My UCAT exam was at 8am, and so I had to wake up at 5:30am to comfortably get ready and travel to the UCAT testing centre, accounting for the 30 minutes waiting time. However, I woke up feeling refreshed and ready to tackle the UCAT exam, and my mental energy was in no way compromised. How? It was simply due to the fact that I had already been waking at 5:30am sharp every morning for the 2-3 weeks leading up to the UCAT exam, and so I was already accustomed and primed to be in top mental and physical condition on the day. Having a solid sleep routine does wonders for maximising your cognitive functions, and ensuring that there are no surprises of sleeping too less/much on the actual day of your UCAT exam.
Note – I always sleep about 8-9 hours each night without fail, and this is the most important aspect of having a sleep routine. Everyone can be rudely awoken by an alarm, but the difficulty comes in locking in the time you actually go to sleep. One tip would be to have a ‘sleep alarm’ as well, which alerts you that you have to start getting ready for bed. For example, if you want to sleep at 11pm, then you would have an alarm set up to ring at 10:15pm, so that you can instantly get ready for bed, then actually be asleep by 11pm, instead of randomly noticing that the time is 11:10pm, then getting ready at 11:20pm, getting into bed at 11:35pm and falling asleep at 11:55pm. Sure it is ‘only’ 55 minutes difference in this given example, but 55 minutes less sleep per night is less than ideal. Sleep is heavily disregarded, make sure you capitalise on the natural rejuvenating goodness of a consistently healthy sleep schedule!
I then ate my usual breakfast of a bowl of oats, some honey, cinnamon, muesli/granola and a banana. Yes, it sounds fancy, but it is actually quite simple and tastes fairly decent. I had been eating the same breakfast at the same time for the past 2-3 weeks, again to get into a routine. I also drank roughly the same amount of water (1L) on the day, and my body was already accustomed to this volume so there would be no unwanted toilet emergencies. The UCAT is extremely time pressured, and so you absolutely do not want to be going to the bathroom (or even thinking about it!)
Making my way to the UCAT test centre was fine, because I had made the exact same trip a week prior. This was just to get used to the travel time, and scout around the actual UCAT testing centre so that I knew exactly how to get there and what it looked like. When I arrived, I was greeted by friendly staff, who ran me through the UCAT instructions. First I had to wash my hands with soap in the bathroom, then sanitise my hands, then my ID was confirmed. I read through a given list of UCAT test instructions (then signed off that I had read it), had my photo taken, and placed my belongings in a locker before being seated until my UCAT exam. One tip is to make sure your body language is strong and assertive even in the waiting time, as it sets up your internal confidence to peak appropriately and perform at your best. It is completely natural to feel slightly nervous, but hone that energy into eager anticipation that you get to show off your hard work and dedication. Self-encouragement and affirmation goes a long way to boosting your UCAT scores, and can make a drastic difference even on the day. Remind yourself how much effort and input has gone into your UCAT preparation, and say things to yourself such as ‘You got this’ or ‘You are ready to smash it’.
Then I was called up, and a few of us were waiting in line while we given our UCAT noteboards, marker pens and earplugs (optional). I personally declined the earplugs as honestly it was already quiet and I never practiced with earplugs so it may actually just throw me off. Then the general UCAT instructions were given, and we sat down at our allocated desks. The worker came around and loaded up my UCAT exam, and you can start whenever you want. I stretched out my body, sat up in my chair, gave myself a mental affirmation, and started the UCAT exam.
It is highly crucial to remember that the UCAT starts with a bang. UCAT Verbal Reasoning is generally the most difficult section, and so you must be ready to get straight into it. Regardless of how much UCAT preparation you have done, if you are not ready and try to ease into the UCAT exam, you have already lost valuable time. Each second is vital, so just keep this in mind. Also keep a mental note of your own personal UCAT timing to make sure you are on track. I personally halve the time, halve the number of UCAT questions, and add a few questions. For example, after 10 minutes of UCAT Verbal Reasoning I aim to be at question 25. I am honestly never actually at 25, but a few UCAT questions behind, so this lets me know I am on track but incentivises me to push harder and go faster.
The UCAT exam flies by, and you feel extremely tired and depleted by the end. It is all over in a flash! I gathered my belongings out of the locker, and left the UCAT testing centre. I received an email about 20 minutes after, which gave me a link to login to my Pearson Vue to access my UCAT results. The UCAT results pop up on the screen, and that is that.
Good luck to everyone who is yet to sit their UCAT exam, I know you will smash it!