UCAT: what to expect on test day and how to prepare the night before
I sat the UCAT last week and it was definitely different to what I expected so I thought I’d write a blog post on my own experience to help out anyone who has the UCAT coming up.
So after much deliberation, I decided to sit the UCAT in a test centre rather than at home. This was mainly because of tech issues which made the test centre the better choice for me. My UCAT was at 9am in a town about 40 minutes away from my house.
The first thing I’d recommend, especially if you have the exam in the morning, is to get everything ready the night before. Read through the guide from the UCAT website, make sure you’ve got your ID, your confirmation email and you know where you’re going. I sent myself a text with the location of the test centre and also checked it out on google maps. Make sure you know how long the journey could take (allowing for traffic) so you leave in plenty of time and if you’re getting a lift, it’s always a good idea to keep the person giving you a lift in the loop. I probably over prepared the night before (I even chose my outfit!) but it meant I knew that I had everything I needed. I’d also recommend watching UCAT’s own video about test day as this helped me understand what to expect.
The next thing that’s really important the night before the UCAT is to get enough sleep. For me this was easier said than done so I went to bed earlier than usual to allow for nerves. Late night revision before an exam never helps me- it’s almost always better to sleep. I also made sure to set an alarm to give me enough time to get ready and to stop me fretting that I wouldn’t get up. Honestly, being well rested is so helpful on test day.
Another thing to be prepared for on test day and the night before is nerves. I don’t think you can completely eliminate this but it’s important not to let things get out of hand. To try and keep nerves to a minimum, I did a short meditation when I woke up on UCAT day to start my day well. Knowing I had everything prepared also helped with nerves. On the day, I tried to engage with normal conversation and stay out of my head. Positive self talk and your mindset are also really important. I tried to tell myself that I was capable of doing well and also reminded myself that this wasn’t the most important thing in the world. There are still options if you don’t do as well as you’d like. However it’s not always possible to ‘stop’ anxiety or nerves and sometimes the best thing to do is accept that you’re feeling that way and try not to fixate on the feeling. Stressing about stressing isn’t going to help anyone.
Ok so now you are mentally prepared and have everything you need ready, what is the actual test like? The UCAT test centres are actually driving theory test centres (along with other online tests) so it’s very likely that there will be people sitting other tests. When I got there, I didn’t have to wait too long. You have to show that your phone is off and they will check you in. You sign to say you understand the rules and have your photo taken. You get a locker to put your stuff in. I’d definitely recommend going to the toilet before checking in as the process is quite fast and it’s best to avoid leaving the test room during the exam. I expected to be in a room of people sitting the UCAT, but I was actually the only one there who sat that test. This did mean that there were people coming in and out but it wasn’t too distracting. I sat in a small booth where I couldn’t see the people around me. The person who checked me in cleaned down my booth and the equipment I was using which gave me a great peace of mind. I was given two whiteboard booklets (basically A4 laminated sheets) and two pens although one was more than enough for me. When you sit down, the start screen is already up. It wasn’t like a normal exam where you sit down and then someone tells you to begin.
During the test itself, of course you have to wear a mask. I quite liked this as it meant I could mouth the words to myself (which seems to help me for some reason). I wear glasses but was able to stop them steaming up by putting the mask under the nose pads. The computer itself was quite old but that didn’t cause much of a problem. The questions took slightly longer to load than on my laptop but it didn’t cause any timing issues. Afterwards, you get your results instantly so there’s no waiting around.
It was definitely different to what I expected but honestly, despite being a fairly demanding exam, as long as you’re prepared and on time, it was quite chilled. I was personally relieved to be the only one doing the UCAT. This means there’s no competition or comparison which I personally really liked. The experience wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be and the relief I felt to have it over with was so nice.
Good luck to anyone sitting the UCAT. You will be awesome- please try not to stress out too much and prioritise looking after yourself. I didn’t spend hours a day working in the days leading up to the exam- just a few mocks and then specific work on my personal targets and consolidating my strategy for each section. I’m so glad that I found time to relax too and I think it helped on test day.
You’ve got this!
Written by Aimear Wolstenholme (student who has engaged with Medsimple programmes)