Understanding the value of Preparation

Do UCAT® preparation courses work?

According to a review of 50 scientific studies with more than 130,000 participants, the answer is a resounding yes. In fact, preparation for any sort of test works and preparation courses are especially helpful - there is no reason to believe that UCAT® exam would be the exception.

Here's an excerpt from an August 2015 Harvard Business Review Article explaining why test preparation works:

"A review of 50 scientific studies with more than 130,000 participants shows that practice boosts performance on pretty much any kind of test, for three reasons. First, it decreases anxiety. As you’d imagine, the more trial runs you’ve had, the more confident and calm you’ll be when taking a high-stakes test, because the various formats and questions, as well as the entire experience, will seem more familiar. You’ll also discover what you don’t know, so you can brush up and feel more prepared. Second, practice makes proven test-taking strategies, such as skipping and revisiting difficult questions, come more naturally when the pressure is on. You’ll learn to ignore irrelevant information and make fewer errors in interpretation. And third, repeated test taking can help you develop the very qualities that employers measure."

Applying the above concepts to the UCAT® exam - here's why GradReady UCAT® courses work:

Firstly, you need to be reminded of the concepts tested in the UCAT® exam. The UCAT® exam covers a vast breadth skills. You become very rusty at anything you don’t use on a regular basis; the chances are that you will have at least a few major “rust spots”. GradReady's extensive set of technology enabled resources allows you to most efficiently identify which parts you need to brush up on.

Secondly, you should familiarise yourself with the test. The way that the UCAT® exam assesses your skills is not always straightforward. GradReady's large question bank and number of online exams - augmented by our suite of advanced online tools - allow you to be completely familiar with the test and easily work on your weaknesses.

Thirdly, you would benefit immensely from the insights of our experienced UCAT® exam tutors, all of whom scored well at the UCAT® exam. While there is no substitute for hard work, our experiences have taught us that most students could work smarter – both in terms of how to study and approaching the UCAT® exam questions.

At the end of the day, taking the UCAT® exam is like playing in a sports match - your natural abilities definitely plays a part. But if you do not practice, then you have no chance. Moreover, as in sports, if you do not practice under the direction of a good coach, then much of time spent practicing goes to waste - because the coach, with all their experience, is always going to show you how to practice more effectively and point out your blindspots for you - just as GradReady does for you.

I still don’t quite understand, I’m told the UCAT® exam cannot be prepared for?

Think through the following scenario. Imagine that you are driving to your lodge in a small town, during a trip in a new country. Maybe you think that your brain and a map are all you would need, and you would make it to your destination easily. But that's only in theory. In reality, you probably stopped to ask for directions, you were probably confused and distracted by the various foreign road signs and driving norms, and you probably had to turn back a few times due to mistakes. In reality, the drive was a lot more difficult than you thought, and a local, who is more familiar with the roads will always get to the destination more quickly and make less wrong turns than you would, even if you are a renowned rally driver. But it's ok, you weren't in a race; you weren't completing against the local.

Now look at the UCAT® exam. The UCAT® exam is the drive. Some people say that all you need are the general skills that you had picked up throughout your life - that is your brain and map in our previous scenario. But that's only in theory. In reality, you need guidance, you would benefit from being taught to recognise the various conventions and question types in the UCAT® exam, and you do not have the time to constantly go back to correct your mistakes. In reality, if you are familiar with both the core concepts and how to approach questions based on those concepts, you will always do better than someone who is not.

The UCAT® exam Ready course shows you what it means to be truly familiar with the UCAT® exam, and that's why UCAT® exam Ready students do so well. To learn more about how does each of our features help you specifically, please visit our course detail pages to find out more about our UCAT® exam preparation courses.

How early should I sign up to a UCAT® preparation course?

The more time you give yourself to prepare and practice for the UCAT® exam, the better. Of course, no one wants to spend their entire life studying for one exam. The UCAT® exam is typically held around late July. Signing up for a preparation course around January, which for many, is school/university holidays, gives you six months. Six months strikes a good balance between having sufficient time to identify and work on weaknesses without making the preparation process drag on..

How much preparation do I have to do for the UCAT® exam?

The short answer is: enough to feel comfortable with the practice tests.

At the very least, do a few practice exams in the month leading up to the examination date.If you’ve got enough time, do more. You’re not going to get worse by doing morepractice.

However, do maintain your physical and mental health while preparing for the UCAT® exam. Leave time to exercise, socialise and sleep; do not underestimate the impact your health and happiness have your ability to study and perform in the UCAT® exam.

What level of knowledge is required for the UCAT® exam?

You do not need to know any science for UCAT®. Your ATAR or university results serve the purpose of assessing relevant knowledge for medical and health science degrees.Remember, the UCAT® exam tests skills, rather than knowledge.

However, the UCAT® exam does require a good comprehension of English. You will need to read and comprehend a body of text quickly for each question in “Logical Reasoning and Problem Solving” and “Understanding People”. The importance of comprehension is doubly important in the latter section; many of the answers may sound similar or subjective, but are distinguished by the choice of words used.

I have heard the UCAT® exam is hard, why shouldn’t I focus my efforts on pursuing the graduate medical path instead?

Once again, people find the UCAT® exam hard because it’s most likely the first time they’ve been formally examined on their reasoning and empathetic abilities. Similarly, as discussed above, people believe that you cannot actively improve these skills. If you can get around this mental block that you can’t prepare for the UCAT® exam, you’ll find this to be much more manageable.

The graduate equivalent of the UCAT® exam, the GAMSAT, demands a considerable amount of prerequisite knowledge. While studying this prerequisite knowledge is a fairly straightforward task, it’s rather time consuming and boring. Another factor to take into account is that the GAMSAT costs considerably more. The UCAT® exam registration fee is $240 ($140) with concession. The GAMSAT on the other hand costs $455.

In the end, this decision is entirely up to you. The skills that you use in the UCAT® exam are applicable in all walks of life, so even if you prepare for it and don’t succeed, it won’t go to waste.

I don’t have a science background, how will this affect my chances of doing well in the UCAT® exam

No science knowledge is required for the UCAT® exam.

Why should I enrol in a preparation course for the interview?

It’s easy to assess yourself on how well you did in a practice exam. It’s really difficult for you to practice an interview by yourself and gauge your performance accurately. A interview preparation course brings in a new perspective to help you identify bad habits and weaknesses that might hurt your chances. In addition, with the increasing popularity of multiple mini interviews (MMI), being familiar with this format will help you be mentally prepared for this process. As with the exam,practice, along with a few tips, will go a long way with improving your performance in an interview.

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