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UCAT Solved: A Guide to the University Clinical Aptitude Test for Medicine

The University Clinical Aptitude Test is renowned for being one of the hardest exams and the biggest hurdle when it comes to applying for medicine. The UCAT consists of 5 sections including:


  1. Verbal Reasoning

  2. Decision Making

  3. Quantitative Reasoning

  4. Abstract Reasoning

  5. Situational Judgement


These 5 sections aim to test you on different skills including, speed, memory, problem solving and much more. This guide aims to provide you with information about the 5 sections, and tips and tricks to help you score higher and higher in your UCAT.


Tips for the UCAT (A holistic perspective)


The UCAT is a time pressured exam, and it is almost impossible to answer all questions. Hence you should flag any question that is difficult and come back to it. This allows you to manage your time more efficiently, helping you answer more questions.


One mistake many people make during the UCAT is not putting an answer down for a question they may not know. AVOID THIS MISTAKE. In the UCAT you do not lose a mark if you guess a question. If you don’t know an answer for a question, I would recommend allocating a specific letter. For example: Put B for any question you don’t know. Why? Well, statistically you have a higher chance for getting one correct compared to if you select random letters.


The UCAT has many different question types, some requiring more time than others. We will refer to these as time wasters. Whilst doing practice exams, identify which questions are ‘time wasters,’ and place your selected letter, e.g. B, for all of these and flag them. Return to them after you have completed the rest of the questions.

 

Okay that is useful. However, how many practice exams should I do?


The quantity of practice exams which should be completed is not a question which can be answered. Yes, it is good to do a lot of practice papers, however it is more important to review ones completed. Now when reviewing you should aim to spend 2-3 hours, reviewing every question whether you got it correct or not and writing down notes/pointers. This will allow you to keep in mind mistakes you’ve previously made and provide you with an opportunity to test whether you have understood the concepts.


When it comes to taking practice exams, I would recommend that you complete practice tests in different locations up to 2 weeks before you sit the UCAT. The different locations place you outside the comfort zone of your usual study area. This will affect your marks, however familiarising yourself with different locations will help reduce stress and anxiety for when you sit the official UCAT.


Verbal reasoning


VR is notoriously the most difficult section in the UCAT. You are given 11 scenarios, each with 4 questions to complete in 21 minutes. That is roughly 30 seconds per question. If you think about it this is not much time. To help with time pressure I am going to recommend 3 methods that majority of people use.


Text first, questions second:

This method involves reading the text properly and slowly first, ensuring that you understand the text. Once you have read the text which usually takes 30-40 seconds, you answer the next 4 questions off memory. Through answering off memory you are not wasting time rereading the texts, allowing you to finish within the time limit. This method is risky as it relies strictly on memory. 


Questions first, text second:

This method involves reading the question and options first. Once you have read the question and options you choose a keyword and search for that word in the stimulus. Once you have found the keyword you read the sentence before and after and use this to answer the question. Unlike the other 2 methods you do not read the whole passage.


Sacrifice method:

I call the last method the sacrifice method. As the name suggests you sacrifice the last 6-8 questions. This allows you to have more time for the remaining 36 questions. When         answering the questions you can use either of the 2 methods listed above.


Key tips for VR:

  1. Be careful of definitive, e.g. All, only, will, must. These tend to be mostly incorrect so come to these last.

  2. Ensure that you only judge the statements that are within the scope of the text. If it exceeds the scope of the text, ignore it.

  3. For True/false/can’t tell:


Decision making


DM involves problem solving and systematic thinking. It consists of 29 questions, in 31 minutes, allowing roughly 66 seconds per question. The question types will be explored below:


Starts with Syllogisms (Yes/No Questions) (x5)

  • To approach these questions:

  • Draw a diagram or short sentences using symbols which include key information. This will be used to answer the questions.

  • Avoid inferences or external knowledge.

  • All information is one directional. E.g: “All cats are meow” doesn’t mean that “if something meows it is a cat.”

Logic Puzzles (x5)

  • These are time wasters and take up the most time. I recommend flagging and revisiting at the end.

  • Diagrams should be used. E.g Venn diagram or a tree diagram.

  • Read the passage quickly as it provides more time to answer the question.

  • Try to eliminate options through using information that is definitive/negative

Argument Questions (x5)

  • Look for arguments with statistics and facts. This allows you to eliminate those without as they are then a weak argument. However, not all research, case studies or statistics are going to be right as they may not address all aspects of the question.

  • Ensure that the option you pick answers ALL aspects of the question

  • The best way to eliminate options is to get a key word from the stimulus and eliminate those that do not mention it.

  • DO NOT choose answers that are opinionated even if they have statistics.


Inference Questions (x5)

  • These are closely related to Verbal reasoning

  • Read stimulus and note down key words quickly

  • If the answer is out of the stimulus it is “NO”

  • If the answer is reflecting what the stimulus states it is “YES”


Math/Probability Questions (x5 each)

  • Writing down variables helps. However, you need to be conscious of time so you need to be quick.

  • Convert percentages or probability to the same ‘units’.

  •  E.g: if it says Team A’s shots are 70% accurate while team B misses 10% of the shots. Convert 10% of misses to 90% accuracy. This allows you to compare and see that Team B is more accurate


DM may be confusing and difficult at first but as you complete more and more questions you will see improvement. So do not let initial struggles or “bad” marks disappoint you.


Quantitative reasoning


QR is the mathematical section of the UCAT. The maths itself is not hard, however it is the time pressure which makes it difficult. This subtest takes 24 minutes, providing you with roughly 40 seconds per question. The best way to improve in this section involves:


  1. Completing questions, questions and questions. The more questions you are exposed to the more skills you acquire.

  2. Reading the question first and then find info that is relevant

  3. Practice quick addition/subtraction/multiplication/division without the use of the calculator.

  4. ONLY use the calculator if absolutely necessary and when using the calculator round variables as it is faster

  5. However, do not round if the answers are closely related as it will waste too much time

  6. This subtest is not testing your calculating skills but rather your skill to find the information needed.


IMPORTANT EQUATIONS

  • Original = Final / 1+- % change

  • % change = (Difference / Original) x 100 → The original in these equations is usually stated in the 2nd part of the question.

  • Speed = Distance / Time

  • Area of a circle =  Pi x r2

  • Circle perimeter = Pi x D

  • Median = Middle value 

  • Mode = Most common value

  • Mean = Sum of terms / number of terms

  • m/s to km/h = x3.6


Abstract reasoning


Abstract reasoning is a section which will be tough at the beginning, but that is normal so do not stress. The key thing is to not be demoralised and to continue putting in effort. There are 55 questions to be answered in 11 minutes. This subtest involves pattern recognition. The best method to use is:

S C A N S


  • SHAPE: Straight/curvy, concave/convex, open/closed, longest side, right/obtuse/acute angles, regular/irregular.

  • COLOUR: relevant??, transformation if coloured, neg vs pos (black vs white).

  • ARRANGEMENT within the box: Top, bottom, left, right, middle, clockwise/anti-clockwise, 90vs180° rotations, angles add up to certain degrees, shape rotations, arrows pointing to/away from shapes, shape positions relative to each other, arranged by shape colour/number/size.

  • NUMBER: Number of total shapes, particular shapes, sides, intersections, angles, regions, odd vs even.

  • SIZE: Big/medium/small, relative vs absolute size comparisons.

  • As you complete more and more questions, I would recommend writing down all the patterns you have been exposed to. Over time you will realised these patterns start to repeat themselves and you will see your scores getting higher and higher.


Situational Judgement


SJ is the last subtest in the UCAT mock. People find this subtest less stressful than others when it comes to difficulty and timing. This section tests your ability to determine whether responses in the medical field are appropriate or not. The best way to improve in this section is by reading the ethics handbook for doctors. As well as this, the more questions you cover the more you learn about what an ‘appropriate’ response is and what is an ‘inappropriate’ response.


The UCAT can be stressful and that’s okay. Everyone is in the same boat as you so do not be demoralised. Keep working hard, keep up the practice questions and review in as much detail as possible. This is the key to improvement. GOOD LUCK!!!


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