Author: Holly M.
Fourth Year Medical Student
Despite everything that is currently going on in the world, UCAT exams are going ahead. So if you’re planning on applying to medical school this year, it’s important that you do the test (after checking if your chosen medical schools actually require it!). There have been a few changes to the UCAT this year, and there is also the option to do it at home, so this article will be covering all of these changes and how best you can adapt and prepare for them!
As with our previous articles and resources on UCAT, be assured that if you put in the work, you will do well in the exam – don’t listen to anyone who says that you can’t prepare for it! Make sure whilst you’re reading this that you take down notes that you find useful, so you can refer back to them, and check out the links below.
You should also make sure to keep checking out the official UCAT website for the latest updates. If you are unsure about anything or have any questions, I would advise getting in touch with the UCAT Consortium (you can contact them via their social media), as they can give you the most accurate and up-to-date advice.
Latest advice from UCAT
Here is a condensed summary of the latest guidance released on the UCAT website (https://www.ucat.ac.uk/news/ucat-2020-update-22-june/) on 22nd June
– Registration opens on 1st July
– There are now candidate testing guides available on the UCAT website
– The test can be taken at a testing centre OR at home
– The advice is to take the test as early as you can, as the pandemic situation is constantly changing
– Candidates at home should use an erasable white board
– In test centres candidates have access to notepads and pens
I would really advise looking on the UCAT website at the official candidate guides as there are some very specific guidelines and criteria that have to be met in order to be able to do the test at home, as well as lots of useful additional information.
Should I do the UCAT at home or at a test centre?
There are lots of different factors that will go into making your decision. This test is really important in securing your place at a medical school and your future, so make sure you take the time to think about this decision and talk it over with friends and family, definitely don’t rush into it! Below is a list of things that you may want to think about / may influence your decision:
1. You or a family member are currently / were shielding, if you are unable to go outside or are still nervous about putting yourself or a family member at risk, that is really good reason to take the test at home. Don’t feel embarrassed or worried about it; putting your health or your family member’s health first is the sensible thing to do.
2. There are some very specific requirements that have to be met in order for you to be able to do the test at home, these include (but this is not an exhaustive list) the correct technical equipment ( you can run the System Test to check your equipment meets minimum requirements), access to a quiet room where you will not be disturbed for the duration of your test, a stable internet connection, and for under 18s only, a parent/guardian (with approved ID) to be present when you begin your UCAT Online. If you are unable to meet these specifications, then you will have to do your test at a test centre.
3. Maybe you know that you work better and perform better in a ‘serious’ exam style environment, if this is the case, it may be worth you taking the test in the test centre, where you are much less likely to get distracted.
4. Perhaps the opposite is actually true for you, and you normally achieve better results in a calmer, less pressured, more familiar environment, if this is the case, then taking the test at home is probably the best option for you.
I want to take the UCAT exam at home, how do I prepare for it?
As previously mentioned, the UCAT guidance for taking the exam at home is really specific, so make sure you take time to read through it all properly and get your exam space prepared days in advance – this is not something you can run around trying to sort out minutes before the exam starts. I have listed below some helpful tips and ideas to help you create your exam space:
1. No one can walk in and out of your exam room whilst you are taking your exam, I recommend reminding everyone in your house half an hour before your exam starts that you are doing it, and I would also make a really big STOP sign for your door, just to remind people in case they forget!
2. I would check that you have all the technical equipment you need before booking to do your test online, if you don’t have everything you need, I would try asking family, friends, your school, and maybe posting on local community Facebook groups to see if anyone can help you out.
3. If there are other people working from home and using the internet, it might be worth doing a test run, so trying to simulate similar ‘internet usage loads’ to see if your computer still loads properly, or if there is any delay. If possible, maybe other members in your house can avoid activities that use up a lot of bandwidth during your exam.
4. You are allowed 1 whiteboard no larger than 30x50 cm, up to 2 board rubbers and only ONE whiteboard pen, these are not provided by the UCAT Consortium so I would buy these all well in advance of the exam, otherwise you won’t have anything to take notes with!
Obviously this is not an exhaustive list of all the requirements that need to be met to be able to do the UCAT at home, so please make sure to read through the document on the UCAT website, it’s a bit of a long read, but it’s an important one – if your exam space doesn’t meet the specific requirements, you won’t be allowed to take the test! Make sure you take some time to think about where would be best for you to take the exam, and whatever decision you make, good luck!
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