Okay, this will be a simple one. You’ve read through all my resources, studied hard, practiced as much as you can and it’s the night before UKCAT test day. Put the books away, unwind and check out these final tips to make the experience go more smoothly.
1. Get a good night’s sleep
It’s simple but good advice - as much as some of us (myself very much included) don’t like to admit it, you won’t perform at your very best if you’re tired and irritable. The stress of taking the exam is enough, and you don’t want to add to it by making silly mistakes and losing focus. Eliminate all light and noise from your room, and if that means using a sleep mask, earplugs and the like, so be it.
2. Get there early
Ideally, go to the test centre a few days (or more) before your test to make sure you know exactly where it is and how to get inside. I assumed that I’d be able to rely on GPS to get me there, which turned out not to be the case as my mobile data promptly ran out more than 10 minutes away from the centre. Thankfully the strangers of Newcastle-upon-Tyne were friendly and accommodating as they so often are to bleary-eyed students in the mornings, but the added anxiety of having to find the damned place was not something I needed.
3. Don’t cram in the morning
Some of you will be very tempted to do this, but I really wouldn’t bother. The UKCAT measures attributes that are much better honed over weeks than days or hours, as it’s more about being used to the type of question you might be asked rather than the content. To reiterate, it’s about HOW you approach the test rather than short-term memory games for the most part, where elements such as time management and triage become much more important. Cramming in the morning is very unlikely to help you, go in with a clear head and just do your best.
4. Do not panic during the test
Again, this might seem obvious but it’s worth thinking about. The UKCAT, as with the BMAT is very time-intensive by design, so getting worked up during the test could cost the few precious seconds it takes to answer another question. I strongly recommend reading up on a few breathing exercises, such as the 4-7-8 method (in for four seconds, hold for seven and exhale for eight). I found myself with a tiny smidgeon of time to spare after the first section during my test, and getting my heart rate under control before the next started made me feel much calmer and more in control.
5. When it’s over, it’s over
One of the small reprieves of the UKCAT is that you get your result immediately upon finishing it, which removes the trepidation of a marking period. You may only take the UKCAT once during each application cycle, so take your mark and be proud of it, knowing that you did your best. Instead of fretting over small mistakes you think you might have made, now you should be looking ahead, thinking of the best places to apply with that score - research average cutoff scores for different schools, as well as graduate entry courses if applicable to you.
With all that said, just try to do your best. Everyone is just as stressed as you are about this, but remember what it’s all about - just one of the many hoops you’ll need to jump through to achieve that goal of becoming one of the UK’s best and brightest young doctors.
Be sure, if you haven’t already, to look at my other UKCAT preparation articles and I’m always happy to answer any questions you might have via the contact form.