Tips to Balance UCAT and HSC
The UCAT and HSC exams are integral components of the application process to study medicine after high school. Studying for both these exams at once can be challenging so it is important to manage your time effectively by using the following tips.
What is the UCAT Exam
The UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) exam is an aptitude test split into 5 different sections, from the first to last section:
Verbal Reasoning (44 questions, 21 minutes)
Decision Making (29 questions, 31 minutes)
Quantitative Reasoning (36 questions, 24 minutes)
Abstract Reasoning (55, 13 minutes)
Situational Judgement (69 questions, 26 minutes)
Each section is out of 900 points. The UCAT is scored out of 3600 points, as situational judgement does not contribute towards your final score but is used by universities to differentiate between candidates with same scores. Students may start off at different levels, but if you are a slow starter you can still work effectively to achieve a competitive score. Here are some tips to help you form effective preparation strategies.
- Target each section accordingly
Make sure to observe and note down which sections of the exam you are strong at and which sections you struggle with, this will help you know which sections to practice more often. Most students are not equally skilled at all the sections and need to effectively work towards evening out their scores.
Generally, the best way to efficiently study for verbal reasoning is to focus on improving your ability to skim and scan passages whilst locating key words and ideas of the passage that the question is about. This is important because unless you are a very quick reader, you will not be able to absorb all the information in every passage as there are only 21 minutes to answer 44 questions. However, it is important that you practice or trial different approaches in order to find what works best for you. Those who are frequent readers will find this section easier.
To achieve a good score in decision making you will need to understand and apply many mathematical techniques, especially probability. You will also need to improve logical processing for this section. Drawing quick diagrams will be very helpful in this section. Practice and revision will really help in this section, more than the other sections.
You will need to improve your capacity for mental maths and computation to achieve a competitive score, as the computer calculator in the exam is rather slow. It is a good practice to use a number pad keyboard on the side as it is much easier and faster to use. You will need to know simple mathematical formulas for this section.
This section is usually the most challenging so you may want to try spending more time practicing this. Time management is extremely important, so if you’re stuck on a pattern then do not waste too much as you have only 13 minutes to answer 55 questions. Try to log the patterns and combinations that you couldn’t spot. It is also a good idea to make a list of categories that can be varied in pattern e.g., shape, colour, size, orientation, corners, sides etc.
This section is relatively less important than the others but you should not ignore it as it could be the determining factor in your application. To excel at this section you need to have a critical and ethical approach about scenarios. Reading into codes of conduct for good medical practice will definitely help you for this section. Once you start practicing this section you will understand what sort of mindset you need to approach questions by.
- Practice Frequently
You do not have to study 3 hours every day for the UCAT, but you need to set a regular schedule where you do a certain number of questions every day e.g., start with doing a total of 100 questions from drills of each section then work your way up as you approach your exam date. Also plan out when you are going to do mock exams depending on how many practice exams you have. Make sure you time yourself when doing questions as time management is key to succeeding. Understand the feedback and the correct answer to each question who did not answer correctly. Doing a few questions before you leave for your exam is helpful in ‘kickstarting’ your brain especially if your exam is in the morning.
- Control your Nerves
The mental and emotional aspect of giving exams is not noticed and taken seriously but is as important as the academic aspect. Most students experience a tremendous amount of pressure when sitting the UCAT exam which can have a significant impact on their performance as you cannot afford time being entangled in thoughts during the exam. So it is important for you to find a way to control your nerves and anxiety. Meditation is often very helpful in calming you down before your exam. Remember to get enough sleep before your exam as well.