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A very common question asked by aspiring medical students is “How do you balance your school work and UCAT practice?” Given that the UCAT can be equally or even more important as the ATAR in the medical school selection process, it is crucial that students devote sufficient time in preparing for the UCAT, without neglecting their year 12 studies.
The key to finding this balance is planning your time. Many students attempt to fit in UCAT study in their ‘spare time’, which is hard to find in year 12. It is more productive to set aside blocks of time which are specifically devoted to UCAT. This blog will detail one method of planning time for UCAT preparation, using MedEntry’s online resources on the LMS.
Before you begin your UCAT preparation, decide how many practice exams you would like to undertake. Spread these out in the time between when you start your UCAT preparation, and roughly 1-2 weeks before the day of the actual exam. One way of doing so would be to increase the frequency of the exams you complete as you approach the actual UCAT. Remember also that you will have more time during the holidays, without the stress of internal assessments at school.
Monthly or yearly planners can be helpful to visualise how you plan large blocks of time. It will take three hours to complete each exam (not including reading time), as well as at least one and a half hours to review the exam – do not underestimate this part of the process, as it is very important to helping you improve. Therefore, it may be more convenient to plan time for full UCAT practice exams on weekends.
Keep in mind that study plans should be flexible. Other commitments will arise, and it is important to accommodate them. If you miss a practice exam, ensure that you catch up before the next – falling behind can be dangerous.
Drills and the Question banks can be accessed when you have smaller intervals of spare time. They are especially useful to target problem areas. For example, when you are doing practice exams, you may notice specific question types which you find particularly difficult, and you can use the drills and question banks to work on these. Furthermore, in the days leading up to the exam, drills can be less stressful than full length practice exams.
Ultimately, the required amount of time for UCAT practice will vary for each student. In addition, it is rare that a student will feel 100% prepared and will be able to answer every single question on the exam, no matter how prepared they are. Even people who achieve 99th percentile usually do not answer every question correctly. However, time management will increase the likelihood of committing to UCAT practice, enabling you to approach the exam well equipped and with confidence.