What to do on the day of your UKCAT?

Prepare your body

It takes stamina to get through 2 hours of intense UKCAT testing. Taking mock tests is a great way to build up your mental strength and help avoid fatigue. It’s the cerebral equivalent of training for a 10k run: you would prepare your body by running similar distances beforehand.

However, it’s easy to overlook the benefits of actual physical exercise. As a student, you may want to stay sitting at your desk, but physical exercise can further boost your brainpower: oxygenating your brain, helping you learn and aiding sleep. Plus, activity makes your body release endorphins, which help you tackle anxiety and stress.

Prepare your mind

Here are some tips for removing possible cognitive friction in taking the UKCAT.

Study for your UKCAT at the same time of day you’ll be taking your test: this helps build a routine, ensures you are wide awake during your test and trains your brain to be at its best when you need it most.

Familiarise yourself with the layout of the questions on the screen. Processing how everything looks beforehand saves time (and brainpower) on the day. You can do this with the official UKCAT preparation material and also our UKCAT online course.

Practise the test with a computer rather than with books or notes. On test day you’ll be using a computer, so try to replicate the UKCAT environment as much as possible. Otherwise, your brain has to process the ‘new’ way of answering questions.

Remember to rest: you risk burn-out if you study too hard. Your motivation may drop or you might ‘peak’ before the test. Your body needs rest too! Eat well, don’t miss meals, make sure you get a good night’s sleep in the days before the test (avoid late-night cramming or staying awake into the early hours) and keep yourself hydrated.

On your UKCAT test day

On test day you will be expected to arrive 15 minutes before your scheduled test time, so you have time to check in at the reception.

You need to bring:

  • Your test confirmation email
  • Photographic ID from the approved list

Make sure you know how to get to the test centre. Consider taking a map, but if you are intending to rely on your smartphone to navigate make sure it is charged and that you have spare data.

Remember that buses and trains can be late and that traffic may be heavier than you had hoped, so allow extra time whichever way you are travelling.

Food and drink

No food or drink is allowed in the test room. So consider your pre-test diet. Foods that release energy slowly (that is, which have a low glycaemic index, or GI) will stop you from feeling hungry during the test. Eat protein and low-GI carbohydrates: meat or baked beans, brown (whole grain) rice or pasta, or wholegrain breakfast cereals or muesli. However, don’t stray far from your usual diet on the day of the test in case you feel sick. You may want to try these foods out at the same time of day a few weeks in advance.

Be wary of energy drinks and coffee. If you aren’t used to them, don’t drink them, especially in large quantities. Caffeine can acutely increase anxiety, and the sugar rush of an energy drink is soon followed by insulin slamming on the brakes, leaving you feeling worse than before. This is far from ideal on the day of a long test. These products are no substitute for a good night’s sleep, eating properly and taking some exercise.

Also, ensure that you are not dehydrated. Drink water, but don’t overdo it: you don’t want to be needing the bathroom while the timer is ticking.

Test environment

The photo shows a typical UKCAT test environment.

It may be familiar if you’ve taken a UK driving theory exam, which can take place in the same test centres.

There’s no audio element to the test, but the headphones can block out any noise that might disrupt your concentration. You may be given earplugs as an alternative option to the headphones.

You will have access to a basic onscreen calculator for the Quantitative Reasoning and Decision Analysis tests.

You will also be given a laminated booklet and permanent marker pen to make notes on (check that the pen works before you start the test!). Consider using it for:

Quantitative Reasoning: noting down numbers

Abstract Reasoning: writing down mnemonics

Decision Making: noting calculations and drawing diagrams

When to rest during the test

There are 1-minute introductions between each subtest. You can skip these, but we recommend using the time to mentally refresh yourself.

Remember that no food or drink is allowed in the test room, see the previous page on Test-day preparation.

If you experience problems in your test

If you experience problems affecting your ability to complete the test, raise your hand immediately.

The administrator will try to resolve the problem straightaway. If this isn’t possible, it will be recorded that you had a problem during the test.
Hardware or software problems, noise, sudden illness or other distractions can all be reported.

You will be given a reference number to quote when contacting Pearson VUE, the test providers. You will need to make contact straight after you leave the examination room, or as soon as possible. Don’t wait until the next day, because Pearson VUE ‘will only consider incidents reported after the day of testing in exceptional circumstances’. They will then investigate and report their findings to you.

Keep the reference number: you might need it again.

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