Stress stops us achieving our full potential. Let that resonate for a second.
Yes, your stress is probably not helping you be who you want to be, and Covid has been about as stressful as it gets. All this change and uncertainty can really mess up your academic performance. So, how can you push back and perform at your best?
Imagine yourself sitting in the lotus position, chanting and envisioning a glinting northern woodland framed only by the purest waters. Well, that’s not mindfulness, so scrap the traditional meditation image. Mindfulness is only about the moment, helping you manage stress and anxiety, and letting you perform at your best.
Do you want to quiet those negative thoughts, the voices that tell you that you aren’t good enough? Mindfulness can deliver this (with enough commitment).
Obviously this goes further than just study, but the formula is definitely “too much stress = poor performance”. Just think about those exam situations, like the UCAT, where time pressure and stress can feed each other like a whirlwind.
So are you ready to be mindful? Here are some suggestions.
Mindfulness can be a great tool for you to use both for exams and in your future career, giving you a useful and rare life skill.
Keep practising! A month sounds like a long time, but time will quickly vanish. Set SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely) goals such as reaching a certain score by a certain date or time.
Niche down even further on your weaknesses – by this stage you should just be focusing on what you find hardest. Make sure you factor in breaks and days off into your schedule, as well as any important events which you need to attend.
Read the 'Good medical practice' by the Medical Board of Australia if you haven’t already. It will inform you about the different duties of healthcare professionals and how they should respond to different scenarios, which is essential for the Situational Judgement Test section of the UCAT.
Try Medify's Skills Trainers, such as inference scanning for Verbal Reasoning, to maximise your score (these are included in our UCAT ANZ Online Course). Make sure you've also completed plenty of UCAT practice tests.
The UCAT exam is two hours with no breaks in between, so practise at least two hours each time to build your mental stamina. You should also simulate the exam environment as closely as possible – this means treating every mock test as if it were a real one.
For instance, you should sit mock exams at the same time of the day as your actual UCAT exam and ensure there are no distractions. By mirroring the test conditions, not only will it prepare you for what to expect on test day, it should also help to decrease any anxiety leading up to the exam. Otherwise, your brain has to process the ‘new’ way of completing the test.
At this point, you'll know the format of the exam inside out and will have practised the questions enough times to get used to UCAT timings. Don’t give up – keep preparing in an environment where you cannot be interrupted.
Remember, a lot of your preparation will have been done in the weeks and months before this final week, so be careful not to overdo it and become too fatigued. Your motivation may drop or you might ‘peak’ before the test. Your body needs rest too.
Now is a great time to introduce or increase self-care in your regime. Whether it’s watching Netflix, gaming, or just running a bath, it’s important to detach yourself from UCAT revision from time to time to avoid the risk of burnout.
In this week you should also prioritise your nutrition and sleep. Eat well, do not miss meals and keep hydrated. Make sure you get a good night’s sleep in the days before the test by avoiding late night cramming or staying awake into the early hours.
If it puts your mind at rest, you can check last year’s UCAT scores, but remember that this is all about your personal journey and performance, so don't get hung up on that information!
We do not advise doing a mock this close to the exam. Revision won't help you much at this stage and can actually leave you worse off. Instead, use this time to wind down and get yourself into a relaxed state. This will enable you to perform at your best on test day.
Try to get to bed early and avoid things that can affect sleep, such as looking at your phone before bed. If you think that you will struggle to sleep on time, you could try doing some exercise during the day to tire yourself out.
Exercise can boost your brainpower by oxygenating your brain, helping you learn and aid sleep. Plus, activity makes your body release endorphins, which can reduce anxiety and stress levels.
Make sure you double check your UCAT test centre information, the travel route to the test centre, the time of your UCAT exam, and so on, so you’re well prepared for test day. If someone else is giving you a ride to the test centre, it’s worth reminding them.
You should start the day off with a nutritious breakfast and give yourself enough time to arrive early to the test centre to avoid feeling flustered, rushed or stressed.
Remember that buses and trains can be late and that traffic may be heavier than you had hoped, so allow extra time whichever way you are travelling. Find out how to choose a UCAT test centre.
Make sure you know how to get to the test centre – for instance you could consider taking a map with you. If you’re using your phone for directions, make sure it’s sufficiently charged and that you have spare data (otherwise you can download the map ahead of time to use offline).
On test day you will be expected to arrive 30 minutes before your scheduled test time to complete the check-in process.
You need to bring:
When you arrive at the test centre, it’s likely that you’ll be experiencing a heightened sense of adrenaline. This is completely normal, but it could be helpful to learn some mindfulness tricks to reduce your stress levels. For instance, you could focus on your breathing to help you relax.
Don’t forget, during your test there are one minute introductions between each subtest. You can skip these, but we recommend using the time to mentally refresh yourself.
If you’ve stuck to your revision plan, and followed our advice above, the best thing you can do on test day is to try and keep as calm as possible. Take solace in the fact that you have prepared for weeks/months to get to this point, and channel any nervous energy into doing the best you can during your UCAT test.
You should think about your diet well ahead of UCAT test day. Focus on foods that release energy slowly (that is, which have a low glycaemic index, or GI) which will stop you from feeling hungry. These are ideal for UCAT preparation, as well as on test day itself.
Try eating protein and low-GI carbohydrates, such as meat or baked beans, brown (whole grain) rice or pasta, or wholegrain breakfast cereals or muesli. However, do not stray far from your usual diet on the day of the test in case you feel sick. You may want to try these foods out at the same time of day a few weeks in advance.
Be wary of energy drinks and coffee. If you’re not used to them then don’t drink them, especially in large quantities. Caffeine can acutely increase anxiety, and the sugar rush of an energy drink is soon followed by insulin slamming on the brakes, leaving you feeling worse than before. These products are no substitute for a good night’s sleep, eating properly and exercising.
No food or drink is allowed in the test room so eat a healthy meal before your UCAT test and ensure you’re hydrated. While you should make sure you’re drinking enough water, do not overdo it, otherwise you might need the toilet while the timer is ticking.
Please note, access arrangements are available if you have a disability, learning difficulty or long-term medical condition. You may be entitled to extra time and/or rest breaks, and allowed certain items, such as water, at your test centre workstation.
This image shows a typical UCAT test environment:
There is no audio element to the test, but you can request earplugs to block out any noise that might disrupt your concentration.
You will have access to a basic onscreen calculator which may be useful for the Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Making sections.
You will be given a laminated notebook and marker pen. Consider using these for:
If you require an additional notebook and pen, you can raise your hand and ask the invigilator. Although the invigilator will check that your pen is working before the test, we advise double-checking this to avoid seeking assistance during the test.
Do you need help preparing for the UCAT ANZ? Head over to our UCAT ANZ Online Course and we’ll get you signed up to guide you through the whole process.
We provide a huge bank of 20,000+ questions, 24 unique full mock exams, 40+ mini-mock exams, 50+ hours of video tutorials, and performance feedback. We've also upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your preparation journey.