How to get through the UKCAT

I still get shivers when thinking about this exam. The best way I can describe it is an adult version of the 11+ ( for those of you who don’t know what this is , its an exam you take when you get into year 6 to see if you are good enough for grammar school….. I was not).

For those of you taking it at the moment, you probably want to cry and are questioning why you ever started it but DO NOT PANIC. I was exactly the same but managed to get through it ! Here are some tips by sub-section that may help 🙂

Some tips before you begin

Do not … and I repeat… DO NOT buy a place on one of those “intensive courses”. Honestly, you can get all the infomation they tell you from a book. I went on one for which I paid 25% of the original price and I really did not feel it was worth it, all I could think about was the poor students sat next to me who had paid essentially £200 for a pen. Honestly, they may be amazing for some people but the people running the course that day were disorganised and did not have a clue what was going on. They told me what I knew already and I left feeling frustrated. So steer clear of them.

DO look at youtube and the infomation section of thoses green books you probably have already bought. They were really helpful and told me everything I needed to know ( which the intensive course basically repeated to me). Take the time to read them and note down important points , they really can help when sorting through how you are going to tackle the exam.

DO two of the mock tests on the official website first. This will show your weaknesses whilst allowing for a change in the exam difficulty. I quickly established that my quantatative and abstract reasoning were my weakest sections and spent 65% of my time on these two sections. This will serve you better than practising sections you breeze through.

Abstract reasoning

This still causes me physical pain….. It is basically looking at shapes and becoming Sherlock Holmes by decoding the patterns that link them together. I was not very good at this and I often stomped around the house claiming it was not possible to do. However, with some perseverance, you can figure it out.

It’s about learning what patterns normally come up. You can guarantee that somewhere in there will be a “edges” question. This is where all the shapes in A are odd edges and B are even edges or all the prime edges are white and even are black.  I would do a quick eye ball of this first, you can normally determine if this is the pattern quickly.

Another is positioning. Are the arrows pointing up (I will take more about arrows later)? Are all the even edges at the bottom? There is always a pesky one where a square will always be above a circle etc or there is always an equilateral triangle in the top left. It’s about learning what to expect.

Arrows always indicate things. Look at where they are pointing. Is it the top of the shape or bottom? Or is the number of arrows linked to how they are pointing.

I wish I could give you a magic solution to this but rest assured, you will crack it. It took me months to figure it out, and it was only three weeks before my exam that I figured it out ! Just keep going!!

Quantitative Reasoning

This section normally comes easy to most. For me, it most certainly did not. I have always struggled with maths, mostly through confidence issues but I would much rather be sat writing than figuring out algebraic equations. However , if this dip stick ( I like insulting myself in these blog posts) can get 770 , so can you.

The trick is to start from basics. Don’t run before you can walk. Learn the basic GCSE techniques. You are going to need to nail percentages and geometry. These will be key and allow you to whizz through the section. Don’t be afraid to go back to bitesize maths. You are not above using that website 😊


You will also have to deal with that calculator. A simple google will tell you the short cuts for it which will speed you up double. Here are some here because I am nice like that :

  • alt+c to reveal the calculator
  • number keys in number pad (if num lock is on)
  • can use number keys above the keyboard
  • backspace for ON/C

I would highly recommend using the keypad for numbers as clicking them is going to be a huge time waste. Note down your answers at each stage, not only will it be easier if a set of questions uses a similar data set but it allows you to easily spot errors.

Verbal Reasoning

This is the section that everyone seems to have some issue with. Again, it’s about perseverance and learning the patterns of the questions. Practise skim reading long paragraphs and making sure you get the points down.

I did a quick skim read of the text before I looked at the questions. That way I knew roughly where to look when I had encountered the question. When I went to answer the question, I made sure I read the section completely. This is because the UKCAT exam has an annoying habit of being sneaky. Often you will skip a word thinking it is not relevant, but it will change the meaning of the entire sentence. So, get used to reading quickly and efficiently. I made myself read older texts such as classic texts, so I could get used to reading a different style of language completely and that meant that once I started back with the modern texts , I could read more proficiently.

Decision making

This section is designed to use the whiteboard you are given in the exam. Draw, draw and draw. It makes the questions so much clearer. Especially with the “every flobber is a globber and but not every globber is a flobber” questions. It allows you to get past the made-up language and focus on what is going on.

Situational Judgement

Again, this is essentially practise and learn. Most humans will be able to get a band two but what pushes you over to the band one is learning which options to go for when the answers are similar, particularly with the “put these in order”.

One technique I learned was to put myself in the shoes of a complete goody two shoes. In real life the SJT scenarios may happen and you may be expected to act differently but here, you have to pretend that doctors actually clock off when their shift ends. With the grey area questions, think to yourself, which one (when the two are put alone) is better. This should help you put yourself in a clearer mindset.

The SJT is normally ignored by most unis but some do look at it (an example being Kings College London) so don’t think that you can just ignore the section just because they say they do not consider it in your application.

Final Tips

I can’t say enough how much I loved Medify. I found it to be the closest to the real examination than anything else I had used. I made sure I practised on Medify every day for at least an hour, focusing mainly on my weaknesses.

I also used the green books to go through at my own pace to nail those techniques, they were also useful for when on the move and I could just do some practise inside the car. The apps you can get for free are also brilliant for on the move.

Basically, I can’t say any more than to keep practising. It is only two months of your life that you are going to have to push through it and when you get that score ….. it’s the best feeling in the world.


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