Stanimir Stoilov - Ace the UCAT Success Stories
Updated: Apr 26, 2020
Stanimir is a 2019 Ace the UCAT student who will be studying medicine at the University of Warwick from September 2020. You can follow him at @stanimirr on Instagram.
I hope you’re all keeping safe in the current challenging climate.
My name is Stan and I’m a final year medical sciences student at the University of Exeter about to begin graduate-entry medicine in September 2020. I hope that the tips and advice below will help you at least a little bit in your preparation for the UCAT and that long- awaited admission to medical school! What I’m about to write is based solely on my experience and what worked for me so do try out what I’ve suggested but bear in mind that not every technique will work for you so if that’s the case, don’t waste any more time trying to make it work and instead just move on to the next one.
First of all, ensure that you have a good number of resources to work with – too many and your preparation won’t be focussed, too few and you might lose out on important aspects of the exam/techniques. I personally used the Ace the UCAT course e-book which I found super useful to learn techniques from and it particularly helped me get quicker at answering the questions. I also watched a fair few YouTube videos (which there are a lot of!) where people were explaining techniques (especially for abstract reasoning); particular channels that come to mind are Kharma Medic and UCAT Secrets – they both have some great videos and the latter also has a series of videos where you can follow the author taking the test in real life. To practise, I used Medify which I think is a must since there is an abundance of questions (I struggled to finish all of them), you can track your progress, there is a mixture of untimed practice questions as well as timed sections/whole mocks and the content is similar in difficulty to the real exam (although a few people have said that VR is particularly easier on Medify than it is in the real thing – so that’s something to bear in mind). Finally, I’d definitely recommend doing all of the official UCAT practise tests as they mimic how the test will look when you go and sit it and how you can interact with the different features of the system.
Next, I think it’s really important that you spend a bit of time at the beginning of your preparation to figure out where your strengths lie and which sections you need to work harder on. Historically, VR is the section that people score the lowest in so you might find that you have to do some work towards improving your reading speed before attempting the questions. There are several techniques you could use to make sure you have enough time for VR (cue Ace the UCAT e-book and YouTube) but the one I found the most useful was to actually read the question first and then look for the answer in the next. For QR you might have to brush up on some basic maths such as ratios, percentages, velocity etc but remember not to get too bogged down in formulae because you will not have time to fully utilise them in test conditions. This is where practice is super important because if you get used to the same type of calculation over and over again, you will eventually be able to do it in a short time without needing the formula/equation for it. Once you’ve identified what you need to focus on, I’d recommend making some sort of a schedule and getting stuck into practice. I was preparing for the UCAT while working full time in research so I spent between 1 and 3 hours around 4 times a week over the course of 4-5 months. Towards the end, I started spending a bit more time each day, but I wouldn’t recommend you do that from the very start because you can quickly burn out. It’s all about finding what works for you so definitely experiment with how often you practise. One technique that I used for AR was to make a note of all the patterns I had encountered and go over them in my spare time – in hindsight, I wish I had made a bit more use of that resource because some of the shapes in the real test really caught me out!
Finally, I think it’s vital that you practice in an environment which mimics the real test as closely as possible. What I mean by this is a PC with a mouse rather than a laptop/tablet/phone – your local or school library should have those facilities if you don’t have access to a PC at home. Another thing you can try is to get a number pad attachment for your laptop (you can find one for around £10 on Amazon) and practise QR with it because using the mouse for the calculator takes way too long and you’ll definitely struggle for time if that’s what you do. Also, I was lucky enough to have a friend preparing for the UCAT at the same time as me so we used to chat about it a lot and discuss questions we had found challenging etc so if you know anyone in the same boat, definitely reach out and see if they’d like to be you study buddy – I for one think it is super helpful!
In summary, my top three UCAT tips are:
- Plan your time for practice wisely so that you don’t burn out - Practise in an environment which mimics the real test as closely as possible (e.g. a PC with a mouse or a laptop with a numpad and a mouse) - Make a list of AR patterns you have encountered and revise them regularly
That’s all from me. Good luck with your preparation and remember that practice is key! You’ve got this :)
Click here to view the Ace the UCAT Course e-book which Stanimir used as part of his preparation.