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UCAT test tactics and preparation Part 10: coping with UCAT stress and anxiety on UCAT test day

Pressure, pressure: coping with nerves and stress on the actual UCAT test day.

Having done UCAT practice exam, after practice exam, after practice exam, most UCAT candidates will be raring to go come July. Whilst UCAT preparation is key to your UCAT success, it is not the only factor that will affect your UCAT performance on the actual UCAT test day. Being able to cope with the nerves and anxiety that inevitably appear on the day of the UCAT exam will be the key strength that will help you out-perform your fellow UCAT candidates. Perhaps the only thing separating two equally intelligent and prepared UCAT candidates may be their ability to handle stress on the UCAT test day. Whilst it is impossible to tell how you, as an individual, will fair in July, it is possible to learn how to cope with the nerves that you may experience just prior to, and during, the UCAT exam.

Firstly, nerves aren’t necessarily a bad thing! In fact, the adrenaline that is released as a result of ‘nervousness’ can increase your performance on test day. An increase in heart rate and consequently, oxygen available to all your brain, can enhance a UCAT candidate’s performance due to the arousal of the central nervous system. It can also help you overcome a fear of failure by kicking in that ‘fight or flight’ reaction allowing you to focus solely on passing and succeeding in the UCAT rather than what will happen afterwards.

Further, you don’t need to be able to get rid of your nerves completely to be able to perform at your best on the UCAT. Rather than trying to pretend they don’t exist, acknowledge their existence and use them to your advantage. The pace that at which you will answer those UCAT questions should  significantly increase due to this increase in adrenaline.

Another key aspect of handling UCAT pressure is learning to overcome negative thoughts that can appear on UCAT test day. Below we’ve outlined some simple self-talk strategies to help you stay positive and calm so you can sit the UCAT in the best state of mind possible.


Common negative thoughts before the UCAT exam and how to overcome them:

 when half of you says…  say…
 1. You can’t do it. Yes I can! The UCAT is not an impossible exam. The chances of failing the UCAT are extremely slim because I have sufficiently prepared for the UCAT.
 2. You haven’t done enough UCAT study. Yes I have! I did what I could in the spare time available to me. Most students sitting the UCAT also have to cope with the stress and workload of their other final year high-school subjects, just the same as me.
 3. You’re not good enough. Yes I am! No-one is born as a doctor. All medical professionals have to start somewhere and this is just the first step for me.
 4. You always crack under pressure. This is simply untrue. I have sat many exams in the past. This isn’t my first one, and I know that I have performed when I needed to. The pressure that I’m feeling is the same as everyone else therefore, I am at no disadvantage to others sitting the UCAT exam.


Most of all, it is important to remember that you need to be your own biggest supporter. You have to sit the UCAT test solo so make sure the crowd in your head is cheering for you not yelling out abuse!

For a more detailed discussion of how you should approach different question types on the UCAT exam including sample UCAT questions and answers, please see our blog series UCAT test tactics and preparation by MedEntry UCAT preparation. 

What should I do the day before the UCAT exam?
Coping with UCAT stress and anxiety

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