Resitting the UCAT as a Reapplicant

UCAT

30/11/2023

Not getting into medical or dental school can be a hugely frustrating and disappointing experience, but it doesn’t mean it’s the end of your admissions journey. We all fall down at some points in life, and that’s okay. What matters is how you pick yourself back up, reflect on what happened, and use your experience as motivation to achieve your dream. 

As an aspiring medical or dental student, you’ll know that the University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT) is a major obstacle that you need to overcome as part of entry requirements. After all, your UCAT score can make or break an application. As this score is only valid for a year, regardless of how you did previously, you’ll be required to sit the test again. 

Try not to let this negatively affect you. Don’t forget that you have a unique advantage over new applicants as you’ve already sat the exam. You know exactly what’s expected of you, what sections and question types you excelled at, and where you fell short. Use this as an opportunity to increase your score when you sit the UCAT again, in order to maximise your chances of acceptance.

In this article, we share our top advice and suggested approaches for resitting the UCAT as a reapplicant, to get you one step closer to securing your spot at medical or dental school. Before delving into the specifics, remember to revisit the basics of UCAT preparation in our UCAT blogs.

Table of contents

Adopt a fresh and positive mindset
Review your preparation resources
Go through the UCAT study cycle
Be intentional with UCAT practice
Check for any updates
Simulate the UCAT exam
Prepare for test day

Adopt a fresh and positive mindset

If you previously did well in the UCAT, you shouldn’t become complacent and assume that you’ll perform just as well again. UCAT tests certain skills which can erode away with time if they’re not practised. If your UCAT score was disappointing, now is an opportune time to reflect on your shortcomings and start afresh to change the outcome. 

Going through the process of medical or dental school application for a second (or third) time can be challenging, so it’s important to keep a positive mindset. You aren’t the same person who made that application last time – you have new experiences, and potential for growth, that can help you to secure an offer. 

Reapplicants can bring greater maturity, motivation, and insight to dentistry or medicine applications, having worked longer and harder to try and secure a spot at medical or dental school. So the key takeaway is to learn from your previous application, and use this knowledge to your advantage when you resit your UCAT (and throughout the reapplication process for medicine or dentistry). Don’t forget to check that your desired universities accept reapplicants as you’ll want to make every application count.

Review your preparation resources

UCAT is an aptitude test that assesses skills required for medical and dental professionals. As a result, there is no formal syllabus or curriculum as you would have for school exams. This means it’s critical to understand how to prepare effectively by carefully choosing preparation materials from trusted sources.

You should work through the official UCAT mock exams and question banks and use as many supplementary resources as needed, such as an online UCAT preparation course and YouTube videos. If you're looking for more hands-on support, you could also check UCAT courses and tutors.

Engaging with resources in a meaningful way is also important. Reflect on the resource(s) that you used last time by using the following flowchart:

Graphic showing a flowchart of how to engage with UCAT resources

Go through the UCAT study cycle

We recommend going through the following cycle to prepare for the UCAT:

1) Simulation – sit a full length mock exam to assess your current ability level
2) Reflection – review your performance to identify your weaknesses
3) Learning – go through tutorials to learn how to overcome your weaknesses
4) Practice – do some practice questions/mini-mocks and experiment with different strategies

Finally, sit another mock exam, to restart the UCAT study cycle. Repeating this cycle will enable you to keep improving your performance over time. Take a look at our UCAT revision roadmap for a full breakdown of our recommended approach to UCAT preparation.

Be intentional with UCAT practice

While the ideal time frame for UCAT preparation will vary from person to person, the general consensus is that the longer you give yourself, the less stressed and better prepared you are. We also know that in Australia, students prepare much earlier than students in the UK, and score higher in the UCAT.

Having said this, what matters most is being intentional with your practice. This means practising in an effective way, such as following our UCAT study cycle above. After all, it wouldn’t make sense to study for the UCAT for 6+ months, but spend this time using ineffective techniques such as ignoring weaknesses and only practising what you’re already good at. You should aim to give yourself as much time as required to go through the UCAT study cycle as many times as needed, while avoiding burnout. 

You can use your previous preparation period as a benchmark:

  • Did you start to cram in revision just before your test date? 
  • Were you unable to significantly increase your score while preparing?
  • Did you give yourself plenty of time to prepare but still didn’t get the score you wanted? 

If you ran out of time while preparing for the UCAT previously, give yourself longer to revise this time round, while also ensuring you’re intentional with your practice. 

If you felt you had enough time to prepare, or struggled to make significant progress while revising, take a look at your study approaches. For instance, you may need to spend more time practising subtests that you find more challenging (although remember not to neglect the ones that you naturally find easier). Don’t be afraid to experiment with a range of techniques to see what works best for you.

Check for any updates

Check for any changes to the UCAT since you last took the test, such as new question types and updates to rules, which will be communicated on the official UCAT website. You can also bookmark our live updates page and refer to it regularly for the latest news on medical and dental school admissions. 

You should also check the latest UCAT requirements for dentistry and medicine courses. Look at how each university will use the UCAT, and be aware of any cut-off scores, so you can apply tactically to increase your chances of securing your spot. For instance, if you don’t score highly in the UCAT when you resit the exam, you should apply to universities that don’t place as much weight on the UCAT. If you achieve a high UCAT score, apply for dental or medical schools that heavily weigh the UCAT.

Simulate the UCAT exam

Try to simulate the UCAT test environment as much as you can when you practise, such as sitting mocks at the same time as when you'll take the test, and under the same conditions (don’t pause or restart tests, and try to avoid any distractions). Make sure you sit enough mock exams throughout your preparation period to really hone your skills. 

Here are some other things to keep in mind when sitting a mock exam:

  • Use keyboard shortcuts and the on-screen calculator
  • Pacing yourself is key – learn how to tackle UCAT timing 
  • Try not to get caught out by challenging questions – if you find a question too hard, guess or flag it, and then move on 
  • There’s no negative marking for the UCAT, so provide an answer for every question 
  • Don’t be afraid to guesstimate if needed – that means looking at the answer options and trying to identify which one is the most sensible, and which ones are complete outliers that you want to avoid

Check out our article on how to ace the UCAT for more tips.

Prepare for test day

Make sure that you apply any learnings from when you previously sat the UCAT. Reflect on what went well and didn’t go well to ensure that you resit the test in the best state possible. For example:

  • Did you arrive late to the test centre? 
  • Did you drink too much coffee the night before and couldn’t sleep well? 
  • Did you drink too much liquid beforehand and had to rush to the toilet during the test? 

Don’t forget, the period leading up to test day is equally as important as the day itself. Look after your mental and physical health during this time – this includes having a healthy and balanced diet, getting enough sleep, and avoiding burnout (such as not overdoing practice questions close to the exam). 

If you experience heightened anxiety on your test day, take comfort in knowing that everyone will be feeling stress to some degree during your UCAT exam. Your heart will probably be racing, but you'll soon get into a flow state where anxiety won't always be there. Remember that every time a UCAT section finishes, you have one minute. We recommend taking a moment to relax, forgetting about the section you just did, and focusing on what’s next.

For more information on what to do in the period leading up to your UCAT, as well as how to tackle the day itself, read our UCAT test day preparation article.

Succeed in the UCAT with Medify

2 in 3 UK medical school applicants use our UCAT Online Course to prepare for the UCAT. Here’s why:

  • Simulate the UCAT exam with 24 full mocks
  • Reflect on your performance and pinpoint weaknesses with performance feedback
  • Learn how to address your weaknesses with 50+ hours of video tutorials
  • Practise weaker topics with 20,000+ questions and 40+ mini-mocks

We've also upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13–24 and revised our practice question bank to enrich your preparation journey.

Not ready to jump into our course just yet? Get a free taster of our UCAT Online Course and check out free UCAT practice questions and test resources.

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