What to do before, during, and after your UCAT exam
For many of you, the UCAT is approaching over the next weeks, this is a time when it is important to consolidate your strategies and approach for each question type you may encounter on exam day.
We have included our top tips on what to do before, during, and after your exam.
1. What to do before exam day
Preparation is vital to ensuring a good outcome on exam day!
We highly recommend creating a checklist of everything you need to bring (example: water bottle, AR-pattern diary, ID, earplugs). Double-check this the night before and ensure you have all your items set out for the morning or afternoon.
Your testing center will likely be a new environment. Go for a drive to the testing center at a similar time so there are no interruptions on exam day, as you know exactly where to go and what time to leave to arrive on time.
Double-check your exam time and any confirmations of the exam. It is really important that you arrive on time as exceptions are usually not made, ensure your time is correct and you have it scheduled on your calendar with a notification reminder.
Set more than one alarm if your exam is early in the morning and move your phone across the bedroom, this will prevent you from clicking the snooze button and having to rush in the morning which will hurt your motivation and focus.
Minimise practicing difficult questions the day before. You would have learned all the strategies and approaches to each question type before this day. Practicing the day before is to keep your critical thinking fresh, limit yourself to questions you know that you can answer with ease. If possible, limit question practice to only before the afternoon.
Ensure you create the conditions to have an optimal sleep the night before. Sleep the same amount as you normally would, listen to your body, and get the correct amount of sleep for yourself. Make sure your room is dark and remove any sources of illumination. Relax your body before, read a book, or practice mindfulness. Exercise during the day. Quieten your mind (absolute pre-requisite for sleep).
Try to eat a full meal at dinner consisting of proteins, carbohydrates, and vegetables. Go for fish or vegetarian alternatives, greens, and healthy low GI carbs such as whole-wheat pasta. Limit intake of highly processed sugars, having fruit or dark chocolate as dessert.
2. What to do on the day of the exam?
This day is about minimising excessive un-productive stress and creating a mindset for success.
This graph shows what is known in psychology as the ‘Yerkes-Dodson law’, where performance increases with mental arousal (stress) but only up to a certain point. When stress becomes too high, detrimental effects set in such as exhaustion, panic, and potential breakdown. We want to avoid reaching this point throughout exam preparation and especially on the day.
A bit of stress is required to maintain focus and attention (for example deadlines and goals). To achieve this desired effect, it is recommended you practice questions for Verbal Reasoning and Abstract Reasoning, but only those you have seen before in your UCAT practice material and questions you can easily answer. Limit your practice to just a few questions for these two sections.
Here are some of our top tips:
Go easy on caffeine, it is a diuretic, meaning it increases blood flow to the kidneys which increases urine output (you will need to go to the bathroom more often). If you usually drink a coffee in the morning, have one, but don’t drink in excess.
Don’t drink excessive water before the exam, maintain hydration as you normally would, and have sufficient water the moment before you begin.
Eat a healthy, well-balanced, and long-acting meal in the morning. Such foods include whole-grain cereal with full-fat milk (dietary fats slow digestion → slow, steady rise in blood sugar → prevents energy slump), eggs on toast with avocado, overnight oats, or sugar-free muesli. Don’t experiment with any new foods here, maintain consistency.
Give yourself plenty of time to get to the venue. Preferably you have already driven there at a similar time and so know where to go. Arriving there 30-45 minutes early is beneficial as it will reduce your travel and time stress.
If you have sufficient time in the morning, go for a short walk, jog, or workout. Exercise has transient effects on cognition which include improvement in attention, working memory, cognitive flexibility, problem-solving, and decision making, and information processing speed. This lasts for a period of up to 2 hours after exercising. Convinced exercise is important for study?
Watch a motivational video in the morning and listen to positive, upbeat music. Being in the right mindset and thinking optimistically will give you the best chance of highlighting your extensive abilities in the UCAT
3. What to do after your exam day?
Congratulations, you have just completed the UCAT!
Regardless of your result, this is a time to celebrate your dedicated practice over the last months. Spend time with family and friends, go out for dinner, or enjoy a hobby. It is important to reward yourself for each small win!
Give yourself a short break and preparation for interviews will shortly begin (this is arguably much more fun and engaging, it’s less of a studious subject than UCAT).
Maintain good sleeping habits
Exercise and practice mindfulness for stress relief