UKCAT tips and tricks!

This page is to describe the UKCAT and recommend the best materials from both personal use and from other people’s opinions.

What is the UKCAT? When do I take the test?

The UKCAT is one of the medical schools admissions tests that you are required to sit between July and October. Therefore, you have to sit the exam the year you are applying otherwise it won’t count towards your application.

The UKCAT is split into 4 sections: Verbal reasoning, Abstract Reasoning, Decision Analysis and Quantitative Reasoning. Each section is scored out of 900. With 600 generally being the average (The marking is weird and changes test on test).

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Verbal Reasoning – 44 questions in 22 minutes (incl 1 minute for instructions)

You get a paragraph of text and you are then asked questions on it and you have to answer: True, False or Cannot tell. It is similar to the english comprehension test you would get as a child in school but timed.

Tips for VR: Learn to skim/speed read it is very helpful and will come with practice, Learn the different between cannot tell and true/false. Cannot tell is an answer that often catches participants out. Just remember because you know the fact is true or false in ‘real life’ it may not be the case in the text so forget all knowledge for VR exam and just go solely from what is in the text.

Here is an example text:
John and Mary went to the shop and were given a list of food to buy which included: Apples, pears, banana’s, grapes and peaches. In the supermarket they only found 4 of the 5 fruits, when they came out they had spent £15.60 out of the £20 budget. On the way home John wanted to buy some chocolate with the left over money, however Mary did not agree with John so she decided to walk the rest of the way home alone leaving John.

Q. Did John and Mary buy apples?
True              False               Can’t tell

A. Cannot tell
We know they bought 4 of the 5 fruits but we DON’T know what fruits

Q. Did Mary and John walk all the way home together?
True            False                 Can’t tell

A. False
We know from the last sentance Mary walked the rest of the way home alone

NEW STYLE VR QUESTIONS – These questions are new and it basically involves making an assumption of the text. The question would be:
Q. Which of these is most accurate to the text?

A. Then you have to chose from 3/4 options that describe the text – To get through these you need to have a basic understanding of the text.

Therefore I’d say skim read and look for key points, I did guess a few as it was eating up time and then flagged them for the end. DO NOTE TAKE TOO MUCH TIME UP!

Here is an example question:

The answer is cannot tell as we are told that he was invited but we do not know if he turned up.

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Abstract Reasoning – 65 questions in 16 minutes (incl 1 minute for instructions)

You are given 2 sets of 6 squares that have shapes/patterns in (6 in set A and 6 in set B). You will then be shown another single square and asked whether it goes in Set A, Set B or Neither. This is often the section applicants complain the most about as it’s all about finding patterns and logic. Some of the patterns are really hard to find!

Tips for AR: there are various phrases and mnemonics that can help you on cheat sheets and in books (see below).

However, it is really just practice, after doing a lot you will find patterns and find it easier.

Most importantly….Don’t give up at first! A good way to start is systematically look for patterns for example… I usually start by counting how many shapes there are and noting what type of shapes they are. Then I ask myself is there a pattern there? such as odd and even numbers or circles/squares.

If not I then look at colour/shading, then look at how many sides each shape has etc etc. I believe it is all just training your brain, I still get stuck on many AR puzzles.

Above is a basic way for you to start with the AR, some people get it straight away, some people don’t. It just takes training your brain and practice as more often than not the same patterns will be reused. Don’t panic!

Practice Question

To start this lets use the SCAN rule of Shape, colour, angle, number

Shape: lines

Colour: No colour or shading

Angles: set A has 2 acute and 1 obtuse, set B has 2 obtuse and 1 acute

Number: 3 lines in each set

Set A: 2 acute angles and 1 obtuse angle/Set B: 2 obtuse angles and 1 acute angle

Therefore, the shape goes in set B

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Quantitative Reasoning – 36 questions in 23 minutes (incl 1 minute for instructions)

In essence this is basic speedy maths, very similar to the kind of problems in GCSE maths. E.G Callie has 8 apples and Sam has 6 oranges, apples cost £1 each and oranges cost £0.60 how much does their shopping cost together? But the questions are often a bit longer. There is an onscreen calculator and you have a pen and paper to help you!

Tips for QR: Learn to use the onscreen calculator; it will save you A LOT of time!

Area’s of maths to be confident at:

  • Basic addition, subtraction, multiplication, division
  • Mean, median and mode
  • Calculating basic areas and perimeters of shapes (square, triangle, circle)
  • Percentage’s: Calculating % difference
  • Graphs! – the ability to look at a graph and make a quick assumption
  • Being able to read problems quickly and extract numbers from tables
  • Reading tables quickly and extracting information
  • Be comfortable with time in 24 hour and 12 hour format
  • Times tables – knowing them off by heart can save a lot of time

The maths in the QR section is no harder than KS4 standard it’s more your ability to solve the problems. The issue is the timing!
When revising QR the 600q book is ALOT harder than the actual test

When you start revising the GCSE maths bitesize website has some great exercises to get your basic mental maths upto a good standard.
At first do not use the timing, build up to using a time frame to do the maths in, make sure you are confident with the maths first before you step in at the deep end

Everyone keeps asking about the use of the keyboard… YES you can use a keyboard in the exam, in my exam it was tucked away so I took some initiative and pulled it round so I could use it! (remember to press numlock on the keyboard if you want to use the side panel with all the numbers on).

Medify is the most accurate representation to what the QR section will be like in the UKCAT. I only used medify for QR (I’m not a maths wizard) and I got 900 – I don’t know how, I don’t have a secret magic way of doing it.

A lot of people including myself do really badly in the mock exams, the 600q books QR questions are so much harder than the actual exam!

I have some QR worksheets I’ve written (12pages) to help you, if you want them either click here for the worksheets and here for the answers Or if that doesn’t work… tweet me/contact me/comment With your email address! and I can send you them… But I do travel and have a sort of life… so expect a 48 hour wait for a response 

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Decision Analysis – 26 questions in 32 minutes (incl 1 minute for instructions)

 DA is another weird section. You are given a table with a number of symbols and words (for example the word egg could be represented by a heart shape etc) and then each question then has a collection of symbols that you have to decode very fast and pick the best answer. The purpose of DA is to test your ability to make sense of coded information

Tips for DA: There are 3 steps mainly in the process of doing DA, if you have never done it before start by translating the code literally then interpret the result to suit to options given for the answer. ALL words coded in the message must be in the answer, however sometimes there maybe synonyms. If your knowledge of certain vocabulary isn’t great (mine wasn’t!) use a dictionary to start with to help if you don’t understand some of the words, as you will find you improve quickly!

This section has the longest time per question so you can take your time. At the start of the test the codes are short and they increase throughout.

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How and when do I book my test?

Use the official UKCAT website! The test starts from early July until early October. The price is £65 before the end of August and £80 after! It takes a few days to register with PearsonVue and then you can log in and book your test.

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How much revision time do I need before taking the test?

Everyone is different, but from what I have done and many other people have done is revised for an hour or 2 a day for say 2 weeks to get the hang of it and then 5 days before the exam ramped it up to 3 hours plus. The test itself is nearly 90 minutes long!

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Which Medical Schools do you need to do the UKCAT for?

Check out this page: http://www.getintomedicine.co.uk/medical-school-information.php

It provides all the medical schools and what entrance exams you have the sit to apply.

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What are the best resources?

This is based on personal recommendations and what most people use.

I used Medify the online bank of questions, found this fantastic! I have also used the 600q practice book as well!

Books

600 UKCAT practice questions by Olivier Picard – ISBN: 9781905812097 – This book is fantastic! It’s easily the best of the UKCAT books I have ever used, just look on Amazon at the reviews. But be warned the QR section in this book is harder than the test!

Mastering the UKCAT by Mike Bryon. I bought this as it was really cheap, but not really worth the money at all in my opinion, a lot of the questions didn’t make sense and the answers were often wrong.

UKCAT for Dummies by Chris Chopdar. Haven’t used it but I have heard mixed reviews about it some say it’s really good for providing tips and help if you are really struggling, some say if you have the 600q one don’t bother.

Websites

Medify – it is a site you pay for (The cost is different for how long you want to use it for – I reccommend 2 weeks) and there is a wealth of questions and it is set out similar to the actual exam on the computer. Personally worth it! Especially for learning time saving measures on QR such as the on screen calculator and just being confident at the format. www.medify.co.uk

ALSO use the program on the UKCAT website it is only 2.5 tests but its still more practice! www.ukcat.ac.uk 

Another website is: http://www.getintomedicine.co.uk/ – This is a free resource that provides many questions and is a good resource for UKCAT!

Courses:

I have never personally done a course as I believe that the UKCAT books and website are enough. However, I have heard mixed reviews about the Kaplan courses. They are expensive! But many people have said the resources are good and if you are not very confident it’s worth a go.

After speaking in schools and helping people out I will tutor people or come and do a group session at a school about the UKCAT or even skype, if it is something you are interested in drop me a line as I think the Kaplan price is really expensive!

Tutors

You can get a tutor for UKCAT, but a lot of it will be just practice practice practice! However if you are really stuck and just need some guidance you can get a tutor through one of many agencies.

Or *Insert shameless plug here* if you live in London and are after a tutor, feel free to drop me an email through the contact me page and I will get back to you, or if you are a school/group of friends and want me to run a day/afternoon/evening course in the UKCAT again drop me an email and we can discuss it!

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What UKCAT score do I need for “Insert here” medical school?

I am still working on compiling all information together on specific schools, but if you go on to the individual schools websites you will be able to find it under their admissions policy.

Generally if you are an undergrad you can apply to anywhere if you get over 650 and have other good requirements. Some UKCAT heavy universities like KCL and Newcastle may require higher.

If you are a Graduate, the 3 UKCAT heavy unis: Warwick, Newcastle and KCL.
2013: Warwick 680+, Newcastle 725+, KCL 730+

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I am still very very confused about the UKCAT and have questions!

Read this it is the OFFICAL GUIDE 

If you have any queries or questions either contact me HERE or find me on twitter 

Press Home or here to read my blog entries

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127 thoughts on “UKCAT tips and tricks!

  1. Hi This is the best balanced overview I’ve seen .Could you send me a copy of QR questions .I’ ve got my test beginning of the week and need all the help going Thank you .

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