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What Is The Hardest Part About The UCAT?

Published on
May 12, 2024

Since UCAT ANZ came into effect in 2019, students have indicated that the Verbal Reasoning subtest is the toughest subsection in the UCAT string, solely because of the fact that they are so strapped for time.

Most students find that the hardest part about the UCAT itself is not the psychometric analysis but the inability to complete all the UCAT subsections within a stringent time limit. So the UCAT exam is about mastering time management, rather than being the most well suited style of thinker.

Before we address the matter at hand, it is important to grasp how the UCAT exam has been and continues to challenge students on their mental and theoretical abilities. 

Why Is The UCAT Difficult For Most Students?

As stated earlier, the University Clinical Aptitude Test is broadly argued as a time-scarce test. This has been the root cause of difficulty in the UCAT exam that most students often complain about. \

It is particularly challenging because of the types of people who take it, Year 12 students, whose educational experiences at high school have so far lent itself towards textbook knowledge, rather than skilled problem solving under pressure.

The UCAT exam is a skill-based assessment, which demands you to be on top of solving mathematical equations, interpreting written passages and abstract patterns, and inferring prudent judgements in challenging situations. This aptitude test measures every student’s preliminary skills to survive in a highly competitive medical environment. Hence, the UCAT is the major prerequisite test to enter nearly all undergraduate medical schools in Australia. 

Hopefully at this point you have not been scared off. Although these statements make the UCAT sound highly cryptic and nearly impossible to answer, in fact, each subsection can be mastered if adequate preparation is undertaken in the lead up to the exam.

What Is The Time Allowed For Each UCAT Subsection?

Truth be told, the only way to gain a decisive advantage in the UCAT is to devote adequate time to preparation. Many students fail to recognise that the UCAT deliberately measures your time management skills, an ability highly praised in the clinical environment.

UCAT Subsections Number of Questions Overall Test Time (inclusive of 1-min instruction time)
Verbal Reasoning 44 21 Minutes
Decision Making 29 31 Minutes
Quantitative Reasoning 36 25 Minutes
Abstract Reasoning
50 12 Minutes
Situational Judgement Test
66 26 Minutes

Some of the Best UCAT Preparation

To be ‘in the know’ of the best UCAT prep strategies, mock exams and practice tests are proposed as a good place to start as they replicate the question-styles in the real exam. 

Once you are fully aware of the format, question-styles and your weak points in the test, it is best to include time in your preparation. Initially, there is a high chance that you may not successfully finish the practice exam as your mind is not used to functioning under such stringent time pressure. Do not feel dejected, as this is totally reasonable and part of the learning curve.

Why Is The UCAT Verbal Reasoning Subtest Challenging?

The Verbal Reasoning section in the UCAT exam has been quite stressful for many students, if not difficult. The primary reason is the tricky passages that required students to re-read particular sentences and to derive their true meaning. In doing so, students spent twice as much on a single question within a passage which impacted their overall performance. This section was deliberately constructed this way to challenge students and select for those who can quickly sift through the large amount of information to come to an answer.

A good score in the Verbal Reasoning subtest is dependent on your ability to track recurring words and keywords, allowing you to derive the meaning behind the text. This subtest can work in your favour if your preparation involves practising various VR question-themes under timed conditions.

Also, a good way to improve your score in this section is to strengthen your understanding of these question-types and incur the differences between 'False' and 'Cannot tell' options. After all, even a straightforward phrase can seem like gibberish when you have to function under pressure. 

Hence, it is important to remember that the Verbal Reasoning subtest does not judge your knowledge on academic concepts but estimates your ability to derive a passage's meaning that is not influenced by personal biases. This subtest is unlike Abstract Reasoning and Decision Making, which instead evaluate your judgement and thinking skill subject to your own personal experiences.

How To Save Time: UCAT Keyboard Shortcuts & Calculator

Another good technique that has come in handy to most students who sat the exam was using the UCAT keyboard shortcuts. In order to manage time efficiently, it is preferred to use keyboard shortcuts, mainly to navigate from one question to the next and review flagged questions without any hassle. 

Many experienced UCAT tutors might also suggest that you become comfortable using the UCAT on-screen calculator when you solve Quantitative Reasoning questions that require you to perform faster calculations. 

For these reasons, the keyboard shortcuts in the UCAT exam are favoured over a mouse. However, the real challenge is that there are too many shortcuts to memorise, which may feel like an extra burden, along with additional formulas and techniques you need to remember to succeed in the exam.  But considering the strict time limit in the UCAT exam, it is crucial to adopt whatever method is suitable to improve pacing and help secure that competitive UCAT score to be in the running for a medical school offer. 

To remember the UCAT keyboard shortcuts without going through any extra trouble, we suggest you to go through our UCAT keyboard shortcuts article that contains all of the basic shortcuts that you may need in a table format to be easily accessible to all. We also provide easy techniques to memorise these shortcuts so you can focus on optimising your overall performance on the day. 

Focus On Online Practice Over Physical Question Bank

The UCAT online mock exam is a great way to fine-tune your preparation and is an important phase in your UCAT prep. Here are two solid reasons why:

a) UCAT online question banks and mocks mimic the real UCAT exam timings and question themes, so you gain an in-depth understanding of the real assessment itself;

b) Practising under timed and untimed conditions can help you channel the burnout and mental fatigue you encounter during the exam. 

Time management is not an innate ability, instead it needs to be steadily developed to work in different scenarios. In the case of the UCAT, it genuinely matters how you break down the conditioned time to fulfil the intricacies across individual UCAT subsections. 

Our UCAT tutors have long advocated for using online practice exams and mocks as a more reliable preparation strategy than the physical question bank. As the UCAT follows a digital format, your preparation is considered valuable if you get comfortable resolving questions on the screen and are keyboard-friendly so nothing can faze you on your test day. 

Where To Next?

The UCAT ANZ timings are critical for a reason. It gives the examiner a profound overview of your managerial skills and your ability to accomplish the required tasks under pressure. Based on your performance in the UCAT ANZ exam, you will be ranked for a medical interview, where your interpersonal skills can then be evaluated. 

To help you achieve a satisfactory UCAT score, the team at Fraser’s has techniques and tips that can assist you in your UCAT preparation, as well as help your medical interview tone

In addition, medical schools have begun releasing their medical interview offers. If you are in the lucky few to have received an offer this season, our congratulations to you! 

To help kickstart your medical interview prep and know all the nitty-gritties around it, checkout some of the commonly asked medical interview questions