UCAT Preparation Tips: 15 Ways to Ace the UCAT



Set your heart on medical or dental school?

The UCAT is one of the many hurdles in your way, and despite being an aptitude test, it's not something that can be undertaken without preparation.

This article highlights the most important UCAT preparation tips to help you get past this challenging barrier to entry.

Just starting to learn about the UCAT? Check out our UCAT FAQ

1. Learn what skills the UCAT tests and how

What’s the first step towards acing the UCAT?

A great place to start is to gain some knowledge about each of the UCAT subtests:

UCAT subtest


What it's testing

44 questions, 21 minutes

What conclusions can be drawn from the information in a passage

29 questions, 31 minutes

Using logic to reach a decision, evaluate arguments and analyse statistical information

36 questions, 25 minutes

Solving problems using numerical skills and interpreting tables, graphs and charts

50 questions, 12 minutes

Adapting your thought process to different problem types, evaluating critically, generatating hypotheses

69 questions, 26 minutes

Demonstrating your understanding of integrity, perspective-taking, teamwork, resilience and adaptability

Note: UCATSEN has +25% time limits.

Why is it important to know the exam format?

  • Knowing what each section includes and how long you have will increase your confidence on test day.
  • It's very easy to lose track of time in the exam. If you’re aware how long each section is, you can use a ‘time stamps’ strategy (see below).
  • On top of this, each section has unique difficulties. Check out the rest of our tips to get a deeper insight into how to approach each section.

2. Use time stamps

Constantly checking the time during the test will not work in your favour. To stay focused, create time stamps, which work like milestones for your progress.

The easiest approach is to memorise how long each section is, as well as how many questions it contains (see the table above), and then divide the time and questions into four equal sections (see below). This way you can keep tabs on your progress.

You can use the time before the test starts or the one minute you get to prepare before each section.

Here’s an example, using the Verbal Reasoning section that requires you to answer 44 questions in 21 minutes:


Target # of questions









3. UCAT practice questions

How can you succeed in the UCAT without a fixed syllabus?

The simple answer is practice questions. The more you do, the better your score will be.

There’s nothing like practising under timed conditions to get used to the time pressure of the UCAT. Sitting mock exams at regular intervals also allows you to monitor your progress objectively.

Medify has 20,000+ questions, 24 full mock exams and 40+ mini-mocks, so you've got plenty to work with. We've also revised our practice question bank to help you improve your score.

4. UCAT strategy: data-led learning

As you work your way through our UCAT practice questions, you’ll build your own personalised data bank. This will help you create your own strategy for how to approach the exam.

If you are a maths whizz, Quantitative Reasoning might be a breeze for you, but what about Verbal Reasoning?

Doing questions without taking any time to reflect on how you did isn’t going to work. After doing a set of questions, make sure you take the time to look at what you got wrong and why.

Everyone has their own strengths and weaknesses, and the easy way to identify yours is with data.

Medify allows you to review your performance for each section, as well as the specific question types within each section. What’s more, your average score is compared to other students preparing for the UCAT – after all, the exam is also marked comparatively.

You can then work specifically on your weaker areas to maximise the efficiency of your UCAT preparation.

Medify's UCAT section performance overview

You also get a comprehensive overview of which sections you’ve attempted and how many questions you’ve answered. This helps you stick to your practice schedule.

Medify's UCAT progress calendar

Timing statistics let you compare your time-per-question with the average Medify user.

Medify's mock timing statistics

5. Only attempt a certain number of questions

If the time pressure becomes too much during your practice sessions, only answer 80% of the questions in a section and guess the remaining 20%. There’s no negative marking or penalty for wrong questions in the UCAT.

This gives you extra time for the questions you're focusing on, which means you have a better chance of getting them right. Getting 80% of the questions right will still get you a really high score. 

For example, if you’re struggling with Verbal Reasoning, attempt only 35 questions, as this will afford you 36 seconds per question rather than 28 seconds.

Try doing 100% of the questions and then 80% to see what difference it makes to your score.

6. UCAT exam tools

As the UCAT is computer-based, there are lots of handy keyboard shortcuts that can save you time. 

Learn these shortcuts and practise using them when you do mock exams and practice questions as you need to commit them to muscle memory.

UCAT exam keyboard shortcuts

From 2021, you can also use your keyboard to select the answers in the UCAT.

For example, if you think that an answer to a question is ‘C’, you can press ‘C’ on your keyboard, which can be faster than using your mouse to select the answer. Note that the drag-and-drop questions must still be answered using a mouse.

Illustration of the number pad on a keyboard for the UCAT exam
Find out more about UCAT shortcuts

7. Plan your UCAT preparation

Aim to start your preparation at least eight weeks before your UCAT exam date. This will give you enough time to prepare for the exam while balancing your other commitments, including school study and work experience.

Give yourself a target number of questions to answer and mocks to do.

How to use UCAT mock exams to prepare effectively

How long do you need to prepare?

Let’s say you want to do all 24 of Medify’s full mock exams and 40 mini-mocks. At a rate of three per week, it will take you 21 weeks to finish your preparation (and that’s a minimum). 

That would be an intense schedule, and most people learn better when information has a chance to sink in. Leaving time between mocks helps you learn between attempts, so make sure to balance quantity and quality in your revision strategy.

Many students prepare for less than 21 weeks, and often just for four to six weeks, but you need to make an honest assessment of your abilities. 

How many UCAT questions should I do and how long should I prepare for?

Use your performance to plan the revision time needed

We can help with this. Once you’ve tried a mock, we offer you feedback on your performance. Use this to assess what you need to focus on. If you did very poorly on several sections, consider leaving more time to revise.

Similarly, if you have a slightly nervous disposition, consider giving yourself more time. Stress doesn’t help anyone!

Some students take up to a year to allow the information time to sink in, and every student’s needs are different. Just concentrate on what’s right for you.

Creating realistic targets

Once you’ve worked out how many weeks you need, set yourself daily and weekly targets. Be realistic, as it’s easy to get carried away when you start before life gets in the way. Factor in breaks, days off, weekends, and unexpected events.

A typical example might be ten weeks of preparation and a target of 400 questions per week. That means you’d have to do 80 questions per day in addition to making notes on your progress, wider reading and doing the prep course itself.

Take a look at the SMART goals infographic below.

Take a deep dive into your planning

Go into detail with your plan. As you learn, prioritise certain sections and even subsections in a way that will allow you to achieve the best results.

You might find ‘Author’s Opinion’ questions particularly challenging in the VR section, for example. Medify lets you choose the type of questions you practise to make this easier.

Don’t worry if you’ve left your UCAT preparation a little late. It’s possible to prepare in four weeks, although this could lead to you cramming a lot of information and may leave you feeling very stressed.

8. Stay motivated

Make sure your goals are SMART:

SMART goals infographic: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, time-bound

Setting unrealistic goals, like getting 900 in your first mock exam after only a week of preparation, will only knock down your confidence and make it difficult to stay motivated. Realistic goals increase motivation as you tick them off your list.

Always remember why you’re doing the UCAT: because you want to go to university, study medicine or dentistry, and make tangible differences in people’s lives. 

Keeping the bigger picture in mind will help you stay focused and motivated throughout your UCAT preparation.

9. Do your reading

Even though there’s no textbook to revise from, there’s some reading that you should do in order to prepare yourself for the test. 

The most important thing to read is Good medical practice from the GMC. This has invaluable information on how doctors should conduct themselves and is really important for the Situational Judgement section, as it forms the basis of how you should respond to the scenarios. 

Medify also has a comprehensive Admissions Guide and blog, which provides a lot of information about the exam and getting into medical or dental school.

Additionally, in your run-up to the exam, spend 15–20 minutes a day reading news articles, as this will aid you in the Verbal Reasoning section. After skim reading the article, reflect on what its main conclusion was. 

Reading books about medicine and dentistry can also give you an insight into the day-to-day life within these professions. Try Medify’s top five books to read before medical school.

10. Book your test early

Booking your test early means that you have a greater choice in UCAT exam dates, so you’re more likely to find one that works according to your plan. It’ll also give you more time to plan your sessions. 

Knowing when you have to undertake this challenge is key for mentally preparing yourself, so don’t delay.

Check important UCAT 2024 dates for registration and booking information

11. Revise without screens

How much screen time have you had today? Probably too much.

Taking a break from screens is important. As well as reducing the strain on your eyes, it helps to improve your physical and psychosocial health. 

The good news is that you can practise some of the skills required in the UCAT without a screen.

Here are some UCAT skills you can practice in your spare time:

  • Skim reading for Verbal Reasoning – try skimming news stories each morning without vocalising every word in your head.
  • Mental maths for Quantitative Reasoning – calculate the areas of rooms in your head, work out percentage increases in the FTSE 100, or whenever you see a chart or graph, interpret the data quickly.
  • Listen to podcasts about the ethical dilemmas that a doctor or dentist can face, as this will prepare you for the Situational Judgement section, and will also give you a head start in your interview preparation.

There is no substitute for actual UCAT practice, but immersing yourself in ‘UCAT thinking’ can help you improve the necessary skills and reduce the potential stress from repeating the same type of activities too many times.

A studet reading the news paper for Verbal Reasoning Practice

12. Try our UCAT Skills Trainers

Just as mixing it up with no screens can help, trying different sorts of apps to improve your UCAT skills can give you a huge boost.

Our QR and VR Skills Trainers give you points as you build your foundations in a game-like environment. Through repetition, they build certain important skills into your muscle memory. 

Taking a break from UCAT mocks and practice questions can actually increase your productivity.

13. Don’t be afraid of a low score

Succeeding in the UCAT is really just a case of getting the hang of it. Take each low score as an opportunity to learn what you need to focus on. 

Maybe you need to work on your timing for VR or need to learn the types of patterns for AR so you can spot them faster.

Adopting a growth mindset can be the difference between losing your motivation and turning early failures into success.

14. Focus on your own progress

We see questions like ‘How long do I need to prepare for the UCAT?’ or ‘Which UCAT section is the hardest?’ all the time.

What’s the problem with these questions? Everyone’s different.

We all start off at different levels and often finish at different levels. Just because you struggle with something doesn’t mean you won’t ace it in the long run. 

By extension, this means that just because a peer is acing the mocks, it doesn’t mean they will outperform you. Having grit is about learning from your mocks and doing whatever it takes to be on point during the exam itself. Comparing your scores with others all the time may cause you to feel anxious and unmotivated.

Yes, the UCAT is about comparing your score with others, as this affects your likelihood of getting into medical school, but focus your time and energy into your preparation and into your exam. 

Graphic with the text 'Don't compare yourself to others'

15. Use trusted sources to prepare for the UCAT

One of the best sources for UCAT preparation materials is the online bank of official UCAT questions, but there aren’t many questions there, so you’ll very quickly run out of practice material. 

Medify’s UCAT Online Course contains over 20,000 questions, which is by far the largest UCAT resource in the world. Our mock exams are also continuously updated to bring you the most accurate UCAT exam experience in terms of the difficulty, style, question type, question distribution, timing and exam platform.

For example, we’ve updated all of our mocks and mini-mocks to reflect the latest UCAT UK changes, and just upgraded our UCAT mock exams 13-24 to enrich your preparation journey.

Access example video responses to interview questions from real students

Learn More

Succeed in your medical school interview. Start today for only £25

Membership will expire on 31 March 2025 23:59 UK time

Enroll Now

Boost your BMAT score with 2,000+ practice questions

Discover More

Write your personal statement. Try Medify Today

Buy Now

2 in 3 students prepared for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Boost your UCAT score with 24 mocks and 40+ mini-mocks

Discover MoreBuy Now

2 in 3 students prepared for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Boost your UCAT score with 24 mocks and 40+ mini-mocks

Discover MoreBuy Now

Boost your BMAT score with 2,000+ practice questions

Discover More

Write your personal statement. Try Medify Today

Buy Now

2 in 3 students prepared for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Boost your UCAT score with 24 mocks and 40+ mini-mocks

Discover MoreBuy Now

2 in 3 students prepared for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Boost your UCAT score with 24 mocks and 40+ mini-mocks

Discover MoreBuy Now

2 in 3 students prepared for UCAT with Medify. Try Medify Now

Boost your UCAT score with 24 mocks and 40+ mini-mocks

Discover MoreBuy Now