My UKCAT Experience

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I figured this post may help a few people out as it is UKCAT season.  This is the United Kingdom Clinical Aptitude Test which is used for Medicine and Dentistry courses.  I wasn't proud of my score and hence didn't want to post a blog about my experience and study tips but finally plucked up the courage.  Although I didn't do amazing, I did fare well in a few sections and learnt a lot from the mistakes I made so wanted to share any tips and tricks that could prove useful.   

Resources

I used three main resources: 

  • The Medic Portal: This has a free question bank (I do believe they will start charging soon) which enables you to get a feel for the type of questions you will be asked.  I found that it was, overall, a lot easier than the real thing so start with this very early on.  The website enables your progress to be tracked over time and in comparison to other users.  Is it worth paying for? Personally, I do not believe so.  
  • Medify: This is a classic.  I found Medify to be easier compared to the real exam with regards to verbal reasoning and abstract reasoning but much more difficult for decision making and quantitative reasoning. 
  • The UKCAT Official Resources: I completed their practice question sets as well as the mocks.  Overall, I found that the UKCAT resources were harder for quantitative reasoning and decision making, but much easier for verbal reasoning (shorter passages and simpler questions) and abstract reasoning is about the same compared to the actual exam.   
A major tip is to opt towards using online platforms on a laptop or desktop computer to get a feel for the actual test which will be on a desktop.  Getting use to the platform of the exam is a huge part in succeeding in this test.  I made the mistake, when I took the UKCAT five years ago, of using strictly book resources which tend to be a lot harder and do not give you a feel for the actual test at all. 

Preparation Time 

I prepared for this exam over a period of two and a half months.  I booked my exam for July 5th and started prepping mid-March.  The reason I started early was because I was juggling final exams and my dissertation at the same time.  This ensured that I wouldn't compromise my academics alongside prepping for this test.  

Mid-March to End of April: Finished The Medic Portal question banks. 

May-July: Used Medify throughout this preparation period as there are thousands of questions to complete.  

Two weeks before Exam: Took one mock a day using the Medify mocks (7), The Medic Portal Mocks (3), and the UKCAT official mocks (3).  

Taking a mock a day, preferably at the time at which you would take the real test, really helps you familiarise with the test format, timing, and mental endurance.  It also washed away a lot of nerves on test day as I knew what to expect. 

Verbal Reasoning 

My Score: 550 

This was my worst section and brought my average down.  In mocks, I was scoring around 650+ and was horrifically surprised when I churned out a 550.  The questions required much more inference and were less focused on true/false questions.  I found that mocks were significantly easier and though the length of the text was not as dense compared to practice questions.  My mistake was not practicing this section enough and relying too much on my own opinion or thoughts.  However, I do not believe any online platforms really reflect the difficulty of the exam and the question-types which is something to bare in mind.   Therefore, practice this section and also try to improve your reading speed by using online sources such as Spreeder.  I did not utilise this as much as I should.  

Decision Making 

My Score: 720 

On The Medic Portal, I would consistently be scoring 900's and then come Medify, I was getting 400's and I was stunned.  Such a drop should not occur when you are practicing more and more.  Luckily enough, the actual exam was a lot simpler and time consuming than Medify.  This section requires practice and time management.  Personally, I would flag, guess, and skip any super lengthy questions because there are more straightforward probability or 'best argument' questions available that can score you easy marks.  Do not be afraid to draw on the non-dry erase board that is provided.  I found that visualising what is written really improved my understanding of the question.  Practicing this question will significantly improve your score and quicken your speed.  My tactic was, if I didn't have to write it down, don't waste time doing so but if there is a lot of information, putting it into tables really helped.  Medify will over-prepare you which is beneficial. 

Quantitative Reasoning 

My Score: 760 

This was my best section.  The Medic Portal is more similar to the actual test (though slightly easier) compared to Medify which had very dense tables and information.  As someone who use to fear math, I really practiced my math skills and found the tactic that worked for me: do not even attempt the question types I do not like.  Flag, skip, and bag the points I knew I could.  Personally, I could never accurately and efficiently answer questions regarding areas of obscure 3D shapes or gardens.  Therefore, I would skip it and be greeted with delightful percentage change questions.  As a result, when you are practicing, be sure to know your strengths and weaknesses.  This is the best tip I can offer alongside memorising popular equations such as percentage change, speed = distance x time, and even basic areas.  You can write down the equations during your 1 minute break between sections to look back to, which I did.  Be sure to write down numbers as you may need them later but if you can do them in your head like simple mental maths, do that to save time as every second counts.  Because I do not have a desktop and couldn't justify purchasing a keyboard I would only use once, I used the online calculator instead of the number pad which many say helps decrease time spent on calculations.  Therefore, if you can, try to use the num pad if possible.  

Abstract Reasoning 

My Score: 710 

This one can only be improved with practice.  The more abstract reasoning questions you do, the more you familiarise yourself with possible patterns.  The Medic Portal and the Medify are both mixed, in my opinion.  The Medic Portal would have some questions very similar to the real test, or much more difficult.  The same with Medify. Therefore, practice is key for success here.  The acronym I used was SCONSAS (Shape, Color, Orientation, Number, Size, Angle, Symmetry).  I did find that over time, I would begin to answer all the questions with time to spare but in the real exam that wasn't the case.  

Situational Judgement

My Score: Band 1

This section requires common sense.  It is recommended to skim through the GMC rules to understand ethical and moral approaches to certain situations.  I do believe that the more questions you do the better your judgement.  A majority of this section is common sense although some answers may not be your first choice solution to a problem.  Always look back as to why you got questions right as well as wrong because more often than not, you may get questions right for the wrong reasons.  

Test Day

On test day, I had to travel so I ensured that I gave myself plenty of time to get to the test centre and calm myself before I took the exam.  More often than not, if you are early you can take your test early too if a computer is available.  I did not get 'plenty' of sleep the night before in all honesty.  I probably slept about 6 hours and woke up around 7.  I looked at a couple questions to wake up my brain but I didn't want to butcher my confidence if I got any wrong so I kept the practice minimal to non-existent in the morning.  Before I started my exam I ensured I slowed my heart rate right down.  I took many deep breaths before commencing so that I could think straight.  It helps to just talk to yourself like: I've done this plenty of times before.  This is just another mock.  And no matter what the score, it's not the end.  Whenever you are stuck, be sure to just guess an answer, flag, and move on.  Do not dwell too much and the moment you move on to the next question or section, completely forget about the questions before hand.  Keep moving forward.  Don't try to work out how much you may have gotten right or wrong because you do not need that mental aggravation.  Be kind to yourself and give yourself pats on the back.  

In essence, I hope that this post has helped you all out and instilled some confidence into some of you.  The UKCAT is not the end of your dreams but hard work will pay off.  
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