Part 9: UCAT Roadmap – A Study Plan for UCAT Success

In the final part of our Beginner's guide to UCAT, we reveal the Matrix UCAT Roadmap for developing a personalised UCAT study plan.

The Matrix UCAT Roadmap for Success

In this article, Matrix UCAT Experts reveal the ultimate study plan to ensure you ace the UCAT exam. Follow this timeline and develop the skills and experience for UCAT success.

Exam success comes down to your ability to plan and work ahead.

In Year 12, when you have the HSC to contend with, you definitely don’t want to leave your UCAT preparation until the last minute.

 

In this article we discuss:

What’s the timeline of UCAT?

To plan out your study for UCAT, you need to know what happens and when.

Below are the key dates you must mark on your calendar and not forget:

  1. 23 September, 2019 – The first Matrix UCAT 2-day and 5-day Preparation Courses begins
  2. March, 2020 – Registration and booking for the UCAT opens (Pearson VUE is yet to release the exact date)
  3. Mid May, 2020 – Registration closes (Pearson VUE is yet to release the exact date)
  4. Mid May, 2020 – Booking closes (Pearson VUE is yet to release the exact date)
  5. 2 and 9 June, 2020 – The final Matrix UCAT Preparation Course will be run
  6. 1 – 31 July, 2020 – UCAT testing begins
  7. Early September 2020 – Results are delivered to universities

 

Planning for your UCAT year

Now, you know when things are happening, you need to start planning out your time during the lead up to Year 12 and the examination period in July.

But don’t worry, to make your life easier we’ve given you a timeline for UCAT and a checklist of actions that will help you make the most of your UCAT preparation.

Matrix UCAT Roadmap

Image: UCAT Roadmap for success

Let’s look at these things in a bit more detail.

 

Step 1: Understand the fundamental UCAT skills required

In October you can kickstart your UCAT preparation by understanding clearly the fundamental skills required in each subtest for UCAT success.

Read

Read regularly and start reading more broadly. Read newspaper articles, non-fiction novels, and essays.

While general knowledge is not essential to success in the UCAT, the skill of being able to read and extract information from a text quickly and accurately will be hugely beneficial.

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Read as widely as you can

Practice comprehension

You want to practice your comprehension skills – they will prove essential in Verbal Reasoning. These skills will also help you work quickly and accurately in the Quantitative Reasoning, Decision Making, and Situational Judgement subtests.

If you want to know what sort of comprehension skills you need, check out the articles on Verbal Reasoning and Situational Judgement in this Guide. The Matrix UCAT Preparation course will help you develop the strategies you need to approach these sections efficiently.

 

Step 2: Cover the fundamental skills

In December you should begin working on the fundamental skills that will help you excel in the UCAT. The two fundamental skills that you should improve are:

  1. Speed-reading
  2. Mental Arithmetic

Practice speed-reading

Speed-reading is a key skill required for the Verbal Reasoning subtest.

This is the subtest where students score the lowest on average.

You must read 11 passages and answer 4 questions each in 21 minutes. Each passage is between 150 and 400 words long. That means you have 2 minutes to answer each question without taking into consideration how long it will take you to read each passage.

Speed reading will help you read and process the information in a shorter amount of time. Enabling you to finish the section without needing to rush and make mistakes.

This is a useful video about learning how to speed-read:

Mental Arithmetic

Having the ability to do mental maths quickly and accurately will help you in the Quantitative Reasoning subtest.

In this subtest, you need to answer 36 questions in 24 minutes – 1 in every 40 seconds.

You must be able to do quick sums in your head. Matrix UCAT students will do mental arithmetic drills to develop these skills. This free arithmetic game can help you consolidate the skills.

 

Step 3: Acquire the UCAT techniques and strategies

In January you should acquire the techniques and strategies to quickly solve UCAT questions. The key to UCAT success depend on your ability to apply the right techniques to solve problems accurately under time pressure.

Matrix runs a 5 day or 2 full day UCAT preparation courses that will help you build your logical thinking abilities, critical thinking skills and moral and ethical standards.

Familiarise yourself with the structure of the UCAT exam

Remember, the UCAT consists of five subtests:

  • Verbal Reasoning – This section is a comprehension test. You have 44 questions to answer in 21 minutes.
  • Decision Making – You must parse complex information and make a sound judgement. You must answer 29 questions in 31 minutes.
  • Quantitative Reasoning – You need to evaluate numerical information and answer 36 arithmetic questions in 24 minutes.
  • Abstract Reasoning – You need to look at series of patterns and infer the correct sequences and sets. You need to answer 55 questions in 13 minutes!
  • Situational Judgement – You will read a series of passages and make a judgement about appropriate behaviour in that situation. You must answer 69 questions in 26 minutes.

 Register for the UCAT exam

UCAT registration opens on 1 March 2019 and closes 16 May 2019.

You need to pick a date in July. Ideally, you should choose a date where you have a couple of days free before-hand so you are not rushed in the lead up to the exam.

It would be wise to take a slot in the school holidays to make it as stress free as possible.

You should make sure you book early so you can get the date you want.

UCAT-calendar-image-2020

 

Attempt the free practice tests on the UKCAT website

It’s important that you get as much practice as you can.

The UKCAT website has a number of practice tests you can take. You should take the time to do as many of these as you can, to practice for the day.

guide-ucat-roadmap-timeline-for-ucat preparation-UKCAT-practice-tests-screenshot-of-UKCAT-practice-online-tests

Image: Screenshot of the Pearson VUE UKCAT online Practice tests. While UKCAT still bears a different name to UCAT, the test is now identical.

 

Familiarise yourself with the types of questions in each subtest

The different subsets will also have different styles of questions:

Verbal Reasoning Subtest

  1. ‘True, False, or Can’t Tell’ questions
  2. ‘Incomplete statement’ questions
  3. ‘According to the passage’ questions
  4. ‘Except’ questions
  5. ‘Most likely’ questions

Decision Making Subtest

  1. ‘Logical puzzles’ questions
  2. ‘Syllogisms’ questions
  3. ‘Interpreting information’ questions
  4. ‘Recognising assumptions’ questions
  5. ‘Venn diagrams’ questions
  6. ‘Probabilistic’ reasoning questions

Quantitative Reasoning Subtest

  1. ‘Percentages’ questions
  2. ‘Proportionality’ questions
  3. ‘Rates’ questions
  4. ‘Averages’ questions

Abstract Reasoning Subtest

  1.  ‘A, B, or Neither’ questions
  2. ‘Sequence and series’ questions
  3. ‘Analogies’ questions
  4. ‘Best fit’ questions

Situational Judgement Subtest

  1. ‘Importance or appropriateness’ questions
  2. ‘Most/least appropriate’ questions

Each of these types of question will take a slightly different approach. You should make sure that you are confident in each of these 21 different question types. If you haven’t already you should read through the relevant sections of this Beginner’s Guide to UCAT where we cover some strategies for each type.

 

Develop strategies to approach each question type

You want to have a dedicated plan of attack for each of the question types listed above. It will be a useful idea to keep a page of strategies that you can use as a cheat sheet.

A good method for consolidating your knowledge is to test yourself by writing down the strategies you’ll need to use for each section.

We’ve got provided some useful example in the different sections in this Beginner’s Guide to UCAT. You will learn about these in more detail and practice applying them during the Matrix UCAT preparation course.

 

Identify your areas of weakness

To build and consolidate your skills, you need to be honest in appraising your strengths and weaknesses. You want to figure out what your weaknesses are and target them by learning and practice the required skills.

You then need to perfect those skills with regular practice – taking as many practice questions for those question types as you can muster.

This approach will help you get on top of things before life starts to get hectic in Term 3.

 

Step 4: Train your mental stamina (June – July)

With UCAT just around the corner, you need to be turning your knowledge and skills into mastery of the different sub-tests.

With that in mind, let’s take a look at what you should be doing over May and June to get ready for the UCAT in July.

 

Practice, practice, practice

You won’t have time to learn new skills in Term 3, your school workload will have ramped up significantly and you’ll have ongoing assessments for your different subjects due throughout the term.

Instead, what you want to focus on is consolidating your skills and techniques and mastering them. How do you do this? Practice, and then practice some more.

Find practice papers and online tests and attempt one a week. Pay attention to working against the clock. You want to be comfortable working under pressure with strict time-constraints.

This will help you do the second important thing, which is…

 

Identify your areas for improvement

All of this practice will show you what you are good at, and also what you are struggling with. This information is important.

The truth is that there’s going to be a diminishing return on the amount of time you put into areas where you’re already adept.

Because of this, you should target the areas you struggle with, these areas are where you stand to make the greatest gains and improvements.

 

Planning the July / UCAT break

The other thing you need to do in Term 3 is planning your July Holiday break and UCAT study.

THere’s no point focusing all your energies on UCAT if it means your going to damage the other marks you need to get into your university degree.

Things you need to plan around:

  • The date you’ve booked your UCAT for
  • The areas you need to improve on for UCAT
  • Your study workload for school
  • Your assessment schedule for school in Term 4 (for example, when are your HSC Trials, do you have any other assessments in the period after the holidays before Trials?)

If you haven’t already, the start of Term 3 is definitely the final opportunity to set up a study timetable that will help you balance your school subjects and UCAT study.

Consider the student’s timetables below:

guide-ucat-roadmap-timeline-for-ucat-preparation-UCAT-Study-timetable-term-a-students-study-timetable

Incorporate your UCAT study into your weekly term study rhythm

You’ll also need to plan for the Holidays, too!

guide-ucat-roadmap-timeline-for-ucat-preparation-UCAT-Study-timetable-holiday

Don’t forget to plan your UCAT study for the holidays, too!

You’ll notice that this student has included consistent UCAT study into their schedule so they don’t rush things at the last minute.

 

What should you be doing in the week before you sit UCAT?

Now that you’ve reached the school holidays, it’s time to finalise your knowledge and do your final dry runs before the big day.

Here’s what you should do over the final 7 days.

 

Review questions that you found difficult or challenging

There’s a fair chance that you’re still going to have trouble with one or more of the sections.

This is your last opportunity to go over these questions and practice the required skills. You want to focus your energy on those questions you struggled with over ones that you now find quite easy.

Again, timed practice is really important to get you used to the pressures of this strictly timed exam.

 

Review your strategies and specific approaches to different question types

While it is important to work on strengthening your weaknesses. You should also dedicate some time each day to ensuring you are working across the different strategies that you require for the different subtests and their various question types.

A good way to practice your knowledge of these strategies is to write up a cheat-sheet with your different strategies for each question type.

When you can write up the whole list from memory without referring to your notes, you know you’ve got this.

 

Practice some relaxation strategies

You want to make sure that you can keep a lid on your stress and avoid getting anxious. The exam is pretty time intensive, so you need to be able to stay calm and focused.

guide-ucat-roadmap-timeline-for-ucat-preparation-learn-to-meditate-practice-mindfulness-a-garden-gnome-meditating-in-a-a-garden-amongst-violets

Learn to meditate and practice mindfulness

 

In the week before, you should learn some relations and calming strategies:

  • Learn some breathing exercises
  • Practice some mindfulness drills
  • Develop an exam ritual

These skills will also be very useful and important later on when you sit the Trial HSC and HSC exams.

 

What should you do in the 24 hours before you sit UCAT?

One thing you don’t want to be doing in the final 24hrs before your UCAT is cramming.

Instead, you should do the following:

Final study session

The afternoon before have a light study session and review your notes. Maybe try a question type from each subtest you struggle with, but don’t fall into the trap of cramming and attempting a full paper.

You don’t want to exhaust yourself or make your self-anxious the night before.

Get a good night’s sleep

Don’t stay up late!

Being rested and fresh is the most important thing that will help you at this point.

Get an early night and make sure that you’re well rested the following day.

Have a light breakfast

Your brain needs fuel, but it needs the right kinds of fuel.

You don’t want to be wolfing down a stodgy full English breakfast and foods high in carbs.

Instead, eat something with a decent serve of protein and omega-3, like an egg on wholegrain toast with smoked fish like smoked salmon or trout. If you don’t eat meat, eggs, or fish, try museli with some berries and a protein rich yoghurt.

You may find some appetising food suggestions here.

One thing you shouldn’t do is drink a lot of coffee or tea. If you don’t normally consume coffee, this isn’t the day to start.

guide-ucat-roadmap-timeline-for-ucat-preparation-eat-healthy-bowl-of-avocado-poached-egg-wholemeal-toast-slice-lemon-smoked-salmon-yummy-brain-food

Make sure you eat a healthy breakfast

 

Review your notes

The morning is the last time you want to run through your notes.

Don’t try and learn new things.

Don’t do practice questions, just review and reaffirm your knowledge. You’re an expert now.

Make sure you’ve packed everything you need

Before you head off to the Pearson VUE testing centre, you need to make sure that you’ve packed all things you need:

  • Required identification: Passport or Driver’s license to register when you get there
  • A good pen with plenty of ink
  • An HB pencil
  • A book to read and relax with while you wait
  • A bottle of water
  • A snack, like a low-sugar muesli bar or banana,  in case you get a little peckish before hand

 

Get to the exam centre with plenty of time

Leave home with plenty of time to spare.

You’re always going to be better off getting to an exam centre well ahead of time and getting bored, rather than running late and panicking and stressing before you even sit down to the computer in the exam room.

Take a book, if you’re early you can sit, read, and relax for a while before things kick off.

 

Breathe and stay calm, you’ve got this!

Exam anxiety is totally a thing. While it may seem like a lot rides on your UCAT result, it is just an exam. Staying calm is really important once your in the room.

It’s worthwhile to run through your relaxation techniques in your head before you sit down to the exam, they will be more important now.

Remember that you’ve already done all of the hard work and that that is what will get you through the exam and into the university course that you want!

Good luck, from the team at Matrix!

 

Learn how to ace UCAT!

Discover the framework for UCAT preparation at the Matrix UCAT Seminar. Our UCAT specialists will explain everything you need to know about preparing for your UCAT.

 

© Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au, 2019. Unauthorised use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Matrix Education and www.matrix.edu.au with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

 

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