Why do some people study hard for the UCAT but get a low score?

The main reason why some students study hard for the UCAT but still fail is because they have a flawed understanding of what ‘study’ actually involves.

For a skills-based test like the UCAT, the correct way to study is to first learn the correct processes that will allow them to consistently answer the same question types correctly and within time limits. Think about learning any other kind of skill, like doing maths, baking a cake, riding a bicycle, or playing the piano. The skills assessed by the UCAT are no different: to develop these skills properly, you need to start by learning the steps and techniques to do them correctly, just like how you would be taught a math formula or follow a cake recipe. 

Once you’ve learned the ‘recipe’, you then have to practise applying it so that you can become more familiar with it and produce consistently accurate results every time. This enables you to master the process, which gives you the control to slightly alter your question-solving approach in cases where the question you’re solving contains slight variations.

Most importantly, having a clear set of processes in place allows you to easily identify your procrastination points and your mistakes (or ‘Ps & Ms’, for short). Procrastination points are the things that take unnecessary time during your question-solving process, while mistakes are actual errors that lead to incorrect answers. To do well in any assessment, including the UCAT, you need to find and permanently fix your Ps and Ms so that they don’t carry over into the final exam and undermine your speed (Ps) and accuracy (Ms). Without a proper set of question-solving techniques, you won’t be able to identify where exactly your question-solving process is going wrong, let alone figure out how to fix it! 

Unfortunately, many students do poorly on the UCAT because even though they are studying hard, they are studying mindlessly. Instead of starting with a proper set of question-solving techniques, and then using these to identify and fix their Ps and Ms (which would allow them to prepare much more efficiently since they’ll never make the same mistake twice), they skip this first step entirely and just jump straight into endless practice questions, without actually knowing what they’re doing or how to improve when they get things wrong. In the end, they end up wasting a lot of time without seeing real progress, and get discouraged because they feel like they’re just not smart enough to do well on the UCAT

In reality, the people who do well on the UCAT don’t study nearly as much or as hard as those who work extremely hard but score badly. The key is preparing the right way so that your UCAT study actually produces immediate, tangible results.

For more advice on how to prepare for the UCAT, check out this article.

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