When is the latest I can start on UCAT preparation?

Imagine this for one moment. The UCAT exam is in just one month and you still haven’t started preparation.

While it is easy to dismiss this image or push it to the back of your mind, the reality is that many students constantly push back UCAT preparation to deal with their increasingly frantic Year 12 workload. There will always be another math test, chemistry exam or English essay to prepare for, but all the while July draws ever closer.

With only one month (or less) to prepare for the UCAT, your chances of achieving success are very low. The exam consists of 14 different question types that require time to be learned and mastered, meaning that UCAT preparation becomes a herculean task when left to the last minute.

On average, most students require around 150-200 hours to learn the skills tested by the UCAT and complete several practice exams. Therefore, if you only start on preparation 30 days before the UCAT, completing even 150 hours (the more conservative estimate) would require you to spend around 5 hours per day studying for the UCAT – something that is simply not possible to do consistently over a month given the demands of school tests and assignments.

To illustrate the importance of starting early, the table below calculates the amount of UCAT study that early- or late-starting students will need to complete per day in order to be ready for the exam.

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To be ready in time for the UCAT, the most crucial factor is to start on UCAT preparation during (or before) the summer holidays before Year 12 starts. Dedicating 2-3 hours each day to studying for the UCAT is much more feasible during the holidays, as you don’t need to juggle UCAT preparation with schoolwork. Best of all, if you manage to finish learning most of the UCAT skills and begin developing proficiency during this period, you will only need to spend a short amount of time working on your exam-taking techniques later in the year.

But won’t I forget what I studied if I start on UCAT preparation too early?

Just as schools teach their math curriculum progressively over the course of a whole year instead of cramming it into the final month before exams, UCAT preparation is best done consistently and over an extended period. Learning the methods to solve each question type over a prolonged period of time allows you to grasp the concepts more fully and to retain what you learn. In contrast, rushed and last-minute study leads to weaker performance and poor retention, meaning that you are likely to make mistakes or forget what you studied (as many students realise when they cram for school exams!).

As explained previously, starting earlier also greatly reduces the stress involved in UCAT preparation and allows you to do a far better job then you otherwise would. 150 hours of preparation is the minimum amount of time required to become proficient – so if you start early, you will have months to improve your proficiency and to iron out any exam nerves!

Is it ever too early to start?

No. There is no downside to beginning UCAT preparation earlier: the earlier you start preparing, the better. With more time to perfect your techniques and less accumulated stress, starting early offers enormous benefits in exchange for a small amount of time invested earlier.

In terms of your test-taking techniques, starting UCAT preparation earlier allows you to develop greater speed and accuracy when solving UCAT questions, as you have had more time to review and perfect your approach to each question type. By starting earlier, you will also gain greater confidence and feel less pressured on the test day.

In fact, starting early could mean the difference between outperforming your peers on the UCAT exam and making critical errors during the exam because you have not completed enough practice tests to become accustomed to the pressures of the exam.

How can iCanMed help?

The extended UCAT courses offered by iCanMed help to guide and direct your UCAT preparation. Achieving UCAT success by yourself is extremely difficult, as the UCAT is designed to test a particular set of skills; the best way to master these skills is to learn the necessary techniques via a structured curriculum. What iCanMed has done is create a course that focuses on not only the questions themselves but also the actual methods for solving them, meaning that you are equipped to tackle any UCAT question you may encounter. With in-depth video solutions breaking down and demonstrating the application of UCAT strategies to different questions, our course reduces the inefficiency and uncertainty that students experience when they try to study for the UCAT without help.

In addition, iCanMed provides 24-hour support, meaning that we can help you to construct your UCAT preparation schedule or review your progress with you. This ensures that you are setting realistic, achievable goals for your UCAT study without compromising your school work and other commitments.

Lastly, our three-stage preparation process covers 21 steps to refine your UCAT abilities. This process provides you with a consistent timeline and practical goals to achieve in your UCAT study, and helps you to make progress in your preparation earlier rather than later.

For more UCAT tips and information, keep an eye on our website and Facebook page.