The UKCAT – Useless Knowledge Completely Abstract To (anything medical…)

Other than the SJT, I still fail to see how my index finger blisters due to speed smacking the number keyboard are a good indicator of the quality of doctor I will make… I think it’s safe to say that the UKCAT can be summarised as an ordeal, even for the brightest of students. It’s true, given plentiful time anyone could complete the questions to a relatively high standard but in this instance a vuvuzela in my ear would have been more enjoyable than the near haemorrhage I had from the 40-something seconds a question time limit. But although I could complain until my heart’s content on this issue the bottom line is, IT’S DONE. It’s over, and I can move on with my life (whilst I do a nightly rain dance to the God’s that I get in this year so I don’t have to repeat this experience again…). Anyway, I’m back with my chit chat to give you an honest run down of my experience.

Now, unless you’re totally confident in yourself and your abilities, the first rule when it comes to UKCAT (which I learned the hard way) is to avoid The Student Room (TSR) like the plague. TSR is really useful for making you feel totally inadequate. People like to throw their “stats” around here and the key thing to remember is that it’s rare anyone posts their bad news – it’s likely you’ll only find the super good stuff! Most people have little or no interest in trying to help each other and are only sussing out the competition (I like to sit back and watch whilst secretly taking notes). Although it’s a playground of self-entitlement, I must admit that I have found it useful to scroll through last year’s applicants to see who made it to interview and then received an offer. Looking at these stats is potentially a good way of telling whether comparatively, you would have made the cut with what you have to offer in this cycle. 

Now, I’ll get into the different sections starting with Verbal Reasoning (VR). For me, like the rest of the nation, this was my least-best section (I’m a glass half full kinda person). The timing is a nightmare for anyone but if you’re like me and sat the UKCATSEN it’s enough to make you tear up at the instruction page. Personally, I used Medify for all my UKCAT revision and it was an invaluable resource and cannot recommend it enough. I found the paragraphs on Medify to be pretty representative of the real thing length and content wise, although Medify occasionally spits out super short paragraphs which, although might keep you hopeful, are pretty unrealistic (sorry to burst your bubble). The text size in the real thing is a LOT bigger as the screen in zoomed in, so I found this really helpful although it didn’t come without a complementary neck ache, like you’d feel sitting in the front row at the cinema for 2 hours. The best thing is VR comes first and if it’s not your forte it’s over and done with pretty quickly. If it doesn’t go your way – chin up and move on!

Decision Making (DM) was almost identical to the questions I found on Medify. However, on the day I had about 15/29 really wordy “does the conclusion follow” ones and being dyslexic this didn’t really work in my favour, but I compensated in my QR and VR.

Quantitative Reasoning (QR) as you may have heard from many IS EASIER IN THE EXAM, WAHOOOO! I found the questions were often much simpler i.e. percentage changes (lots of them) and calculations only had one or two steps to them. Each question had a simple graph rather than a pie chart, a table, another table and six detailed sketches of skyscrapers for good measure, like some of the practise questions. The thing to remember with QR is that mid-way there is likely to be a difficult question that is designed to hold you up. Guess and flag! The flag button is your new best buddy. I finished all the questions with time to spare and was aiming for around a 700 – I came out with an 860 and basically broke down in tears of joy whilst squatting in the middle of the high street grinning on the phone to my Mum afterwards. I’m sure the local community were reassured to hear me weep down the phone “I’m going to be a doctor”…

Finally, Abstract Reasoning (AR) is hit and miss – personally I don’t think there’s much reasoning to be done with it but practise so you’ve seen every pattern under the sun and logically guess the rest! Go with your gut feeling, this is often correct. In practises this was frequently my lowest score, even below VR. In the real thing this was my best section (still not sure how) and half of it was pure luck. This example is a real representation of how, even if the UKCAT did test my ability to be a doctor, this would now be totally falsified by the fact I guessed and got lucky. Hallelujah for the loopholes.

So I’ll finish with some key pointers and honestly, whatever the outcome the world will not end. I promise.

  • Don’t leave anything blank! It’s not negatively marked
  • Learn to use the keyboard short cuts – they save an incredible amount of time
  • The flag button is your new best friend – use it for the hard ones and come back.
  • Get Medify – it was my saving grace and I owe all my success to this.
  • Breathe – usually 12-20 breaths a minute is sufficient to survive

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