3 Sensible Reasons Why The UCAT Feels Impossible

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As you embark on your exciting journey towards a career in medicine or dentistry, no doubt you’ve heard about the formidable obstacle that the UCAT (University Clinical Aptitude Test) poses. Many students perceive this test to be an impossible hurdle to overcome; however, let me tell you – it’s not as invincible as it seems. 

Here are three reasons why many students struggle with the exam, and three things you can do to overcome the elusive exam once and for all.

The timing is ridiculously short

As a test designed with speed and triage assessment in mind, it only makes sense that the exam is quite concise. However, the UCAT is particularly succinct, to an almost ridiculous level, considering how many questions you have to read and answer. 

For individuals who prefer to deliberate thoroughly over exams, this can prove to be a formidable challenge. So, you are not alone in finding this aspect of the test daunting. Now that we’ve identified the problem, the golden question is: what can you do to overcome this challenge? The answer lies in practising under stricter times than in the actual exam. 

“The key to conquering time pressure is to simulate the same pressure during your preparation”.

Try focusing on the section that gives you the most difficulty. Practice it under conditions that mimic the test environment as closely as possible. But remember, practice makes perfect. So, you should aim to do these exercises under stricter time conditions than in the actual exam. 

It may feel impossible now, but remember; those who have succeeded before you also faced the same challenges. By identifying your weaknesses and facing them head-on, you’re already on the road to success.

You don’t have sufficient revision time

Have you ever found yourself caught in the whirlwind of life’s demands and found it almost impossible to fit in the extra task of preparing for the UCAT? Well, you’re not alone in this struggle. Balancing school, exams, and even personal and family life commitments, makes it all seem so overwhelming. The timing of the UCAT, whether you’re already in university handling rigorous exams or you’re a school leaver, certainly feels far from ideal. 

Finding time to practice for and ultimately sit this gruelling test – a necessary step towards securing a place in a coveted medical school – can feel like an uphill battle. Fret not, we’re here to help you strategize.

“Front-loading” your revision, or leaving it all to the last minute, has the potential to pile on unnecessary stress in the face of your upcoming test. It’s a strategy that, while initially may seem to provide more time for other activities, could result in frantic cramming sessions as the exam nears.

In contrast, initiating your revision at least 3-4 weeks prior to your exam date can prove to be a more effective method. This strategic approach allows you to gradually assimilate knowledge and develop necessary skills without feeling overwhelmed by a looming deadline. 

  • Offers the chance to thoroughly understand concepts, rather than merely memorising them
  • Provides time to practice under exam conditions, consequently reducing anxiety
  • Allows sufficient time for breaks, which are crucial for maintaining optimal cognitive function

Invest your time wisely and gear your efforts in a well-directed manner, and the seemingly impossible UCAT will become a much more attainable feat. Take the first step now!

Your reading comprehension is slow

Perhaps you’re finding the UCAT challenging because your reading comprehension is slow. But there’s absolutely no need to feel upset or think that it makes you unworthy of becoming a doctor. In fact, you might be surprised to find that many successful doctors aren’t particularly proficient at reading comprehension! 

There’s some good news: the UCAT is more of a time management exam than a reading comprehension one. Thus, the skills you need to focus on are different.

Instead of worrying about your reading speed or comprehension, let’s refocus. Here are three things you need to work on: 

  1. Skim Reading: This skill is essential for the UCAT. Rather than reading every word, learn to skim through the text and find the essential bits of information efficiently.
  2. Time Management: As mentioned earlier, the UCAT is more about managing your time effectively. Try to practice under timed conditions to get a feel for the pace you need to maintain.
  3. Identifying Key Information: In a hurry, it’s easy to miss out on crucial information. Make sure you’re practicing note-taking and summarising key points for quick referral.

In short, it’s not about how fast you can read, but how well you can manage your time and identify important points.


Navigating UCAT may seem like sailing through a storm. Is it the ideal filter for selecting medical school candidates? Opinions vary vastly. However, research does provide evidence of UCAT scores being predictors of success. The key lies in pinpointing your weak areas, planning wisely, and getting a head start on your revision. This, although demanding, can make the intimidating UCAT gracefully possible. 

“UCAT can feel impossible, especially when you’re struggling with reading comprehension, pattern spotting, and solving puzzles under pressure. It may not seem the best filter for medical school candidates, but it is backed by a solid body of research proving its relevancy.”

So what are you struggling with, and what will you do to improve your score?

Do you want some extra UCAT tips?

Get a list of 20 secret UCAT tips used by the best students to improve their scores on test day!


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