Set your heart on medical or dental school?
The UCAT is one of the many hurdles in your way, and despite being an aptitude test, it's not something that can be undertaken without preparation.
This article highlights the most important UCAT preparation tips to help you get past this challenging barrier to entry.
Just starting to learn about the UCAT? Check out our UCAT FAQ
What’s the first step towards acing the UCAT?
A great place to start is to gain some knowledge about each of the UCAT subtests:
Note: UCATSEN has +25% time limits.
Constantly checking the time during the test will not work in your favour. To stay focused, create time stamps, which work like milestones for your progress.
The easiest approach is to memorise how long each section is, as well as how many questions it contains (see the table above), and then divide the time and questions into four equal sections (see below). This way you can keep tabs on your progress.
You can use the time before the test starts or the one minute you get to prepare before each section.
Here’s an example, using the Verbal Reasoning section that requires you to answer 44 questions in 21 minutes:
How can you succeed in the UCAT without a fixed syllabus?
The simple answer is practice questions. The more you do, the better your score will be. Try some free UCAT practice questions.
There’s nothing like practising under timed conditions to get used to the time pressure of the UCAT. Sitting mock exams at regular intervals also allows you to monitor your progress objectively.
Medify has 20,000+ questions, 24 full mock exams and 40+ mini-mocks, so you've got plenty to work with. We've also revised our practice question bank to help you improve your score.
As you work your way through our UCAT practice questions, you’ll build your own personalised data bank. This will help you create your own strategy for how to approach the exam.
If you are a maths whizz, Quantitative Reasoning might be a breeze for you, but what about Verbal Reasoning?
Doing questions without taking any time to reflect on how you did isn’t going to work. After doing a set of questions, make sure you take the time to look at what you got wrong and why.
Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and the easy way to identify yours is with data.
Medify allows you to review your performance for each section, as well as the specific question types within each section. What’s more, your average score is compared to other students preparing for the UCAT – after all, the exam is also marked comparatively.
You can then work specifically on your weaker areas to maximise the efficiency of your UCAT preparation.
You also get a comprehensive overview of which sections you’ve attempted and how many questions you’ve answered. This helps you stick to your practice schedule.
Timing statistics let you compare your time-per-question with the average Medify user.
If the time pressure becomes too much during your practice sessions, only answer 80% of the questions in a section and guess the remaining 20%. There’s no negative marking or penalty for wrong questions in the UCAT.
This gives you extra time for the questions you're focusing on, which means you have a better chance of getting them right. Getting 80% of the questions right will still get you a really high score.
For example, if you’re struggling with Verbal Reasoning, attempt only 35 questions, as this will afford you 36 seconds per question rather than 28 seconds.
Try doing 100% of the questions and then 80% to see what difference it makes to your score.
As the UCAT is computer-based, there are lots of handy keyboard shortcuts that can save you time.
Learn these shortcuts and practise using them when you do mock exams and practice questions as you need to commit them to muscle memory.
From 2021, you can also use your keyboard to select the answers in the UCAT.
For example, if you think that an answer to a question is ‘C’, you can press ‘C’ on your keyboard, which can be faster than using your mouse to select the answer. Note that the drag-and-drop questions must still be answered using a mouse.
Aim to start your preparation at least eight weeks before your UCAT exam date. This will give you enough time to prepare for the exam while balancing your other commitments, including school study and work experience.
Give yourself a target number of questions to answer and mocks to do.
Let’s say you want to do all 24 of Medify’s full mock exams and 40 mini-mocks. At a rate of three per week, it will take you 21 weeks to finish your preparation (and that’s a minimum).
That would be an intense schedule, and most people learn better when information has a chance to sink in. Leaving time between mocks helps you learn between attempts, so make sure to balance quantity and quality in your revision strategy.
Many students prepare for less than 21 weeks, and often just for four to six weeks, but you need to make an honest assessment of your abilities.
We can help with this. Once you’ve tried a mock, we offer you feedback on your performance. Use this to assess what you need to focus on. If you did very poorly on several sections, consider leaving more time to revise.
Similarly, if you have a slightly nervous disposition, consider giving yourself more time. Stress doesn’t help anyone!
Some students take up to a year to allow the information time to sink in, and every student’s needs are different. Just concentrate on what’s right for you.
Once you’ve worked out how many weeks you need, set yourself daily and weekly targets. Be realistic, as it’s easy to get carried away when you start before life gets in the way. Factor in breaks, days off, weekends, and unexpected events.
A typical example might be ten weeks of preparation and a target of 400 questions per week. That means you’d have to do 80 questions per day in addition to making notes on your progress, wider reading and doing the prep course itself.
Take a look at the SMART goals infographic below.
Go into detail with your plan. As you learn, prioritise certain sections and even subsections in a way that will allow you to achieve the best results.
You might find ‘Author’s Opinion’ questions particularly challenging in the VR section, for example. Medify lets you choose the type of questions you practise to make this easier.
Don’t worry if you’ve left your UCAT preparation a little late. It’s possible to prepare in four weeks, although this could lead to you cramming a lot of information and may leave you feeling very stressed.
Make sure your goals are SMART:
Setting unrealistic goals, like getting 900 in your first mock exam after only a week of preparation, will only knock down your confidence and make it difficult to stay motivated. Realistic goals increase motivation as you tick them off your list.
Always remember why you’re doing the UCAT: because you want to go to university, study medicine or dentistry, and make tangible differences in people’s lives.
Keeping the bigger picture in mind will help you stay focused and motivated throughout your UCAT preparation.
Even though there’s no textbook to revise from, there’s some reading that you should do in order to prepare yourself for the test.
The most important thing to read is Good medical practice. This has invaluable information on how doctors should conduct themselves and is really important for the Situational Judgement section, as it forms the basis of how you should respond to the scenarios.
Additionally, in your run-up to the exam, spend 15–20 minutes a day reading news articles, as this will aid you in the Verbal Reasoning section. After skim reading the article, reflect on what its main conclusion was.
Reading books about medicine and dentistry can also give you an insight into the day-to-day life within these professions. Try Medify’s top five books to read before medical school.
Booking your test early means that you have a greater choice in UCAT exam dates, so you’re more likely to find one that works according to your plan. It’ll also give you more time to plan your sessions.
Knowing when you have to undertake this challenge is key for mentally preparing yourself, so don’t delay.
Check important UCAT 2024 dates for registration and booking information
How much screen time have you had today? Probably too much.
Taking a break from screens is important. As well as reducing the strain on your eyes, it helps to improve your physical and psychosocial health.
The good news is that you can practise some of the skills required in the UCAT without a screen.
Here are some UCAT skills you can practice in your spare time:
There is no substitute for actual UCAT practice, but immersing yourself in ‘UCAT thinking’ can help you improve the necessary skills and reduce the potential stress from repeating the same type of activities too many times.
Just as mixing it up with no screens can help, trying different sorts of apps to improve your UCAT skills can give you a huge boost.
Our QR and VR Skills Trainers give you points as you build your foundations in a game-like environment. Through repetition, they build certain important skills into your muscle memory.
Taking a break from UCAT mocks and practice questions can actually increase your productivity.
Succeeding in the UCAT is really just a case of getting the hang of it. Take each low score as an opportunity to learn what you need to focus on.
Maybe you need to work on your timing for VR or need to learn the types of patterns for AR so you can spot them faster.
Adopting a growth mindset can be the difference between losing your motivation and turning early failures into success.
We see questions like ‘How long do I need to prepare for the UCAT?’ or ‘Which UCAT section is the hardest?’ all the time.
What’s the problem with these questions? Everyone’s different.
We all start off at different levels and often finish at different levels. Just because you struggle with something doesn’t mean you won’t ace it in the long run.
By extension, this means that just because a peer is acing the mocks, it doesn’t mean they will outperform you. Having grit is about learning from your mocks and doing whatever it takes to be on point during the exam itself. Comparing your scores with others all the time may cause you to feel anxious and unmotivated.
Yes, the UCAT is about comparing your score with others, as this affects your likelihood of getting into medical school, but focus your time and energy into your preparation and into your exam.
One of the best sources for UCAT preparation materials is the online bank of official UCAT questions, but there aren’t many questions there, so you’ll very quickly run out of practice material.
Medify’s UCAT ANZ Online Course contains over 20,000 questions, which is by far the largest UCAT resource in the world. Our mock exams are also continuously updated to bring you the most accurate UCAT exam experience in terms of the difficulty, style, question type, question distribution, timing and exam platform.
For example, we’ve updated all of our mocks and mini-mocks to reflect the latest UCAT ANZ changes, and just upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 to enrich your preparation journey.
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.