You may be thinking of applying to study Medicine at university, or already have. After deciding on your subjects, organising work experience and completing your summer exams; one of the many other things you will have to consider is the UKCAT, an aptitude test specifically designed for medicine and dentistry applicants.

«  As a student about to start my first year at medical school, I thought I’d offer those of you sitting the UKCAT 2012 tips based on my own experiences. »

At the beginning of year 12 when I knew I would be applying for Medicine the following year, I was given a bunch of old UKCAT books by a friend a few years older. Reading through the introductions and general information can be really helpful just to familiarise yourself with the layout for the test and how universities use the score.

Therefore, by the time my summer exams were over in June I was already ‘prepared’ for starting to do some official UKCAT practice and trying out some questions, I found it very important to calculate the time limits for each individual section so that you are able to gauge how long to spend per question. For example, in the verbal reasoning section, you have 22 minutes to complete 44 items, this works out at half a minute per question.

UKCAT Verbal Reasoning

During the three weeks leading up to my test, I continued with the books and would redo some of the earlier sections under timed conditions. In the verbal reasoning, I found the most effective way was to scan briefly over the text before looking back at the question and skimming to find the keywords, which would lead you to the most relevant section. It is really important to read the question and the surrounding text very carefully as sometimes the word choice can be quite tricky to understand. Sticking to your first instincts and being decisive proved to be quite good for me as I found if I over-thought a question, I would often answer it incorrectly.

⇒ Learn more about Verbal Reasoning.

UKCAT Quantitative Reasoning

I had continued with mathematics during sixth-form so was still familiar with the calculations required in the quantitative reasoning section. You need to be ready for anything in this section and try to approach every question logically. This was my most challenging section when timed as I never managed to finish it successfully. So my adopted tactic was to aim for greater accuracy in the questions I did manage to complete. If I struggled with the presentation or layout of a question from the early onset, I would select an answer randomly and then flag it. This leaves you more time to really make an effort at the questions that you find easiest to answer. Everyone will have different strengths so use that to your advantage.

⇒ Learn more about this subsection of the UKCAT.

UKCAT Abstract Reasoning

The abstract reasoning section was the one that I was most worried about initially because one set of shapes will have about 4-5 questions attached to it. The key to this section I found was running through all the different ‘patterns’ quickly in order to somehow link up the apparently random shapes. Orientation, number of sides/corners, size, colour and many other characteristics play a huge part in figuring out the ‘key.’

Once you have worked this out, it is relatively easy to answer the surrounding questions, so I would spend most of my time looking at the given shapes. Again it is a skill in itself to urge yourself to move on when you have spent too much time, especially as this section has a lot of questions.

⇒ Learn how to pass your UKCAT Abstract Reasoning test.

UKCAT Decision Analysis

I found this section the easiest in practice as it was not very pressured for time and was not too difficult. However during the exam I didn’t do as well as anticipated here and so it is really important to maintain concentration, particularly as this is the last section. Try not to dwell on other parts and focus on the task at hand. This will give you a really strong finish to your exam!

Leading up to the test I found lots of free online links and mock tests which are really good to familiarise yourself with the electronic layout of the test. I would recommend ‘saving’ the UKCAT website’s mock test for the last few days before your real exam. So here is a final summary of my UKCAT 2012 tips for succeeding at the UKCAT:

  • Prepare early – read up in books or the internet about the UKCAT a few months before Book your test early to get a date that fits your timetable.
  • Buy one or two good practice books (I would recommend the 600 UKCAT questions book as the most similar in difficulty to the real exam).
  • Don’t leave practice to the last minute, a little every day goes a long way!
  • Calculate rough time limits for each question so you know how long to spend on them.
  • Play to your strengths and have a guess at questions which would take too long to work out.
  • Don’t think about other sections during the test.
  • Make use of all the internet resources.
  • Stay calm and have a good night’s rest the day before.

Last of all, I wish those of you embarking on university application this year good luck!

Note from the editor: Do you have a psychometric test experience you would like to share? Or would you like to hear about someone’s experiences with a specific test if so contact us, or leave a comment below.

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About the author: Y W Smart took the UKCAT in July 2011, and achieved her offer to study undergraduate medicine at a UK university in September 2012. She writes a blog documenting her experiences as a first-year medical student and can be contacted at this mail.