What is the UKCAT and how do I prepare for it?

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The UKCAT is an admission test used by some Medical Schools. You do not have to take it to study Medicine; only if you want to apply to certain universities. Examples of the universities that use the UKCAT as part of the admission process are Durham University, University of Exeter, University of Sheffield and a few more making about 20 in total.

The test takes place around September/October when you are in the process of applying to univerisities and you score can be automatically accessed by the medical schools that you have applied to.

The test itself lasts 2 hours and is split into 5 sections as follows: Verbal reasoning, quantatitive reasoning, abstract reasoning, decision analysis and situational judgement. 

You will need to do some preparation for the test as these are likely to be types of questions that you have not come accross before.

For verbal reasoning you will be shown a passage of text on which you will be asked questions on so it is important to practise skim reading and being able to pick out important points quickly. 

Quantatitive reasoning tests your maths and problem solving skills. Practise interpreting data and make sure your numerical skills are up to a GCSE standard at least.

Abstract reasoning looks at your ability to spot patterns and make judgement; reflecting being able to make a diagnosis as a doctor. This section is probably least like anything you have done before, so be sure to practise these types of questions. It involves recognising patterns of shapes and the more you do the more you will spot.

Decision analysis tests your ability to make decisions and basically involves being given a code with translations and you figuring out the best meaning you can for a sentence written in that code. Its really not as hard as it sounds! Again practice makes perfect.

Situational judgement is to look at how you would respond to real life situations and is testing if you have the qualities desired to become a doctor. These are ethics type questions so just make sure you understand what is and is not appropriate during medical training or the medical profession. These involve issues like confidentiality and whistle blowing. 

Practice is important for the UKCAT. Some people revise the whole summer before and some people the day before and this does not necessarily reflect in their results. Find the right amount of practise for you until you are comfortable with all 5 sections. Take more time on the sections you are less confident with and if one comes to you naturally just spend time on the others! Timing is important and a lot of people say that they feel under time pressure of rushed in the exam. Work out how long you have for each question and try to stick to this both in practise and in the real thing.If you can't do a question, guess and move on. You do not lose marks for wrong answers so always pick on the of the multiple choices and you have a chance of getting it right. Lots of people don't do well because they run out of time so make sure you are able to complete a practice test in 2 hours before the actual test.

You can buy a UKCAT book with hundreds of practice questions in it and the UKCAT website has a number of mock tests for you to have a go at. 

Scores are up to and 900 and an average score to receive on a section is 600. You receive your results on the day of your test. Universities may just look at an average of your scores of each of them individually. They have different 'cut offs' and some don't have cut offs at all! Make sure you apply to at least one medical school that doesn't use the UKCAT in case things don't go well on the day!

Overall, practise and stay calm and it will be fine!

Eve L. A Level Biology tutor, A Level Human Biology tutor, GCSE Biolo...

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