UCAT Timing Tips to Manage Your Time Efficiently

by Giulia Bankov June 25, 2019 4 min read


The University Clinical Aptitude Test (UCAT), previously the UKCAT, is a widely required medical school entrance exam in the UK. The UCAT is a computer-based multiple choice exam composed of five subtests, Verbal Reasoning, Quantitative Reasoning, Decision Making, Abstract Reasoning and Situational Judgement Test. The UCAT is a very time-pressured exam, often giving you no more than 20 seconds per question. This can be initially quite challenging and stressful but with good preparation and practice, you will be able to ace it in no time. We have prepared below our best timing tips when it comes to successfully sitting the 2019 UCAT.


Be familiar with the UCAT timings

Before you start practicing for the UCAT, make sure you have familiarised yourself with the different subtests and how long you have for each of them. Make sure you are also aware of what that means in terms of the amount of time you have per question. This will help you prepare, as you always keep a mental note of the remaining time, making sure you are not spending too much time and quickly move on, whenever necessary.

For example, if you know that on average it takes about 20 seconds to answer a medium question in the QR section of the exam and you are faced with a question of medium difficulty, you would know how long you have to spend before you make the decision to move on. Make sure you apply this principle not only for mock exam questions, but for sample questions too - it is important you start your preparation already under realistic time conditions. This will help you achieve a higher UCAT score, as you would have taken into account one of the most important aspects of the exam - its timing.

Keep track of time during the exam

While there will be a small clock counting down the minutes you have left until the current subtest is over in one of the corners of your screen, there will be no warnings or announcements before the time is up at the UCAT, as you might be used to from sitting other types of exams. You yourself are the only person responsible to make sure that you don’t run out of time, so be wary of the time during the exam and plan accordingly.

Learn the keyboard shortcuts

This is a handy trick to get familiar with not only for test day but when practicing UCAT questions beforehand, too. There is a number of keyboard shortcuts available for you to use at the exam, which will help you save valuable seconds. It may seem daunting at first, but the more you practice them, the quicker and better you’ll become at using them. Make sure you know exactly the type of setting you will find yourself on test day and when you practice using these shortcuts, try to mimic the conditions as best as you can. For example, in the test centre, you will be provided with a desktop computer with an external keyboard, so try to practice the shortcuts the same way, rather than on a laptop.


In times of need - guess (but do so smartly)

Even with the best preparation you can get, sitting as many UCAT practice tests as you can beforehand, the exam can always throw a curveball at you and surprise you with an extremely long or hard question that you simply might not have the time to answer. Even though we advise to keep guessing to a minimum, there will be questions that you will just have to guess.

This is a lot better than leaving a question blank - remember, there is no negative marking for incorrectly answered questions, so you should always put an answer down, even when you’re not sure. Wherever possible, try not to make it a completely blind guess, but see if there is any way you can narrow down the choices - are there any obviously incorrect options? Have you been able to eliminate some of the answers? Are you able to ballpark the figure you are asked about? Making an educated guess highly increases your chances of getting it right, so this can be a helpful strategy. Just make sure you use it sparingly.

UCAT Subtest-specific timing strategies

At the end of the day, each subtest is very different than the remainder of the exam and each will have its own tips and tricks to tackle. For example, in the UCAT Verbal Reasoning subtest, speed reading is an extremely handy skill, which will help save you a ton of time. Equally, knowing how to use table shortcuts when dealing with visual data in the Quantitative Reasoning subtest also helps not waste time making unnecessary calculations and potentially running out of time. Make sure you are familiar with each one of the UCAT exam subtests and have an idea of what is expected of you before you start practicing questions. These, and more UCAT subtest-specific tips can be learned by joining a UCAT course

We hope these tips were helpful and you feel more confident tackling the UCAT. Good luck with your UCAT prep and if you have any questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at hello@theMSAG.com.

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