Depending on when you are planning to sit the UCAT, you may be reading this article a month or year out from the exam. I will be sharing some valuable insight into how you can deal with stress while preparing for UCAT which can be applied at any time. But firstly, to deal with stress effectively means you need to identify and understanding the source of your stress
Stress is usually caused by a combination of multiple factors. However, the most significant factor is the fear of failure and living its consequences. The fear of failure is maybe so crippling to some students where the accumulated pressure could get to the stage where doubts start to arise about one’s ability, intelligence and even the motivation to pursue their dream course in healthcare. If this is what you are going through right now, drop everything you are doing and pay attention to the following points:
Reality check #1 – As impossible as it may feel to get into medicine or dentistry, just remember, you are not the first in your situation.
There are most likely a few hundred students who are currently studying at the medical school you are aiming for, with a few thousand more who have graduated and now practising as doctors. Every one of these people went through the same selection process as you did, they all had to bite the bullet and find ways to overcome their obstacles.
Mentality: If other people have done it, I can do it too!
Reality check #2 – As much as you want to gain entrance into your dream course, only give yourself enough pressure to aim for one spot in the intake, nothing more.
A common feeling amongst pre-med and pre-dent students is the need to be competitive. Sometimes, however, the feeling of competitiveness alters reality and puts a lot more pressure on the shoulders than necessary. The reality is, you do not need to beat EVERYONE applying for medicine or dentistry to get a spot, even though it may feel like you need to. There is no medical or dentistry course that only accepts one student per intake, so stop thinking about it that way. You only need to focus on getting one spot and what you need to do to yourself to get there. Focus on finding your weaknesses, fix them up and find more. As you keep doing this, you will become a better version of yourself day after day. Competition only comes in the form of self-competition at the end of the day.
Mentality: Focus on yourself and what you need to do to outcompete yourself constantly.
Reality check #3 – Realising the world doesn’t stop just because of one or two sub-par test performances
This question I get asked all the time ‘what are my chances of getting into medicine? I just got my results back from a few term tests, and I did worse than I expected’.
There are two ways to tackle this issue, first, figure out whether or not the test you took contributes to any part of your final ATAR or GPA and second, focus on learning from your mistakes.
Scenario #1: When the test doesn’t contribute
If the test does not contribute towards a final grade then do yourself a favour: be happy about discovering your weaknesses and the opportunity to fix them well before the most important exams. Students who constructively deal with sub-par test performances tend to perform much better in latter assessments.
Scenario #2: When the test does contribute
If the test does contribute towards your final ATAR or GPA, whip out your calculator and figure out exactly how much the test was weighted in the grand scheme of things. I’ve seen too many students lose hope about getting into the dream course over a test that only counted towards 0.5% of the year’s work. Resilient students who are realistic and work towards the future do much better than those who are not resilient. They are more positive, confident and driven to achieve their goals.
Either way, you will need to put in the work to make sure you improve your previous performance. Follow the below four steps to grow from this experience:
1. List down exactly what you found difficult in the test e.g. recalling the content, interpreting the question correctly, etc.
2. Uncover the reasons as to why you encountered the issues in step 1 and list them e.g. started studying too late, studying strategy did not allow me to recall information, was not familiar enough with question styles, etc.
3. Do research on improving the causes of the issues in step 2. Once you find something that makes sense, make a plan to implement it.