting for the graduate medical entry route. Your encouragement and support will help calm their nerves and optimise their performance.
5. Deal with the practicalities
You can help your son or daughter by taking responsibility for the practicalities associated with UCAT. Offer to read through the UCAT consortium website (https://www.ucat.edu.au/) carefully, review the correspondence from the UCAT consortium and Pearson VUE and ensure that your son or daughter has everything they need for test day (importantly, acceptable identification, admission ticket). Plan how you will get to the UCAT test venue and drive them there if possible. Make them their favourite breakfast or lunch on the day of UCAT (one with lots of complex carbohydrates and/or lean protein to keep up their energy levels). This will help reduce stress and allow your son or daughter to focus solely on the task at hand – succeeding in UCAT.
If you need further advice about how to assist your son or daughter during this time, please contact MedEntry.