The Ultimate Guide to UCAT Mindset Mastery

Preparing for the UCAT can feel like an overwhelming journey. However, adopting the right mindset can turn obstacles into stepping stones towards success.

In this comprehensive guide, we explore how to build an optimal mindset, practical strategies to help you throughout your UCAT journey, as well as techniques to implement on test day. By focusing on mastering your mindset, you can enhance your performance, boost your confidence, and ultimately achieve your best possible UCAT score. 

How do I build an optimal mindset during my UCAT preparation journey?

Acknowledge feelings of uncertainty

If you’re experiencing doubt, low mood, stress, or anxiety, the first thing you should do is acknowledge your feelings and understand that this is completely normal. Once you recognise how you feel, you can take the necessary steps to manage this.

Keep in mind that even the most high-achieving students will face these challenges, so be kind to yourself, normalise what you’re feeling, and remember this is simply a reflection of your desire to embark on your dream career. If you’re feeling continuously disheartened, such as dealing with disappointing mock scores, follow the steps outlined in our article to increase your motivation.

Establish a hierarchy of needs

A hierarchy of needs is important for focusing on the underlying foundation of what’s important to you. At the top of the hierarchy is self-actualisation which means reaching your full potential. In this case, your dream of entering the healthcare profession and having a fulfilling career is the ultimate goal that you’re striving for, and getting a high UCAT score is a crucial part of this.

However, to reach self-actualisation (i.e. achieving your dream), you can’t ignore all of the needs that come before this. Focus on taking care of yourself (good nutrition, hydration, sleep etc) and ensure you’re meeting all of your basic and psychological needs which support your aspirations. After all, if you’re not taking care of yourself properly, you won’t be in an optimal state to go through the UCAT preparation cycle properly.

Visual representation of Maslow's hierarchy of needs

Adapt advice to your journey

Advice from friends or family members can be beneficial, but make sure that you adapt it to your own preparation journey. For example, while guidance like ‘You only need to revise for six to eight weeks as any more than this will cause you to burn out’ may be helpful for some, it doesn’t take into account individual differences such as someone’s natural ability and their knowledge level when starting UCAT preparation.

On the other hand, you might also be encouraged to go through all questions available to you, but this may not be necessary if you already have a good set of skills in particular areas, such as QR.

Manage external expectations

It’s likely that you’ll be managing not only your own expectations, but the expectations of those around you too, most notably your caregiver. While this can intensify the pressure you’re under, remind yourself that often these expectations stem from a place of caring and wanting you to do well. If the pressure becomes overwhelming, it could be helpful to have a frank conversation with your caregiver, as they may not realise that their idea of motivating you is having the opposite effect.

In addition, while confiding in loved ones can be beneficial, you don’t have to tell everyone how you’re feeling. Setting boundaries with your emotions can be hugely important in order to work through them.

What techniques can I use to manage my mindset while preparing for the UCAT?

Remind yourself of the bigger picture

Motivation and aspiration are going to be the major drivers throughout your journey. We recommend honing in on what makes you happy and what inspires you, and adding these as sticky notes to a board.

Perhaps there’s a doctor you really like who inspired you to pursue medicine, or a book that you’ve read countless times because it makes you feel good about yourself. Add everything you can think of to the board and place it somewhere that’s always visible so that when you enter the room, it gives you a boost of motivation. 

Find an outlet such as a hobby or passion 

During this period of your life, you need something beyond the UCAT to keep you going. For some people this may be exercise, such as running a lot, for others it could be binge watching their favourite Netflix show.

Whatever it is, find an outlet that can help you to continuously manage your stress levels. Once you know what self-care looks like to you, you can lean into this when times are tough, and use this as a source of escapism that allows you to completely disconnect from the world for a little while. 

Check in with yourself regularly 

If you don’t prioritise your mental wellness, it will become significantly harder to look after your physical health, emotional wellbeing, and practically every other aspect of your life. We previously spoke about establishing a hierarchy of needs – you can use this framework to keep yourself on track.

Ask questions such as: Am I eating well? Am I getting enough sleep each night? Did I do enough exercise this week? This will ensure you’re continuing to optimise all parts of your life, which will provide the best opportunity for you to be highly driven and motivated. 

Space out revision to avoid burnout

Burnout can lead to symptoms of exhaustion, disturbed sleep, and even low mood in certain cases. It is the enemy of building momentum, and something you want to try and avoid at all costs. For instance, instead of last-minute cramming, try to space out your revision at a steady pace over an optimal amount of time (for most people, 3+ months of revision yields the best results for preventing burnout).

Remember that building both physical and mental stamina takes time, and this timeframe can vary from person to person. If you’re someone who easily becomes stressed or anxious, you need to do everything in your power to feel in control of the exam. The easiest way of doing this is to simply give yourself enough time to build and refine the skills needed to do well in the UCAT. 

Finally, don’t forget that while the UCAT is important, there will always be a way towards your dream career. To put your mind at ease, explore plan B options such as taking a gap year and studying abroad.

What strategies can I use on test day to help me perform at my best?

Leading up to the UCAT, you should have implemented a range of techniques that allowed you to get into the best headspace during your preparation journey.

But what about test day itself? What strategies can you use to keep calm and ensure you perform at your best? We explore tried-and-true UCAT exam day strategies below. 

  • Use the one-minute introductions between each UCAT section as an opportunity to take a breath and reset. If you had a previous stressful section, it’s critical that you’re able to calm yourself down and clear your head so that it doesn’t impact your performance in the following section.
  •  While mock exams can closely emulate the test day experience, of course there isn't the real pressure of the actual exam, so it's impossible to fully replicate the test day experience. Despite this limitation, you should practise with test-like conditions (e.g. no disruptions, absolutely adhering to the timing) to minimise any anxiety.
  • Ensure you’re nimble on test day as this allows you to adapt to whatever you’re faced with. For example, you may have found VR questions easy in practice but struggle with this section in the exam. At the same time, you may have expected difficult DM questions, but you’re surprised that they’re relatively easy in the real test. If you’re not ready for anything that comes your way, this can throw you off and destroy your mindset. 
  • Implement time-saving techniques that allow you to be nimble, such as guess, flag, and move on. High scorers understand how to maximise marks without wasting precious seconds. This is going to become a game of the test versus you, so in moments of doubt, you need to learn when it’s best to skip a question to revisit later and when it’s more efficient to take a logical guess.

Final thoughts

If you follow the advice in this article, the best thing you can do on test day is to simply have faith in your ability to perform well. By this point, all your preparation will be complete, so try to refrain from worrying about what might happen, and instead focus on applying everything you’ve learnt during your UCAT practice.

Remember that the week leading up to your exam is hugely important: use this time to introduce or increase self-care, and learn about the UCAT test environment if you haven’t already. We go into more detail about what you need to do leading up to the UCAT in our test day preparation article.

Best of luck!

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What should I do one month before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one month left

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.

What should I do one week before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one week left

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!

What should I do one day before my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar showing one day left

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.

What should I do on the day of my UCAT?

Graphic of calendar circling today's date

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:

  • Your test confirmation email
  • Photographic ID from the approved list

When you arrive at the test centre, it’s likely that you’ll be experiencing a heightened sense of adrenaline. his is completely normal, but it could be helpful to learn some strategies for adopting a winning mindset on test day to reduce your stress levels, and enable you to perform at your best. 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. 

What should I eat and drink leading up to the UCAT?

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. 

What happens at the UCAT test centre?

  1. At the registration desk, you will be asked to show a valid photographic ID and a printed/electronic copy of your confirmation email from Pearson VUE. 
  2. You will be asked to sign a signature pad and take a photograph.
  3. You will be given a laminated notebook and a black marker pen. You may also request earplugs.
  4. Do not take anything other than your ID into the examination room. A locker or a coat hanger will be available.
  5. Go to the bathroom if you need to.
  6. Once the staff have prepared your exam, you may enter the exam room. You may be asked to undergo a body check (e.g. turning up your pockets and rolling your sleeves).
  7. The staff will guide you to the seat, or you may be able to choose your desk. Take some time to prepare yourself and relax. Your two hours have not yet started.

What is the UCAT test environment like?

This image shows a typical UCAT test environment:

Taking the UCAT at a test centre

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.

What happens during my UCAT test?

  1. Once you are ready, follow the on-screen instructions.
  2. Your exam will be in the following order:
  • Verbal Reasoning
  • Decision Making
  • Quantitative Reasoning
  • Abstract Reasoning
  • Situational Judgement
  1. You will have one minute before each section to read the instructions. You can skip it, but this will not give you an extra minute to answer the questions. Use this time to give your mind a quick break.
  2. If you have any issues, such as requiring a toilet break, you can quietly raise your hand. However, your time will continue running.
  3. After your exam, there may be an opportunity to answer a short optional survey on UCAT ANZ preparation and the quality of the venue.
  4. Raise your hand when you've finished and the examiner will guide you out of the exam room. You need to return your laminated board and marker pen.
  5. Collect your belongings and leave the test centre.
  6. Your UCAT ANZ results will be available in your Pearson VUE account within 24 hours. You will receive an email with instructions to access your score report through your account. All results will be delivered to UCAT ANZ Consortium universities automatically.
  7. If you’ve achieved the scores that you desire, well done.
  8. Even if you haven’t achieved the scores you wanted, congratulate yourself for getting through a really tough process. You've done exceptionally well just to get to this point. Plus, you can always take the UCAT again next year or consider graduate entry to medicine – do not give up on your dream!

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.

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