A selection of high-scoring candidates who've sat the UCAT ANZ test talk about their experience and offer their advice on how they prepared for the test.
Age: 17 Toorak. UCAT ANZ
Bahaar’s results in the 2019 test placed her in the 99th percentile. She started her preparation using the UCAT question banks to gain a better understanding of the question types and moved onto the practice tests. She found the description of each subtest and its purpose helpful: “When I thought about why I was being tested on each of the sections and how it related to my potential ability in the medical field, this understanding made it much easier to develop the necessary skills for each section and to motivate myself.” She recommends the Good Medical Practice: a code of conduct for doctors in Australia as a good resource for Situational Judgement "to clarify the policies and ethical guidelines necessary for this section". Bahaar is well placed to give advice about this as she achieved a score in the top 5 for the subtest!
“One of the main challenges with completing the UCAT in Year 12 is balancing UCAT practice with school. I think it’s really important to set guidelines for yourself so that you’re doing a little bit often”.
Bahaar found Abstract Reasoning to be the most challenging section. “As a result, I really focused on demystifying this section by exposing myself repeatedly to the wide variety of questions that were available to me, and thus developing a greater recognition for the patterns.”
Bahaar sat early in the test period which meant that she had the first week of the winter holidays to focus herself for the test. On test day she felt that she would “only be able to do my preparation justice if I was calm and level-headed going in”.
“I think it is really important to acknowledge that it is okay if you aren’t able to fully complete every question in the allocated time. I think that developing the skill of knowing when you should guess and flag a question rather than spend too much time on it which you could have possibly spent on future, simpler, questions, is really important during preparation.
I think it’s essential to remember that the UCAT is quite different from usual schoolwork. Be prepared to think on your feet, and not let yourself be set back by any surprises/ things you didn’t expect. I don’t think the UCAT is designed such that you are supposed to get every single thing right. If you’re switched on, play to your strengths, work on your weaknesses, and stay calm, it will work out for you.”
Age: 17 Sydney. UCAT ANZ
Waiwai’s impressive score was one of the highest in 2019! Here is her advice for other aspiring candidates: “My preparation initially began with me thinking about ways to maximise the resources available to me and figuring out what I needed to focus on. Early on, I discovered that both Abstract Reasoning and Decision Making were my weakest subtests and as a result I focused on using the question banks and tried to create strategies that allowed me to solve questions that I had troubles with quickly.
I found Decision Making challenging due to my tendency to make assumptions regarding information within the question, despite the fact that it had not been explicitly confirmed. However, my recognition of this led me to take the extra time to properly read through the questions and ask myself each time whether my answer was based off an assumption or legitimate information presented in the question”.
Waiwai worked out how much time she could allocate to each question to manage the test time effectively. After sitting the full-length practice tests, she reviewed her mistakes and wrote down key lessons to take away.
Waiwai has some helpful advice about keeping calm on test day: “I made myself a routine during my school holidays and kept to it during test day, meaning that I took a walk just before I went in and sat the test. I also made sure to revise the notes that I had made over the past few weeks about common pitfalls that I should avoid the night before test day. I also made sure to get a good night’s sleep. During test day, I told myself that I had done everything I could to prepare for the UCAT, including the fact that I was fully rested and well-nourished. Before I began my test, I also took a few minutes to relax and make sure I was comfortable in the environment so that I wouldn’t have any distractions during the test.
My best pieces of advice would be that while practise is really important, the best thing to do is to make sure you understand your own mistakes and how to improve! Another important thing is to make sure you make time for yourself, even when preparing; don’t be afraid to take time to just breathe and settle your nerves on test day. My final piece of advice would be to familiarise yourself with the shortcuts! As the UCAT is online-based there are a lot of handy tricks that you can use to save time.”
Age: 18 Port Macquarie. UCAT ANZ
Theo’s score in the 2019 test was in the 99th percentile and his score for Situational Judgement was in the top decile. These are the tips he has to offer other candidates.
“I started seriously preparing for the UCAT in early February. For the first few months I focused on one subtest per week, before moving on to timed practice. This was extremely helpful as I knew what to expect come exam day.” Theo also found YouTube tutorials a good preparation resource for the test.
Theo advises sitting timed practice tests to manage the time constraints of the test. “The timing requires you to work extremely efficiently, and learning the keyboard shortcuts can save precious seconds. In particular, the ability to flag questions and come back before the end of the subtest is invaluable; if you can’t see an answer quickly, just flag the question and move on. You don’t have time to agonise over a particular question, and sometimes you will have to make an educated guess.
In preparation, I found Abstract and Quantitative Reasoning the most difficult. I improved on AR by learning some common pattern types to look out for, as well as doing many practice questions both in timed and untimed conditions. For QR, I improved by learning to use the on-screen calculator extremely efficiently, and using some basic algebra tricks to minimise the number of calculations I needed to make. Ironically, these two subtests were my highest scoring on the exam day!”
On test day Theo used the instruction section between subtests “to breathe and reset for the next section, and tried to only focus on the subtest I was doing, not the ones I had already completed or were yet to come.
My number one piece of advice is to start preparing early. It is possible to improve your UCAT score through practice, and if you start to do a little preparation regularly you won’t have to do a lot at the end!”
Age: 18 Bundoora. UCAT ANZ
Nethum's score was in the top 10 for 2019! Here are the tips he has for other candidates.
"I began by familiarising myself with the various subtests by doing a few questions from each section from the question banks on the UCAT ANZ website. At first this was untimed, but eventually I began doing questions under timed conditions. I felt that it was important to get used to the time pressure early on.
I tried to do as much of my school work as I could throughout the week so that I could focus on UCAT on the weekends. I spent about 2 hours every weekend preparing for the UCAT. I aimed to target a certain type of set of questions from each subtest each week. I also worked with some friends, and together we were able to come up with effective strategies to use particularly in the first four sections. Eventually I increased my weekly UCAT preparation time to about 5 hours – one hour of targeted practice on a week day, 2 hours on a Saturday, and 2 hours on a Sunday going through the solutions.”
Nethum found that timing was the main challenge he faced and shares some time saving strategies which helped him during the test.
“I found the noteboard very useful for the Decision Making subtest to draw diagrams and tables. While it may seem like it is time consuming, I would highly recommend utilising the noteboard and not trying to do the questions in your head. Having a visual representation – whether that be a diagram or table – of the information greatly helped me to answer these questions quickly.”
He advises improving your mental arithmetic to save time using the on-screen calculator in the Quantitative Reasoning subtest. “Often estimating a calculation is enough to ascertain the answer, so I would recommend – when the possible answers are spread out – that you round before doing calculations to make them faster." Nethum achieved full marks of 900 for Quantitative Reasoning.
Using key board shortcuts may seem minor, but over the course of the whole test they can be extremely beneficial in saving time. Being willing to skip questions was initially difficult to do. I just could not bring myself to move on without knowing the answer, so changing my mindset was the first step to improving my timing.
Go in with a mindset of flag, guess and move on when dealing with any question that seems overly complex or time consuming. It is inevitable that you will feel nervous but you can definitely gain a lot of confidence from knowing that you have put in the work, so start practising early and structure your preparation so that you can gradually build your knowledge and go in feeling confident in your ability.”
Age: 19 Dunedin. UCAT ANZ
Michael achieved a great score in the top 1% and a Situational Judgement score in the top decile.
Michael formulated an approach to questions in each subtest and shares some of these strategies along with general advice and encouragement for other candidates.
“Verbal Reasoning was the most challenging section for me, I find it very difficult to read and comprehend large passages. I ended up reading the responses first, and then skimming the passage to select the best response. While this technique worked well for me it may not work for everyone. I suggest that you try several different techniques and settle on one that works best for you.
For Quantitative Reasoning I used a similar approach for some questions. Looking at the responses, crossing out the obviously incorrect responses and using mental maths/estimation to select the best answer. By doing this, I was able to save time and could spend more time on the harder questions that required multiple steps.
For Abstract Reasoning, whenever I came across a new pattern or a pattern I got wrong I would type it up in a word document. Over time, I would organise the document and use it as a guide for when I would get stuck. I would think back to the word document and this would help me remember patterns that I often missed.
Because all the questions are worth the same mark, I made sure I could identify questions that were harder and time consuming. In the actual exam I would skip these questions (guessing/estimating the best response) and mark them down before returning to them at the end.
When I first started preparing, I found myself not improving which was very discouraging as I felt like I was wasting my time. I started to see improvement when I experimented with the way I approached questions. I always tried to find a better way of doing the questions. I focused on why I got a question wrong and if I was spending too much time on a question and would tailor my revision around my areas of weakness."
Age: 18 Dunedin. UCAT ANZ
Ruth’s results were in the top 1% for 2019 and her Situational Judgement score in the top decile! Here are her preparation and test day tips.
“The UCAT ANZ website was really helpful, I used all the free resources including the question bank, 3 practice tests, and question tutorial. Additionally, I used other websites for more practice questions.
Most of my preparation for Verbal Reasoning involved reading short newspaper articles as quickly as I could, then summarising the key points.
I found the Abstract Reasoning subtest the most difficult, and I knew going into the exam that it was likely to be my lowest-scoring section. To make up for this, I wrote myself a list of patterns that I could search for in the event of not finding any immediately.” Ruth did a lot of practice questions for this section which she increased in the lead up to the test.
Here's her helpful advice for candidates on test day:
“I talked to my friends before the test so we could share our concerns. It turned out that we were all quite nervous, but this conversation helped to realise everyone was experiencing it similarly.
Don’t look at the timer too often in the exam as this affects your focus but do plan out how fast you need to be and leave a couple of minutes to go back to any flagged questions.
Make sure you relax in the minute you have between sub-tests, do not skip this time as it is a great mental break so you can wholly focus during the timed sections.
In the last section, Situational Judgement, don’t leave early even if you think you are done. This is the section in which your gut judgment may not be correct, hence you need to logically think through all answers."
Age: 17 Pymble. UCAT ANZ
Alexandria’s high score was in the top 5 for the 2019 test!
She started thinking about the test early and referred to the website so she was well informed about every aspect of the test from the outset. Here’s her advice for other candidates.
“The practice tests at the UCAT ANZ website gave me a realistic idea of the level of difficulty to expect and allowed me to identify my weaker skills. I could develop those skills in isolation using the sub-test specific question banks. The practice tests also helped me monitor the progress that I had made, and I found it useful to save some practice tests for the last two weeks before my test.
When preparing for the UCAT I started slow and built up to larger amounts of practice. In the last month I completed a set amount of questions and practised for over an hour every day. I found it easier to study more during the holidays so that I could focus on schoolwork during the school year.
The timing of the UCAT is really tight. I think one of the best ways to manage your time in tests, in the UCAT but also in general, is to set yourself deadlines along the way. First of all, figure out how much time there is per question in each sub-test. If you’re behind schedule then you know you need to start taking educated guesses on difficult or time-consuming questions, flagging them, and coming back later. This way you’re not caught off guard at the end – you’re always on track.
A tip I have for other people would be to use the minute before each sub-test collecting yourself and mentally preparing for the sub-test you are about to take. At the beginning of the exam, this is a time to eliminate any nagging concerns and concentrate fully on taking the UCAT. Those minutes are also a chance to take regular breaks and focus on your breathing during the test.
I would tell next year’s candidates to research the UCAT as much as possible. The more they know, the better their preparation for the test, and the more comfortable they’ll feel on the day. I think advice from those who have gone before you can be so helpful, and I would encourage them to practice as much as possible, and to be consistent with it. Finally, I found it helpful to mix untimed practice with timed practice, as that way I could develop both my speed and my accuracy."