UCAT
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How to Improve Timing in Your UCAT Preparation?

Published on
April 15, 2024
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Why is UCAT ANZ Timings the Hardest Part About the UCAT?

Imagine having to tackle 225 UCAT questions, each constructed to test skills that you do not deploy on a daily basis in a tight 1 hour 55 minute duration?

Sounds a tad bit overwhelming, doesn’t it? 

The UCAT is primarily a prerequisite utilised in the undergraduate medical sphere to measure an applicant’s academic excellence and key skills deemed suitable for a demanding medical profession. These core traits need to be demonstrated for each UCAT question in a fairly short amount of time, i.e. 14 - 30 seconds per question! 

The UCAT test timings happen to be a crucial aspect to assess an applicant’s mental endurance and accuracy in that time scarce setting, hence the reason that timing seems to be the hardest part about the UCAT. 

In our years of teaching and preparing students for the UCAT, we have noticed that a majority of them struggle to keep up with UCAT timing during preparation and almost until test day.

In this article, we will explicitly talk about tips and tricks to perfect your time management skills during UCAT preparation, so you can build your ability to answer as quickly as possible!

How Can I Improve My UCAT Timing During Preparation?

UCAT Test Strategy: Focus on Slow and Steady Time Training

‘Is it normal to run out of time during the UCAT?’ This is a common, lurking fear for most UCAT test sitters as the test format is an unconventional approach to measuring one’s skills and knowledge. And for this reason, it is more than likely that you may not have sufficient time to complete all the questions. 

Running out of time during any examination can be stressful and disappointing, especially if you were well-prepared and knew the strategies to ace a question. 

With your UCAT study, overcoming the time pressure is the real challenge compared to getting the correct responses and this is reason enough that time training should be slow-paced and dealt with patiently each time you sit down to study.

The UCAT is primarily concerned with your ability to balance accuracy and speed, therefore, once you familiarise yourself with the required foundational knowledge, you need to start working through each section against a ticking clock. Remember that time training is a gradual process, so the sooner you introduce timing in your UCAT preparation plan, the more comfortable you be around improvising your strategies around never-seen-before questions.

With that being said, each question in the UCAT is worth one mark and some sections are more time-strapped than others, which means you can effectively manage your time to focus your efforts on sections or questions that will yield a higher rate of success. In order to reach this level of strategizing for the UCAT, you need to begin time training a few months before the actual UCAT test itself, even if you are not 100% confident with all question-variations. 

Get Comfortable Using the Method of Flagging!

Your mindset when dealing with the UCAT’s difficulty should be dividing time smartly to have a decent shot at all questions rather than stress-rationalising questions that are easier than others. In doing the latter strategy, you are losing out on valuable exam time. Besides, it is not necessarily the best strategy to forgo a hard UCAT question when this ‘one mark’ could potentially be the make-or-break mark to your final score calculation. 

Therefore, no matter what variation of a question-type you are challenged with, you need to assess a question’s difficulty, make a quick guess, flag it and move on to the next question. This is the ground rule for tackling the UCAT even if you are not fully happy with the method as flagging maximises your odds of getting ‘most’ questions right. 

For a detailed breakdown of the important UCAT Keyboard shortcuts that can significantly save your precious time on exam day, click on the link!

Now coming back to how comfortable you are with flagging, well, truth be told, this strategy is meant to incrementally reduce the time spent per UCAT section every time you attempt a UCAT practice test. So, our advice would be to get used to the practice of flagging a question that are taking more time than necessary!

UCAT Time Management: Adopt a Step-Wise-Approach

Say for instance, you are dedicating 3 minutes to solve one Abstract Reasoning question. At the start of your preparation, when in reality you are only allowed a shocking 14 seconds, you could develop hacks to identify which AR question requires a straightforward strategy before targeting the time consuming ones.

What this means is that each UCAT subsection is timed differently despite carrying equal weighting to the overall UCAT score. Hence, you need to focus on improving your deductive pace one UCAT section at a time. On this basis, you don’t just have a solid insight into which specific UCAT question consume a lot of your time, but also gain an awareness as to which skill is explicitly being tested. 

In this way, the step-wise approach is a practical way of allocating reasonable minutes per UCAT section rather than looking at the UCAT as a strict 2-hour exam.

Learn About Your ‘Time Portions’

As daunting as the UCAT test timings may seem, it is only challenging for the right reasons - to choose students who can go on to become lifelong doctors and can demonstrate from the very beginning that they have what it takes to work under a time-pressured setting

UCAT success ultimately depends on the right UCAT preparation material, where it specifically guides you on how to realistically break down your test timing to maximise your performance.

If you choose a preparation material that does not begin with tricks to avoid unnecessary steps in the UCAT, then you know that the course material is not of prime quality and may have inexperienced tutors who cannot cater to your UCAT needs. 

In our comprehensive and concentrated UCAT courses, our mentors aim to fully disclose the many time hurdles you can possibly face on UCAT test day. Some of these include, wasting time on simpler calculations or not utilising the calculator, re-reading the passages numerous times and not effectively using keyboard shortcuts. These small pockets of time you lose actually constitute a larger portion of your test time.

Hence, one way to gauge the effectiveness of a UCAT preparation material is to study its course inclusions and be critical of whether or not it provides relevant training to improve your time management.

An interesting fact about our UCAT courses is that it commences with PBL sessions to promote classroom engagement, conducts weekly skill training workshops and progressively transitions to sitting timed-mock exams that replicate the real UCAT standard. These mock exams are a great way to track your progress and work on your ability to allocate time for each section. Besides, you also gain one-on-one feedback on your mock exam performance from your mentor, which clearly highlights how to beat the mental burnout due to the time pressure and successfully finish the test within the given time.

We hope our article was insightful and provided necessary information on how to improve time management abilities for the UCAT.

At Fraser’s, we have a sound reputation in both the GAMSAT and UCAT space and understand that the UCAT has different expectations and question types, compared to the draining testing nature of the GAMSAT. The UCAT is fast-paced and requires critical thinking as well proficiency in time management for a competitive score.

We took extra care to develop an all-inclusive course package that can help you achieve the best results in the UCAT.  In addition to this, our UCAT Strategy Weekend, led by our senior UCAT staff, gives students an opportunity to sit the UCAT and understand the challenges you need to overcome before enrolling into our detailed course packages. This free event is also accompanied by a personalised feedback session from a senior tutor, who takes time out to  highlight the right trajectory for your UCAT prep.