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UKCAT Preparation - Working With Distractors and Limiting Guesswork

Distractors are the incorrect answer choices in a multiple choice question as found in all UKCAT tests. The aim of the distractors is to make picking the correct answer difficult. They were chosen by the test writer because they are close to, but not quite, the right answer, which makes them confusing when you try to rule them out. 

Distractors are deliberately misleading. They can follow the correct path of reasoning on an incorrect base, look correct, or offer an answer very close to the correct answer, making you uncertain about discarding them. They can be based on attention traps or misinterpretation of data. In a test you have to locate and eliminate them one by one, preferably without guessing until you get to the right answer.

You can pick up tricks on how to identify the obvious distractors that will save you time in the test. Some of these tricks include:
  • Pay attention to the language used in the text, the question and the distractors themselves as they give you clues about what is being looked for. Phrases such as “at most”, “at least” or “as much as” will set out a series of boundaries. Any distractors outside of these boundaries can automatically be eliminated. 
  • In verbal tests, strong statements such as “all” or “everything” are usually not the answer you are looking for as they require a lot of background information to prove them correct. 
  • If there are three distractors that look the same, and another two which are different, the chances are the correct answer is one of the three, allowing you to reduce the number of distractors straight away.
After successfully eliminating the easy distractors you may find some of the following rules of thumb useful in reaching your final answer:
  • If an answer looks obviously correct, check it against the others to confirm your decision before moving on. 
  • If when you have finished your calculation your answer does not appear on the list of distractors, you may have missed out some information. Consider looking at the question again for any details you missed first time around. 
  • When you are stuck between two final options look back at the wording in the question. Look out for clues in the wording, including tricks in the words used. This should help you pick out another distractor to eliminate. 
  • Occasionally the question itself is ambiguous, and you find you need to use the distractors themselves to pull the question apart and pick the correct answer. 


Taking an educated guess is often a temptation during your UKCAT test. If you want to guess, think carefully about when to do it. We would recommend that the two times to guess are when time is running out in the test, or when you have been stuck on a question for too long and need to answer the question in order to move on in the test. The test is not negatively marked, meaning you will not lose marks if you choose the wrong answer. Guessing is a quick way of answering a question that you feel you do not know how to answer at all. But guessing should definitely not be your first choice on each question.

If you do feel you need to guess, here are some ways you can minimise the impact of guesswork on your test. 
  • Eliminate those you know for sure are wrong, reducing the options to guess from.
  • Reduce the need to guess by working out several ways of identifying distractors in each subtest. Practice using your techniques in test conditions to see how they work under pressure. 
  • Flag up any answers you have guessed, enabling you to go back to them if you have time. 
Distractors are designed to be tricky and trip you up, otherwise why would they offer the correct answer on the page. The right answer is not always easily available, so you do need to ensure that you have developed ways of working with the distractors to reach the correct answer. Our online preparation packs contain more tips on how to work with distractors on each test. 

UKCAT Preparation - What are the Benefits of Practising?

Preparing for any test is vital to your chances of success. The UKCAT is a test based on aptitude, and in the early days of the UKCAT the UKCAT consortium believed that since the test is a test of your intelligence you would not need to prepare for it. Years of successively improved scores have proven to the UKCAT consortium that this is not the case, so you are now expected to prepare thoroughly for your test. 

In a test such as the UKCAT, where you are being tested on skills rather than knowledge, practice tests can have real benefits when you enter that test room. Let’s take a quick look at what these benefits are, one by one. 

Practising familiarises you with the types of questions you can expect in the test. This in turn gives you confidence that you know how to handle this type of question, and indeed the whole test. 

Familiarity with the questions means that you can work through them quicker as you don’t need to spend time understanding what to do. The quicker you work through each question the more questions you will answer, giving you the opportunity to get a better score in the test. 

Practising improves the skills being tested. This can include refreshing a skill you have not used in a while, or learning new skills entirely. Improving these skills increases your accuracy when answering questions (how many questions you attempt and get right), in turn also leading to a better score. 

By taking practice tests you can learn tricks for identifying patterns in the language of the questions or in the shapes of the abstract reasoning questions. Learning these tricks makes it easier to get the questions right. In addition you can then work out the solving strategies that work best for you, enabling you to be more efficient at answering the questions. 

Performing calculations such as percentages and ratios over and over again conditions you to know what you need to do the next time. This means that pulling up the formulas (percentage increase/ decrease) will take less time, making the calculations and answering questions quicker. 

Practice helps you identify your strengths and weaknesses. In turn this helps focus your preparation as you work to strengthen your weaknesses to get better scores in the test. 

You would never dream of going in to any other test without revising and taking practice and mock tests. The UKCAT is no exception even if it is a different type of test than you are used to. Make sure that you give yourself a long enough preparation period in order that you get the most out of your practice, and that you complete everything you need to do. Find out more about how to prepare for your UKCAT with JobTestPrep. 

UKCAT Preparation - The Importance of Time Management

The UKCAT is a timed test, with arguably very short time allocations per test. Managing your time in the test is crucial to give yourself the chance to answer the questions towards the end of the test, and gaining the best score you can.

The time pressure is deliberate. The time limits create pressure, and the aim of this test is to examine how you work under pressure. In reality you are not expected to answer every question on the paper in some of the subtests, but the more questions you do answer, the more chance you give yourself of obtaining a good score.

You can prepare yourself to work under this time pressure, and here are some ways how you can do this.

Memorise how long you have to answer each question in each subtest, and try to keep to that time. Some questions will take you less time, some questions more, but try to keep the balance. Keeping to time will mean that you do not need to rush (and guess) at the end of the test. 

Know how many questions are answered on average in each test. For example, the mean number of correct answers in the quantitative reasoning test in 2013 was 16. The test in 2013 had the same number of questions in the same time frame, so this figure suggests that if you can answer more than the mean in the allocated time you stand a good chance of a decent normalised score. 

When you are calculating your time per question, factor in time for reading new passages, pieces of information or scenarios. Understand how many questions you are asked on each new piece of information in each test, so that you can work out how long you can have for each testlet. For example in the verbal reasoning test four questions are asked on each passage of text. This means that you can allocate 1.50 minutes per text and four questions rather than 28 seconds per question (which includes the time needed to read the passage). 

In most of the subtests (other than the decision analysis subtest), you can flag a question and return to it. The benefit of this is that you don’t need to waste time so that you don't have time to finish all questions. It also enables you to return to these questions once you have answered more questions and are feeling more relaxed and confident.

Don’t forget to assess how you are doing for time half way through each subtest. You will then know to speed up or slow down according to the time left on your clock. 

In a test where time is this tight, any delay over the time per question will mean that you won’t reach the end of the test. Managing your time effectively is key to enabling you to at least attempt every question. Use these tips when taking practice UKCAT tests so that you get used to working to a tight time limit, and improve your ability to keep to time in the test.

UKCAT Preparation - How Much Time Do I Need?

The UKCAT consortium recommend that you spend between 21 and 30 hours preparing for your UKCAT exam. We would normally recommend more than this, spread out over two or three weeks. In this blog we discuss why we have come to this answer.

We can't tell you how long you as an individual comfortable with setting your own speed for studying, will need to get ready for a completely new type of test. Some of you will feel comfortable after 21 to 30 hours, but some of you will need longer. Giving yourself two or three weeks to play with means that you can work out what time you need. 

The most important consideration is that you give yourself enough time to prepare without rushing or cramming in the final few topics. To help you out with this, we have drafted a set of study schedules, with a two week plan for those of you who need less time, and a three week plan for those of you who feel they need longer. 

The importance of “enough time”

  • The UKCAT is made up of five subtests that aren't the same as your GCSE or A-level tests. You are being tested on a set of skills that you may need time to master rather than a volume of knowledge. In your UKCAT preparation you are learning how to do something rather than information as you would normally learn.
  • If you give yourself enough time to prepare you will be able to go into the test confident and relaxed and secure in the knowledge that you have done all you can. This will help you believe that you will get the score that you deserve, and as such create a cycle where you do well.
  • Even before you get into the serious preparation, you can start doing a little bit every day as an introduction. This background work will be invaluable in your later preparation, allowing you to hit the ground running and get to the more valuable concentration on areas of weakness.
  • When you have enough time ahead of the test you can afford to plan your time effectively, you can make sure you get a balance in your days and don’t panic, allocating unrealistic 16 hour days to preparing. You can schedule in time each day for eating, sleeping, showering, walking or getting out a bit, all of which help you keep a healthy perspective and prepare better for the test.

Even without being able to give you a clear answer, we at JobTestPrep would recommend that you start your preparation early so that you can assess the time you need and plan it accordingly. We would also suggest that the guideline of 21 to 30 hours is a starting point, and you should give yourself more time to cut down if necessary.

UKCAT 2014 Spotlight: The Test Format

You’ve signed up for the UKCAT exam, and now you are starting to look at what exactly that means. What are the subtests, how many are there, and how long do I have for the test? This blog will go through two main format features of the test. 

The UKCAT contains several design features that you may want to be aware of before you start your preparation efforts.
  • The UKCAT contains five subtests, each of which are distinct from the test before, and assess you on different skills to each other. 
  • The time allocated to each question is different for each subtest. 

The five subtests

The UKCAT is made up of five very different subtests. The test is 2 hours long, with no breaks allocated. If you take a break your time will continue to run whilst you are not there. 

Subtest Time per section

(+ 1 min instructions)
No. questions Time per question Skills tested
Verbal reasoning 22 minutes 44 questions based on 11 passages 29 seconds English; drawing inferences and critical thinking
Quantitative reasoning 25 minutes 36 questions based on 9 sets of information 40 seconds Maths; workout correct answers
Abstract reasoning 14 minutes 55 questions 15 seconds Identifying patterns; determining relationships
Decision analysis 32 minutes 28 questions Just over 1 minute Decision making; using judgement
Situational judgement 27 minutes 67 questions based on 20 scenarios 20 seconds Response to tricky situations at work/Uni.

Once you have understood the format of the test, you can move on to the individual subtests, always working within the time constraints and requirements of each section.

JobTestPrep UKCAT Preparation 2014 - What's New

A new UKCAT testing period brings around new changes to the UKCAT, and JobTestPrep are no exception. We have updated much of our UKCAT offerings, with more to come in the coming weeks. Here’s a taster of what we have done so far.

More videos

We have added more tutorial videos to our pack, bringing the total up to seven videos covering topics such as how to use a calculator, averages, percentages, answering true/false/cannot say questions and more. 

Mobile adaptive 

More and more of our tests are now mobile adaptive. You can practice verbal, quantitative and abstract (type 2) reasoning and situational judgement tests on your mobile device. All you need to do is log on to your account from your mobile device and start practicing.

Our content has had a facelift

All our UKCAT pages on the website have been updated to reflect the latest information on the UKCAT. We have also added pages on topics that you should find useful, making sure our site content covers everything you need to know about the UKCAT, and makes us the most informative site around. 

Updated our online packages

As well as adding more videos as mentioned above, we are also adding new tests, including situational judgement and more verbal reasoning questions. We have created a new situational judgement guide, and refreshed our content, guidance and advice. We have strengthened our online offering, ensuring that we give you plenty to work through as you prepare for your UKCAT exam.

More competitions, quizzes and prizes

This year we are running a series of online competitions and small quizzes. All of these have prizes attached to them from 10% discounts on any of our products to Amazon vouchers and reduced sessions. Keep up to date with our competitions via our Facebook page (oh and like our page to receive another 10% off voucher).