The University Clinical Aptitude Test or UCAT is an admission test for those who are planning to pursue medicine or dentistry in the UK at the undergraduate level. Through the UCAT you can enter about 30+ Medical Universities in the UK. The examination helps the universities to select the candidates with the appropriate abilities required to be a person working in the medical field. The UCAT is a computer-based test that has 4 sections filled with multiple-choice questions. These questions are to be solved within 2 hours.

The UCAT is not an easy test and requires preparations from early on. The preparation for this test revolves around understanding the strategies and approaches to solving a question. 


When should one start preparing for the UCAT Exam?

Well, the answer to this is quite simple: as soon as possible! The UCAT does not test your knowledge rather it tests your generic skills. If we look at the curriculum of the test, it evaluates you in five sections: verbal reasoning, quantitative reasoning, decision making, situational judgement and abstract reasoning. These skills cannot be acquired overnight, rather they will take a lot of practice. 

The UCAT Consortium advice the students to start preparing for the test 6 weeks before the exam. However, one should understand that the consortium intents that all the students appearing for the exam should have had an equal amount of preparation or you can say that they want to have a ‘level playing field’.

So when is the right time to start the preparation? Well, there is no set answer. It depends upon individual to individual and their ability to solve the questions. However, one thing is for sure, preparing for the UCAT in the last few weeks will be a herculean task to achieve. 

The test essentially consists of 14 different types of questions. On average, a student requires about 150-200 hours to completely master the skills tested in the UCAT. And if you push your preparations for the last month then you’ll have study approximately 5-6 hours per day just studying for UCAT. Something that is not possible since you’ll have to fulfil school demands like tests and assignments.

Therefore, the best time for starting the UCAT preparation would be during the summer break at the beginning of the 12th grade. This way you’ll be able to dedicate 2-3 hours for the UCAT preparations daily, without the tension of schoolwork. You’ll be able to complete your preparations for most of the UCAT skills and you can then further develop your test-taking skills when school starts by dedicating a much smaller amount of time for the preparations. 


How to start preparing for the exam?

The UCAT preparations as mentioned above will require some hard work. Here are some tips that can help you manage your preparations in a less stressful way

1. Invest in a good practice book
You can start with the official UKCAT tutorial prepared by the UCAT consortium. This will give you an overview of the types of questions that will come in the exam and the reasoning behind them. However, apart from the official UCAT tutorial, you’ll also be required to invest in a good practice book. There are many available in the market, make sure that the book covers all types of questions and has additional mock tests for practice.

2. Allocate time to study
The second most important thing is to make a schedule. You’ll need to allocate about 2-3 hours a day for your UCAT preparations. Split the hours of your preparations into two sections and alternate the sections every day. Try to take breaks between the studies. This will help you maintain the same level of concentration and will help your brain to retain better.

3. Stick to your time table
Staying focused is the key to cracking the UCAT. Your skills will improve only if you keep up with your regular practice. Prepare a timetable in accordance with the topics. Keep a daily log of the questions you have solved and which ones you find hard to solve. Practice the hard questions more often, until you have mastered them.

4. Practice solving the questions within a given time
Every section in the tests has a set number of questions and a limited time period to solve them. Most of the sections will require you to solve 2-3 questions per minute. Hence, when you are practising set an alarm and try to finish within the allotted time.
If you are not able to solve a question, do not panic, move on to other questions and solve them first. If you have time left, go back to the previous unsolved question and try to solve it then. 

5. Build your mental Math
Quantitative Reasoning is a scoring section. Building up mental math will help you to solve the questions faster, and will significantly contribute to your score. Moreover, this skill will persist throughout your life as a medical person as you will need to calculate the drug dosages etcetera.


When should I take the exam?

Many UCAT aspirants are confused as to when is the best time to take the examination. The UCAT can be taken anytime from the 1st of July to the 4th of October. However, since everybody would prefer giving examination as late as possible the later slots would be quite full. Moreover, the chances of clearing the UCAT in the later slots is comparatively less than the earlier slots. Ideally, the sooner you give the UCAT the better since grade 12 will require a lot of work from your school you will be relatively stress-free if you have already given the exam. 

Still confused about when should I start preparing for the UCAT? However, the summer break is the best time for preparing for the UCAT. You will have an ample amount of time to prepare without any load of school work. Hence, the best time to give the UCAT is during mid-August. This way you’ll be able to prepare for the UCAT thoroughly and its preparations won’t clash with your schoolwork. 
The last thing to remember while preparing for the UCAT is to relax and enjoy your preparations. Do not stress about the results. Give all your hard work and you will definitely see the result. All the best!