The UCAT, which is required for admission into several UK, Australian and New Zealand medical schools, is administered as a computer-based test (CBT) at test centres around Singapore. For many UCAT candidates, this is one of the first times that they have taken an examination in a computer-based format, as most exams are administered in a paper-based format. With that in mind, here are six tips to help you navigate this unfamiliar environment.
#1: Familiarise yourself with the keyboard shortcuts to save time
In the UCAT, time is extremely precious – you cannot dwell too long on any single question. Keyboard shortcuts can save you precious seconds, leaving you with more time to answer the questions. The most pertinent keyboard shortcuts that you will use in your test are:
- Alt+N: Navigate to the next question.
- Alt+P: Navigate to the previous question.
- Alt+C: Bring up the on-screen calculator.
- Alt+F: Flag and unflag the question for further review.
Use these keyboard shortcuts in your UCAT practice to help you become more efficient in tackling the UCAT.
#2: Know how to use the on-screen calculator
You are not allowed to bring your own calculator into the UCAT testing centre. Instead, an on-screen four-function calculator will be provided for you to do your calculations. This calculator is available for all sections, although it is most useful for the Decision Making and Quantitative Reasoning sections.
Many students are unfamiliar with the use of a four-function calculator, fumbling about to input the right commands into the calculator. In your practice, you should, as much as possible, use the same on-screen calculator that is given during the UCAT test, so that you are familiar with how to use it on the actual day of the test. Commands can be entered with both the mouse and keyboard, although using the keyboard is usually much faster than using the mouse. A replica of the calculator can be found at this link.
#3: Use the provided laminated noteboard and pen wisely
While the UCAT is a computer-based test, you have some pen and paper to work with too. During the test, you will be given a laminated noteboard and pen. Knowing the appropriate time to use the provided tools can help streamline your thought process and provide much-needed clarity when you are tackling the UCAT.
#4: Make the best use of the 1-minute instruction time at the start of each section
During the test, you are given one minute to read the instructions before the start of each section to familiarise yourself with the section’s format. However, if you have prepared yourself well, you should not need to read this instruction section, as you will already be well-versed with the format of each section. Instead of using this one minute to read the instructions, take the time to compose yourself, recall the strategies for each section that you have learned in your IvyPrep UCAT classes, and prepare your noteboard, if necessary, for the upcoming section.
#5: Flag questions when necessary and use the review screen at the end of the section to check your answers
Given the limited amount of time you have in the UCAT, you want to at least have the time to attempt every single question in each section. The “flag” function (which, as mentioned earlier, can be activated using the Alt+F keyboard shortcut), can help you note down questions you might want to pay extra attention to or revisit if there is remaining time, perhaps because you were unsure and guessed on the question or you did not have enough time to properly analyse. At the review screen, you can have an overview of the questions that you’ve flagged, as well as any questions that you’ve missed.
In the example review screen above, we can see that the candidate had flagged questions 2 and 5, and left questions 9, 14, and 40 blank. The candidate should look at the incomplete questions and at least input a guess (since there are no points deducted for wrong answers on the UCAT), then go to the flagged questions and review them.
#6: Practice, practice, practice
The UCAT computer-based testing environment may initially be unfamiliar to you, but through consistent practice, you should be able to familiarise yourself with this new testing environment.
Aspiring medics – best of luck on the UCAT!