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How to deal with those UCAT Nerves (Part 1 – In the lead up)

Most people find sitting the UCAT a nerve racking, stressful experience, but that does not mean you should allow those nerves to get the best of you.  There are some simple ways to help you get through this period and come out feeling great about your chances.  Take some of the pressure off of yourself.  If you’re anything like me, you expect a lot from yourself and that can result in a large amount of unnecessary pressure. That pressure can prove to be your undoing, but there are simple ways in which to take some of that pressure off. Remember that...
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Is this my only shot at getting into Medicine?

Many students sit the UCAT for the first time thinking that they must to do well in UCAT because it is the only way for them to be accepted into their dream uni degree, medicine. This is untrue! This thinking places an enormous amount of unnecessary pressure on students. The reality is there are numerous ways to be accepted into medicine, although they are not necessarily the ideal pathways. Sitting UCAT, getting a good ATAR and smashing an interview may be the easiest and quickest way to get into medicine, but it is not the only one. Other options to be...
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Improving your reading for UCAT

With the exception of the Abstract Reasoning component, UCAT is primarily comprised of written – rather than pictorial – questions. Thus, it stands to reason that your UCAT preparation should include improving your reading skills. With that in mind, here are some of the many strategies you can use to develop your reading efficiency for UCAT.  Firstly, you must ensure that you read every single component of the stimulus, particularly for VR and SJT. A past UCAT stimulus, for example, described a middle-aged man. This information was included in the introductory stem of the stimulus, but nowhere else. Many test-takers did...
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Interview Tips and Advice (Part 1)

In preparing for something as mammoth as a medical school interview, there are a lot of things to consider. When preparing you have to understand what type of language the interviewers might use, what to include in your answers and how you can respond both verbally and through your body language.   General advice for medical interviews • Walk into the room with a big smile. • Be confident, honest, friendly, understanding, respectful and empathic. • It doesn’t matter which side of the argument you decide to adopt, take your stance and defend your arguments until the end. Give reasons to...
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One on one with a medical school interviewer

I was fortunate enough to have jumped through the hurdles that lie on the way to medical school, and there are quite a few benefits on the other side. One of these is being able to talk to doctors, health professionals or community members that have had previous experience as interviewers. The following is an excerpt from a conversation I had with a past interviewer to understand what they are looking for in medical interviews.    1. As a community member are you concerned about the medical/dental focus of some of the scenarios? “The scenarios in the MMI (multiple mini interview)...
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What Interviewers look for in prospective medical students (Part 1)

Many of the skills that the UCAT aims to assess in prospective medical students are the same qualities that are required to be a good doctor. Whilst the UCAT can only assess what you put on a paper in multiple choice format; the medical interview that will follow, can look for these qualities in person.  Your choice of words, body language, attitude and way of thinking will all be up for examination in the medical interview. Without some internal self-reflection, you will not be able to paint a detailed enough picture of yourself. A lot of these qualities we take for...
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How to Stay Organised at School/University (and Life in General)

Year 12 is a juggling act between all-important tests and exams with your other commitments, be it sport, music or a part-time job. On top of this, you have to squeeze in quality time for your family, friends and personal relationships. Well, once you leave Year 12, you may find the added pressures of medical school can be overwhelming at times! Here are my trialled-and-tested tips for reining in the chaos that University can be at times. Honestly, if someone had given me these three pointers in my first few weeks at UNSW, it would have made the transition immeasurably easier!...
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Set your mind on your mindset

Preparation is key for any exam, and UCAT preparation is no different. But we’ve all had that horrible experience when the nerves hit, and all that preparation is thrown out the window because your brain is more interested in stressing itself out than answering the exam questions. But you can, of course, prepare for that too. 1. Practice Since I’m supposed to be telling you what to do when it feels like preparation isn’t working, you might not expect a synonym for “preparation” to be the top tip. But it is, so hear me out. Nothing is as reassuring as the safety...
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Behind the Scrubs, Part 2: Student’s views of Undergraduate Medical Courses in NSW – Joint Medical Program, University of Newcastle

The University of Newcastle (UoN) has taken a unique teamwork approach within their Bachelor of Medicine course, collaborating with the University of New England to create the Joint Medical Program. Although this joint effort represents a new modelling of the course, UoN has offered an undergraduate Medicine course for almost forty years, and has gained an unofficial reputation for creating doctors with superior clinical skills. Their use of ‘Problem-Based Learning’ to train students to think critically and integrate concepts has been extensively harnessed by other medical schools. In this article, 4th year medical student Emma gives us further insight into the...
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Maximise each UCAT practice question (and your study time!)

So you’ve decided to spend x hours per week preparing for the UCAT. Well done on making a commitment! But it doesn’t end there. The next step is to squeeze as much as you can get out of those UCAT preparation hours. One way of doing this and making the questions work for you is to carefully review solutions. When going through UCAT practice questions, it’s very tempting to avoid reading the solutions for one reason or another. As someone who achieved 99th percentile in the UCAT, I’ll try to make a case for reading the solutions all the time.  ...
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MEDICAL INTERVIEW TIPS: WHAT ARE THEY LOOKING FOR?

Delivering coherent answers in a medical interview is no easy feat, but unfortunately, that is only half the battle. The interviewer is trying to see if you have the qualities that would make a good medical student and more importantly, a good doctor. These qualities can include being resilient, motivated and self-aware. And thus, the questions and/or activities they ask of you are all trying to assess if you possess these qualities. The first step in you presenting desirable qualities to your interviewer is you being aware that they are looking for them instead of blindly answering each question. A good...
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PROBLEM SOLVING APPROACHES in UCAT

There are many different approaches to problem-solving that have been established in psychology. Firstly, there’s the Thorndike paradigm, which involves blind trial and error1. More purposeful approaches are the Gestalt approach, and the cognitive approach. The Gestalt approach involves solving problems as a whole2. You see the problem, you see what you have, and then you try to see how everything fits together. If the question is routine, it’s very easy to figure it out. If it isn’t, well, sometimes you gain insight, but sometimes you come up with an idea based on what you’ve encountered before and you get so...
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Behind the Scrubs, Part 1: Student’s views of Undergraduate Medical Courses in NSW – Western Sydney University

The Bachelor of Medicine/Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) course at the University of Western Sydney (UWS) is the newest addition to NSW's undergraduate medical courses, opening its doors for the first time in 2007. UWS has a particular commitment towards providing health care and education for the Western Sydney region, including a focus on the area of Indigenous health. To find out more about the UWS medical course, I caught up with Jess, a third year medical student at Western Sydney.   Evie: So Jess, you're now more than half-way towards graduating from UWS! Could you share with us what the Medicine...
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WHAT MAKES A WINNING UCAT MINDSET?

Have I prepared enough for UCAT? As school assessments begin to pile up and the date of the UCAT exam looms closer, this one question can create great anxiety. As a MedEntry workshop helper, questions like, “when did you start preparing for the UCAT?” and “how much practice did you do every night?” are amongst the most frequent that I receive. With such a high-stakes exam like the UCAT, it can often feel like no amount of preparation is enough. This feeling can become increasingly dominant as the exam approaches, and you may find yourself ‘hitting a wall’ with your UCAT-related...
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Extra-curricular activities: important or irrelevant for medicine?

Amidst the stress of preparing for the UCAT and studying for your other exams, it may be tempting to not spend time on extra-curricular activities, so that you can focus on getting the marks you need to get into medicine. After all, they won’t contribute directly to your score, right?    However, participating in extra-curricular activities, whether it be joining your local cricket team, volunteering for a soup kitchen or being captain of the chess club or delivering pizzas, will help you not only be a better person, but be a better candidate for medical entry. Don’t believe me? Here are...
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Why You Should Be Studying For the UCAT Right Now

Are you all aboard the express train to Procrastination station? Are you experiencing a motivation crisis? Are you just about ready to give up?       Well you’re not going to give in to the internet, not this time. I am here to remind you WHY you should be studying for the UCAT right now.   The UCAT is one test. If you do well in the UCAT, you will have significant leeway with your high school results, which is not one test but a result based on a series of assessments and a number of different subjects over an...
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Optimising your performance in UCAT: Lessons from Sports Psychology

  Preparing for the UCAT is similar to preparing for a marathon: it requires training, preparation and strategies to optimise your performance on the test day. Just as an athlete prepares for a major sporting event, so you must prepare yourself to sit UCAT, which is one of the most important exams that you will face in your career. We can learn much from athletes about optimising performance in UCAT, as outlined in this TED talk by Martin Hagger: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yG7v4y_xwzQ This talk discusses how highly successful athletes prepare themselves before a competition. The main points are summarised below, with an emphasis...
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Preparing for the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)

Receiving an interview offer brings you one step closer to gaining a spot in medical school. The hard work, however, is not yet over! Interview preparation will maximise your opportunity to secure a place as a medical student. Some applicants believe that there is no point in doing preparation for the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI), as they believe that performance in the interview is solely based upon your personality. Although your personality will affect your interview to some degree, practice can improve your ability to express yourself and your thoughts. Practice will allow you to showcase to the interviewer those characteristics...
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Tackling the Multiple Mini Interview (MMI)

The Multiple Mini Interview (MMI) is now used by several universities, alongside the UCAT and ATAR, to determine entry into medicine courses. Unlike traditional panel interviews, the MMI features multiple stations, in which you are marked by different assessors. Therefore, the ideal approach to the MMI is different to the approach for a panel interview. Each station in the MMI has a strict time limit. Many applicants may find the process rather rushed, as you are spending a short time in each station, before being quickly moved on to the next. There are a set of questions which are designated for...
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How to Prepare for the UCAT in Year 11

So you’re in Year 11 and thinking about pursuing a career in medicine. You’ve got great grades as well as the people skills to become a doctor, so there should be no problem getting in. Then you find out about the UCAT. You hear that it is a major obstruction to your journey, and only a select few are able to succeed in it. You hear about all the people who have done poorly despite studying so hard. You may even hear about the people who passed that didn’t do much work. It’s very easy to fall into the hysteria of...
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