Mission UKCAT—5 Mistakes You Don’t Want to Make!

A smart man makes a mistake, learns from it, and never makes that mistake again. But a wise man finds a smart man and learns from him how to avoid the mistake altogether.
-Roy H. Williams

Well, hello there! You’re probably looking to sit the UKCAT soon and want to avoid making mistakes your peers did. So here, we’ve compiled a list of those 5 big mistakes you definitely want to avoid! Read on to know more.

1. Thinking that the UKCAT is similar to other standardized tests!

Chances are extremely high that the UKCAT is unlike any test you might have given earlier. Sure, there are the familiar sounding Reading Comprehension (Verbal Reasoning) and Math (Quantitative Reasoning) sections; however, these are very fast paced—you have only 30 seconds per question to get to the correct answer! Besides these, you will see three very unfamiliar sections. There is the Abstract Reasoning section wherein the tester must indentify patterns in abstract shapes. What’s important to note is that you have about 15 seconds per question to crack the answer. Aside from this, there is Decision Analysis which involves breaking codes, and Situational Judgment, which involves questions about medical ethics. In Situational Judgment, the tester is required not only to choose what would be the right or wrong decision for the person in the case, but also how appropriate or how inappropriate that action is. Many times there is more than one right or wrong action, so training your thought process to zero down on the best answer is advisable. In summary, doing well on the UKCAT requires a skill set which you are unlikely to have learned up to this point, and therefore specialized study is required.

2. Being too cautious!

Yes, you read right! Don’t be overcautious on the UKCAT. Take a chance – when in doubt, gamble a bit! At the end of the day, remember, there is no wrong answer penalty on the UKCAT. The practical implication of this is that you should never leave any question blank – even if you are running out of time. They say, sometimes all (potential) doctors need to take a smart chance!

3. Relying too much on a calculator!

I know that many of you are used to using the latest graphing calculators to solve math problems. Unfortunately, you don’t have access to one on the UKCAT. You are only provided with a simple on-screen calculator, which simulates a scientific calculator. So practice solving your QR questions with the simple, not scientific, calculator! In my experience, this calculator will slow you down, and this is a potentially deadly problem because it is the time constraint that makes the UKCAT difficult. The good news is that the math involved does not go far beyond basic addition, subtraction, multiplication and division. Therefore, it is better to do mental math and estimation instead of overly relying on a calculator as a sort of “crutch”. Should you choose to use the on-screen calculator, make sure the testing center gives you a keyboard with a number pad. If you don’t see one, go ahead and request for it.

4. Taking the UKCAT during the school year!

The UKCAT can be taken any time from approximately 1st July to 4th October. However, since everyone is likely to be in a last minute nervous rush (and possible meltdown), the later slots will likely all be taken up. Taking the UKCAT during the summer is ideal because you will have lots of time off. If you think your other grades might not be suitable for medical school, wait till after results day (so you don’t waste your money on the test should that unfortunate scenario arise). If you’re semi-confident that you’ll be able to apply, you should take the UKCAT in mid-August. This way, you can still enjoy your summer, as well as avoid your UKCAT preparation from clashing with your schoolwork.

5. Believing the UKCAT Consortium when they say the UKCAT cannot be revised for!

The official statement from the UKCAT Consortium is that because the UKCAT is a test of your ability, not your knowledge, it cannot be revised for. This, however, is not very true. In explaining why I disagree with this claim, I need to explain how standardized tests work. Standardized tests conform to a standard, format and structure. This means that any candidate can go into the test knowing what to expect, and also knowing what to practice for. Hence, in order for you to ace this exam, you need to be at the top of your game!

That’s all for now. Good luck and happy studying!

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