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Free UKCAT Information Webcast


Transcript of the video





Good evening, everyone. You're attending an information webcast organized by Career Gym UKCAT Edition in association with on medical school admissions and the UKCAT exams. My name is Leo Rantulis. I'm a UK-based surgeon. I'm also involved with medical school admissions and I'm also the co-founder of, which is dedicated to making your path to medical school a little bit less painful and a little bit easier.
I'm going to be starting tonight's proceedings talking about the seven most common questions on medical school admissions. Following that, Career Gym's UKCAT recruiting expert, Ben Williams, will be giving you an introduction to the UKCAT exam and talking about the test types, the application process and hopefully he's going to be giving you lots of useful tips for taking the test. So there's a lot to get through so without much further delay, I hope you're sitting comfortably because we can now get on and talk about the seven most commonly asked questions about medical school admissions.
Now, I don't know if you know, but I get a ton of questions through the website about medical school admissions and a ton of questions via e-mail on the private mailing list as well as on the Twitter feed and a lot of these questions fall into these following main categories, so I have hope that going through these will answer a lot of your questions for you. If it doesn't, then feel free to ask.
Key challanges in getting into med-school - academic degrees, interview, personal statement and work experience
To start with, what are the key challenges to get into medical school? Now, there are many, many challenges. It's a difficult process and generally the people that are applying are very, very good, which makes competition very, very stiff indeed.
The first point I wanted to make, was if you haven't got grades or the appropriate degree class that you need to get into medicine, everything else that you do is largely a waste of time. You have to get your academic side sorted out before you sort everything else out. If you're aiming towards A grades, A-level, or at least a 2-1 degree, then probably you're in the right ballpark. But if you're falling well below that, you possibly need to think carefully about what you're doing applying for medicine.
If you're still desperate to do a medical degree course, it may be that you need to try an alternative strategy and you can speak to me about that at a later stage. That's really outside of the scope of this presentation but there are options for applying overseas and other options, really, which can be considered. But the main challenge, I would say, to get into medical school in the UK state is the academic one.
The medical school interview is the other great challenge, which terrifies a lot of people even though as long as you've got your basic techniques sorted out, it's actually very easy to get through and to get a place. If you've made it to a medical school interview, really, you've done all the hard work.
The rest of your application must have been very good to get you to that stage. So if you get a medical school interview, you've just got to make sure that your preparation is absolutely perfect and that you nail it and get in.
The personal statement is the other factor, I would say, which really lets a lot of people down. A lot of people have all the factors that they need on their C.V., they've done all the voluntary work, they've done all the work experience, etc., and their personal statement ought to be very, very good indeed. However, when I read your personal statement, I sometimes realize that you're probably a good candidate but your personal statement is not doing you justice.
I have to throw your personal statement onto a pile which is very high and doesn't see the light of day, simply because you haven't taken the appropriate advice on your personal statement or you've been misadvised or you just cut too many corners. This is a very important challenge that must be met.
Work experience is an important challenge. When I was applying for medical school, which wasn't that long ago, you could have very minimal work experience and, actually, you could get away without any real work experience. A good work experience on your C.V. would actually make you stand a head and shoulders above the competition. That's not the case anymore.
It's really a minimum requirement to have some good work experience these days and you need to make sure that you can talk about it effectively. That is very important indeed and there are many other hurdles and every five years or so, an extra hurdle gets added for medical school applicants.
Unfortunately, you're applying at a time when there are many, many hurdles for all applicants and you have to overcome them and UKCAT, which is what we're going to be talking about a little bit later on is one of those hurdles and you have to meet that challenge in the best way.
Why do some people fail to get into medical school? Well, this is actually very important to know. If you know why others fail, you may be able to avoid their mistakes and make sure that you succeed. Again, the academic factor is a big factor and it's the only factor that can comprehensively ruin your application.
You really need to make sure that you get your grades. You really, really need to make sure that you do not fall down in this area because all the other work that you're putting in will be worthless without some good grades. It's all about planning. It's all about applying yourself early. It's about being organized, really.
I don't think there's anything more to it than that. If you really are missing the grades, then you need to think about alternative strategies.
Failing to meet other minimum standards is also a reason why people fail to get into medicine. You need to look very carefully at the medical schools you're putting on your application form. You need to read the small print and you need to realize that different medical schools have slightly different requirements and there's no point applying to a medical school that says that it requires an "A" grade, for example, at GCSE mathematics when you've got a "B" or a "C" grade. That shouldn't stop you getting into medicine altogether, but if you apply to a medical school that puts that down as a requirement, you won't be getting in.
Selecting the right school
You need to look at these things early and you need to select which medical schools are going to be accepting of your specific qualifications. Some of them will now set a minimum UKCAT score. Some of them have minimum extracurricular activities and some of them have minimum work experience requirements.
Again, you need to look at these and make sure that you've ticked all those boxes before you apply. If your favorite medical school looks like it's not going to look seriously at your application, well, you have to apply elsewhere. Be very careful about that because many, many people every year have failed because they've just put the wrong school down and they haven't met the minimum requirements. The admissions panel is ruthless. They will not look at the rest of your application if you miss one of the basic points.
A poor interview performance is really embarrassing because, I think, if you've made it as far as the interview, really, you've probably done everything else right. Your application is probably good. Your personal statement must have been good and you've probably ticked all the other boxes. To fail to get into medicine because of a poor interview performance is really galling. It's difficult to pick yourself up after that sort of a disaster
I think with the appropriate advice and the appropriate training, it shouldn't happen to you. I would just encourage you to make sure that you start some interview preparation early and we'll have to do that. This should not happen to you, really. If you get an interview, you have to make sure that you get your place at that stage. It's all about planning, as with most things in life, you've got to plan early.
Preparing for the interview
Now then, how can I best prepare for the interview? This is what we're getting at. The interview, it must be understood, is different from all the other aspects of your application. The interview is a performance and you have to know what your audience, the admissions panel, are looking for. Now if you shake and sweat like this poor chap appears to be doing, the admissions panel will know that you're nervous. They will not hold that against you unless you literally can't talk. They will not hold that against you.
If your performance is bad simply because you haven't prepared, that will become very obvious. Whether you're nervous or not, that will become obvious. If you've prepared very well, then even if you're very nervous on the day, even if you're having difficulty because of your nerves, which a lot of people do, it won't matter.
Your practice will come through. You will shine through in the end and the admissions panel will put you at ease and they will get to the bottom of your performance so don't worry about the nerves. Make sure you're very well prepared and all the other problems will evaporate on the day. I can promise you that.
The number one strategy that I recommend is to read very widely and readers at doceatdoc know that I prepare reading lists for you and I sort of push this point quite a lot because when I interview candidates, I can straightaway spot the people that have read widely, that are well-informed individuals and I can separate them out from the rest of the bunch straightaway. I know that they are the top candidates and they're the ones that were going to be getting offers to before we consider the other group of candidates.
What sort of things should you be reading? Well, as much as you can, you should be starting your reading very early on. As soon as you decide you want to do medicine, you should be probably reading a broadsheet newspaper every day. You should be looking at some scientific material, either a regular scientific magazine or something of that nature should be passing through your hands and that really is the bare minimum.
You have to read widely. You have to read widely. You have to read widely frequently. And I'll tell you something, if you find during the interview that you're struggling because the interview has come onto an area that you're unfamiliar with, well if you read very widely you can often drag the interview into an area where you're more comfortable very easily because you're so confident on a wide range of topics. I can't stress that enough. That really is my "get out of jail card" for anyone that's worried about interviews.
Practicing your interview technique is obviously very important. I can't stress that enough. You cannot turn out to such an important day without proper practice or interview technique. What I would suggest that you practice talking about every single point on your personal statement until you're really sick of it.
Most of your interview will be based on your personal statement, which is brilliant. The key to your interview is really on your application form before you even send it off. I would say get some expert help and advice. Get some experts to mock interview you. Get some expert advice on what sort of questions you're likely to be asked and how you're faring in terms of your answering ability. Make sure that the person that's analyzing your answers is as brutal and as unkind about your performance as possible because that will help you.
The UKCAT exam
As if you haven't got enough hurdles, why has the UKCAT been added to the list of problems? No, it originally started to make an appearance in 2006 in the UK. The original idea behind it was to differentiate students at a time of increased competition. There was this idea, and there still is, about A-levels not being fit for differentiating the very top students i.e., too many students are getting grade A's and A-levels are unable to differentiate best from the very good students. So something like the UKCAT exam may be a useful adjunct.
Now as you can tell, probably, from tone of my voice, it's not always straightforward affair. There is some controversy about the UKCAT exam. It hasn't been completely validated. It's not consistently weighted across all the different medical schools. There is a cost which is unfortunately passed on to you, the applicant, which I think is quite unfair. Someone, somewhere, is obviously making some money out of it.
I think, as with many things in medical education, there are changes that could be made, but you, as an applicant, must engage in the process. There's no point in arguing about any aspect of the application process. If there's something that's required, you got to engage in and to the best of your ability and you got to make sure that you score high. Otherwise, you can say goodbye to that place to study medicine. Hopefully, Ben is going to be giving you some tips on the UKCAT to help you be efficient at least in your approach.
Now, how can I manage my time? This is a question that I very frequently get asked by students and often late in the day when they found there is absolutely no time left and there are too many hurdles. The way to avoid getting into that sticky situation is to prepare early and to plan your timetable early. Really, it should be 18 months to 2 years before your UKCAT deadline that you start to prepare a timetable of work experience, a timetable of voluntary experience.
You need to put your UKCAT and UCAT deadlines onto that and you need to really have a rough timetable for absolutely everything related to your medical application. If you don't do that, you will end up in trouble and you will end up having to make shortcuts here and there.
I think that the best applicants are people who have usually managed to plan things out very meticulously. They're not necessarily the most intelligent applicants. They are not necessarily the people that have done the most volunteer work or the most general reading. They're people who have just been very organized.
I can't stress that enough. Plan ahead and make sure that you're always comfortable in terms of your deadlines.
Are there any shortcuts through this whole process? Well, the good news is yes, there are some shortcuts through this whole process and they involved speaking to people that have been through it before. I remember some years ago when I was applying to medical school, I made sure that I got in touch with people at my school who'd gotten into medicine the year before. I spoke to them and I asked them what they'd been doing as part of their preparation and also, what had worked and what hadn't worked.
There were a lot of people that had paid a lot of money for a lot of very expensive courses that told me, not to bother, "This is a nice course, expensive, it's a good day out but, overall, did it help my application? No, it didn't. It was a waste of a day or two and it wasted some money as well."
Speak to people that have been through it before. Make sure you go on courses that have recommendations attached to them from students that have managed to get in and if you can speak to doctors, if you can speak to other professionals, they were also be able to advise you in terms of your personal statement, in terms of your interview technique and if you e-mail me or my website, I have got a whole host of shortcuts that I've collected over many years that should help you maximize your chances of getting in. If you approach me, I'm pretty sure I'll be able to help you out in at least one, simple way.
In terms of the UKCAT, are there any shortcuts? Well, despite what some experts say, practice questions do help. Practicing the test does increase your scores. That's been shown. I'm sure Ben will have some more to say about that. That's all I've got to say all together.
Just to let you know about the website, that the web address: and there's a subscriber's link there and I would invite you to subscribe because there's a lot of information that goes out  privately on the e-mail list. So don't be shy. Get yourself signed up and I'll keep you up-to-date on everything we find out and all the latest articles and all the latest news on medical school applications. Often there some behind-the-scenes stuff that we can let you in on, time to time. That's all very important.
Personal statement review
At the moment we're offering a personal statement review, which is basically critique and edit of your personal statement and statement of what your chances are looking at that statement. Basically, I give you some advice on how to maximize your chances and radically improve the strength of your application so that's definitely worthwhile. We had many, many applications already this week. We've been editing the personal statements of people.
I must say, the quality of applications is overall astounding, but we have managed to improve most of the ones that we've had a look at. Anyway, take a look at that, that's on the website.
That's it for me. I may be able to answer some questions a little bit later on. Now, I'm going to hand it over to Ben who is going to talk about a step- by-step guide in taking the UKCAT. Over to you Ben.
Ben Williams - occupational psychologist
OKAY.Thank you very much, Leo. I'm just going to pause for a moment because as we're talking on different computers then maybe a volume difference and I don't want to be blasting people's eardrums out when I start talking. Hopefully this has given you a moment to adjust your volumes and you can all hear me clearly.
My name is Ben Williams. I'm an occupational psychologist and my role in this webinar is to talk you through a step-by-step guide to taking the UKCAT. We're going to be taking the bit of a deep dive into the test, talk about its various components and talk you through, I guess, some top- level tips on how you can perform to your best during the event.
My background is that I am involved in designing just these psychometric tests. so it worked for the major publishers such as SHL and Conexant, as well as Pearson, who actually have designed the UKCAT itself. I have first- hand experience with this and that essentially, it's my fault that you're sitting the types of tests so this is my penance in a way.
Please do, as has been mentioned previously, fire through questions as we go through and I'll sure do my best to prepare you as well as you can for the examinations.
What are the UKCAT exams used for and UKCAT score
First of all, let's have a little look at how the UKCAT is used in med entrance exams. As Leo mentioned, there isn't consistency in this. It is different according to which med school you're applying to. Therefore, you may well find that you have different experiences to your friends and colleagues who have applied to different institutions despite, perhaps, feeling the same about your performance on the UKCAT. Let's talk you through those to start off with.
There are four different ways in which the UKCAT is used. Your scores on the test will be compared against a large group of people who have been through these tests in the past. It will be in a percentile form, which will say, "Yes, this is how good this person is relative to people who have completed it in the past." However, how that figure is used is quite different.
Let's look at first method, which is the differentiated method. This is where, throughout all the other parts of the examinations, so we're talking here the personal statement, the interview, the work experience, the grades. This is where you will be having similar performance to other people that you're competing against across the whole of the exam apart from the UKCAT.
What the UKCAT score then does is that it is used after that event to then sift off the cream of the cream. That's how the UKCAT is used as a differentiator. It's where they've got lots of people who are all scoring similarly and we need to assess the difference between them.
The second way in which the UKCAT result is used is where is used as an equally-weighted factor. This is where it's not used after the other methods have been analyzed but it's used as an integral part of the process with equal weighting, along with the grades, work experience, interview and personal statement.
The third way in which your UKCAT score could be used is as a threshold. So this is where some med schools will say, "Well, look, we are not even interested in looking at the other admission components unless people reach a minimum standard on the test score itself." That's the "Threshold Method."
If we look at the final one, that's the "UKCAT to the Rescue Method". The official term for it is the "Escape Method" and this is where someone has perhaps completed all the other aspects of the process and they've actually underperformed against them so, therefore, you've not actually come up to the standard required. However, the people who you met with saw some potential there.
They saw some spark that they thought, "Well, yes, we still think this person could make it. Let's see if their UKCAT score can push them over that threshold and get them into the acceptable range." Really, I guess this is a little bit naughty in that it allows an element of subjectivity to come in. So if they really liked you in your performance, then this is their "get out of jail card," where they can push you over the threshold. That's the fourth in which it can be used.
That might explain a little about the different ways in which the test can be used. In terms of questions, we don't have enough questions here to take a pause for questions just yet, but, again, feel free to send them through to Gabor and we will be able to answer those during the webcast and afterwards.
Applying for the UKCAT exams
The next step is, "How do I apply for the UKCAT and where can I take it?" Well, the first thing to be aware of, as Leo mentioned, is that you have to be aware of the deadlines. Your deadline for registering is the 21st of September.
You also need to pick a test center. This is where your UKCAT examination will be administered. It will be administered face-to-face. This is to reduce the likelihood of cheating and so that they know that the person that took the test and the actual person who is applying for the role. You need to pick your test center. There are hundreds of locations around the world for this so you should be able to find one that you can get access to relatively easily.
You also need to book a date. The testing runs from 1st of July through to 5th of October. I guess the key piece of advice here is just to be strategic about when you book your date for. Think about the other commitments that you have around these dates and say, "Well, right. Is this going to give me time to practice the test, to rehearse and to get up to a comfortable level?" Would you prefer to get it over and done with more quickly or do you need that extra preparation time to get into the zone?
At the UKCAT exam
OKAY.You've registered, you picked a test center, you booked a date and then you turn up at the test room itself. What can you expect on the day? The first thing to note is that as you come in, your personal belongings will be confiscated. Don't be deterred by that but, again, it's all in the interest of confidentiality. We don't want people on their smart phones, communicating with their colleagues, answers to questions or blogging or tweeting about the test they go. Things like mobile phones, any other personal belongings like laptops, etc., will need to be put into a locker.
You'll be provided with the computer upon which you will take the UKCAT test and a note board. Now, a noteboard is a type of laminated booklet which you can use for your working out. You'll be provided with a pen. If you need extra paper for your working out, then that's absolutely fine, then just put your hand up and ask for that.
You should be aware that there will be other test takers in the room so it just isn't logistically effective to test you individually. You will be in a room where there are a number of people. That does mean that there may be a little bit of noise. For that reason, there is the option of requesting earphones or earplugs, which can block out any kind of incidental noise in the room.
I think the other thing to be mindful of is with other test takers in the room, you can find yourself getting distracted, perhaps, if people are finishing the test before you've finished it and you're thinking, "Oh, should I have gotten this far?". I think the main thing here is to just focus on what you're doing. They could well have missed some key component of the reasoning required, so you just focus on what you're doing. Try to disregard the activities of others.
The other point to note is that there is no scheduled break time in the UKCAT test. As it says on the slide, you can take a break but that will be on your own time, as it were, so you will lose time that you have allocated to take this test if you do decide that you want a tea break, a cigarette break or a toilet break. It's important to do anything like that upfront so that you're ready to go in the exam.
The final thing to mention that isn't on here is that there will be an on- screen calculator provided. You don't need to bring your own calculator, you will be able to use the one that's on the computer via the UKCAT test engine. That will be especially useful, obviously, for the quantitative reasoning test.
You're there at the test center, you've settled down, what are you going to be facing in terms of the UK subtests? Let's start, perhaps, by a little poll. It might be useful just to get a feel for who in the room is aware of the different types of UKCAT tests that there are.
You should shortly see a poll appearing and if you could just take a moment just to click on "yes" or "no", if you're already familiar with the test types included in the UKCAT exams.
OKAY.Just waiting for everyone to place the vote. I'm going to display that to everyone now. OKAY.You can see that the vast majority of people are aware of the different test types and there's a small proportion who aren't. Just to reassure that small proportion, that's no problem at all. As Leo was saying, evidence has shown that preparing on these tests will definitely help you to improve and those of you that are aware, then that, I guess, shows some excellent pre-research and reading but we're going to run through each of them in turn now.
Components of the UKCAT exams
At the top level, there are four different components to the UKCAT.
First is an abstract reasoning test. You are going to have 65 questions and 16 minutes in which to answer them. This is the standard timing that's available and each of the timing's that we'll follow in the following slides will be the standard timings.
However, there is some extended time version for the UKCAT exam if you do have a disability of some form. For example, if you had certain forms of dyslexia, then you can make the examiners aware of that and you'll get the extended time.
The main thing here is that I would say that if you would benefit from extra time, then do have that discussion because these tests may well unfairly discriminate against you if you do not make the Examinations aware of that so they'll be able to give you the longer version of the test. So, 65 items, 16 minutes, quite tight on the timings.
The second type: quantitative reasoning. It's basically reasoning with numbers so it's not pure mathematics and we'll talk a little bit about what to expect in a moment. In this one, you've got 36 items in 23 minutes, so slightly more generous on the timing than on the abstract reasoning test here but, again, because old kind of a concurrent rise in the complexity of the other questions.
The third type of test in the UKCAT is verbal reasoning. Drawing rational conclusions based upon an analysis of verbally presented data. In this you've got 44 items in 22 minutes in the standard timing.
Then finally, decision analysis test. This is fairly unique for the UKCAT entrance exams. It is a quite a rare type of psychometric test. Again, I'll talk you through a little bit of that later on and you've got 26 items in 32 minutes to complete it.
Abstract reasoning
Let's delves into each one in turn starting with the abstract reasoning. This type of test really measures your conceptual thinking ability or your inductive reasoning skills. It looks at your ability to draw, I guess, order from chaos so looking at a range of disparate information, what order can you bring to that through the application of logic and your inductive reasoning skills.
What you'll be presented with are two sets of abstract shapes or polygons. You will see that this is entirely context-free, so there's obviously kind of no relation on the face of it to what you'll be doing in the med school but that's because it's designed to be this kind of pure measure of conceptual reasoning without being contaminated by any background knowledge. These tests have been proven to predict subsequent performance in the role. Hence, they're used even though on the surface you might think, "What's this going to tell them about me?"
If you take a look at set "A", what you have there are six squares and inside those six squares are a collection of shapes. You've got some triangles, pentagons, squares, etc.
You also have a second set, set "B", which also contains a selection of those shapes. They're different to set "A."
Your role is to look at these two sets and try and determine what the rule is that governs membership of set A versus membership of set "B". These areas are placed fairly arbitrarily around their sets but, for example, you might look at the distribution of shading in set "A" and say, "Well, within those six shapes, is there a rule regarding when there is a black or shaded shape within a square or when there isn't? What could be a rule there?"
You might look at the number of sides that the shapes have. You might look at the number of shapes within each of the blocks. There's a number of different ways that you can analyze these sets to try and say, "Well, what is the rule that governs membership in either set A or set B?"
You will then be presented with a target shape. On your slides, that's the one over on the far, right-hand corner. You will be asked, "For this square, which set does it belong to? Does it belong to 'set A' or to 'set B'?" and that's where your reasoning skills come in. You can say, "Well, yes, it complies with the rules that I think govern set A or it complies with the rules that I feel govern set B."
I guess the key things to point out are in order to try and uncover these rules that determine membership. You need to look at the shapes involved. They will not just be regular polygons. You will occasionally get images, things like wingdings and things that you might get in Word. You might get various symbols, but essentially, look at the shapes that are there, they will be there for a purpose with their number of sides, their orientation, their shading, etc. There will be certain rules so think of these like if/then statements.
For example, one rule could be, "If the number of sides of the shapes within each square add up to 12, they are a number of 'set A,' otherwise, they are a member of set B." That might be an example of one of the rules. Or it might be something like there are always more shaded shapes within each square then there are unshaded shapes, that could be an example of another rule that could govern membership of a set.
There are also certain operations that could be conducted upon the figures. So say, for example, you might find that within a square shapes are mirrored in the top half in the bottom half so they might be the mirror opposite of one another. They could be rotated, so rotated within two dimensions. They don't tend to be rotated in three-dimensions but they could be rotated kind of spatially on the page.
I think the key thing with this is in order to get a feel for these, the best way to do that is to start practicing and to get some feedback about what you've done well and what you've done less well. You can then determine kind of where you're going wrong or where you're really getting it. This is definitely an example of where practice helps improve performance because it's unlikely to be like anything you've encountered before.
Quantitavive reasoning
Let's move on to the second test type, which is quantitative reasoning. As the title suggests, it is measuring your reasoning skills. It's using numbers, essentially, as the basis for that. It doesn't require a lot of advanced mathematics but it does require you to look at the data that you got and say, "What conclusions can I reasonably draw from the information provided and what can't I draw from the information provided?"
Now within the UKCAT tests, there are three, perhaps four, types of quantitative reasoning questions.
The first would be you would be presented with a chart on its own and you would be faced with a question that might ask you, "In the example on the screen, it might ask you something about the percentage of the retail price that's distributed between wardrobes and bedsteads," for example. So it would ask you to make reference to a number of parts of that chart and drawn a conclusion.
The second type, which is more complex, is that you would have the chart plus you would have some accompanying text. That would flesh-out the scenario. It would make it more difficult, in a way, and you need to make sure that you look at all of those bullet-points that are underneath because each of those will have an impact upon the right answer.
I know I certainly am, and generally test designers in general are quite devious when we design these. When you're choosing between the options, one of the options will be the answer that you would have got if you didn't read the question correctly or if you didn't read all of the bullet-points. We deliberately, in a way, not try to mislead you, but we try to look out for errors of judgement, and try to capture that by the multiple choice answers. Make sure you read everything carefully.
Then the third type is text only.
You would get a bit of background data in text form and then some multiple choice questions off the back of it. A subset that's similar to that is where you'd get text only with no numbers at all and then the numbers would appear in the multiple choice in each individual question. That's the range of the different quantitative reasoning types of tests.
What's the key to success in the quantitative reasoning tests?
Well, the first thing is that you need to be good at data interpretation so you need to be able to look, absorb, you need to be able to interpret charts like those that we've shown you in this presentation plus those that are available in the various practice tests. You need to be able to look at those and see at a glance what's happening.
You need to be able to reason so you need to work with it and say, "How, logically, can I use this information to get to the answer that I need to?" Sometimes you need to be aware that it can be impossible to reach an answer and, in that case, there's often a "cannot say" option in the question itself. It is fine sometimes to say, "cannot say." That is sometimes the right answer.
Shortcuts: which shortcut works best for you will be a matter of personal preference. If you have a quick way that you prefer to work out percentages, ratios perhaps, then do use those. Also, if you can quickly rule out some of the multiple choice options just on the basis of some quick mental arithmetic, then do that because that will massively, dramatically, reduce the timing you'd spend on that part.
Finally, Calculations: Calculations are just the doing of it. You need to be able to feel confident in conducting calculations around percentages. If it's not already fresh in your mind, going back to review just your mathematics fundamentals around percentages, ratios and fractions is going to be useful. Again, you're not going to turn into a mathematical genius overnight but what you will do is you'll avoid making any silly mistakes that's just due to you forgetting how to conduct a certain function.
Time for some questions and I can see that we've got a few here now, so let me just take a quick look.
One person has asked, "In abstract reasoning, is there only ever one rule linking the shapes in each set or may there be more than one rule combined?"
Good question and the answer is that there may be more than one rule combined. Often they can be quite challenging. To be able to spot the different and distinct rules, it can be quite a stretch but they're not impossible. But, yes, there can be more than one rule governing the shapes in each set.
Next question is, "What is the proportion of shorter quantitative reasoning questions compared to the long ones or is it completely random?"
I think the majority of them tend to be around the chart, and the chart and text format. There's slightly relatively less of the text-only but you need to be prepared to do all of them.
We have a question from Cash, who said, "How long should be spent preparing, roughly, one month, two months or just a few weeks?"
Again, the answer to that is it's a little bit down to you. I would say that persistence is one of the key ways in which you're going to be successful at these. If you, over that month period, were to do a little bit of practice every other night or every three days, that could well be sufficient for you. If you're practicing once in a month, then that may well not be. I would say it's less a matter of quantity of practice or timeframe of practice. It's more about the quality and the depth.
I'm having a quick look at other questions here. Pratree asks, "In quantitative reasoning, do you think calculators should be used extensively or only when you cannot manage to do it mentally?"
I think, mentally, if you can eliminate some of those distracters first, do it. Otherwise, then move onto the calculator to get the precise answer and perhaps decide between a couple of them. I think it's pretty likely you're going to have to use a calculator. You're not going to be able to do all mental arithmetic.
Harmit asks around verbal reasoning questions but I'll cover those in just a moment.
Priesha asks, "Which of the four sections tend to be the most/least difficult?"
It's, again, down to you, what you personally tend to find the most and least difficult. I would say give them a go and then spend the most time practicing that which you find the toughest.
Yes, and then Abbas asks, "Do you recommend we follow a set method in abstract reasoning to identify the rule or just randomly look around until you identify the rule?"
I would almost have in mind for you that these questions will have been designed according to certain rules around number of sides, shape of shapes, shading of shapes, orientation of shapes. Almost work through a mental checklist of each of those and say, "Right. Is there a consistent pattern emerging?" So I would say, randomly, you might spot it but I'd say try and bit a little bit more planful in your analysis.
Keep those questions coming, that's fantastic.
Verbal reasoning
What we're going to do now is move on to the next area which is the Verbal Reasoning tests. Much like the quantitative reasoning, is a testing of reasoning skills using numbers, this is your reasoning skills involving words. It's probably worth saying that compared to other tests of Verbal Reasoning, the level of English required in the UKCAT test is probably slightly higher than in most others.
So some of the terminology that's used and some of the complexity of words that are used can be quite stretching. Again, practice is going to help you in this regard. Also, we're saying that the topics covered in the verbal reasoning tests and the quantitative reasoning tests, again, won't necessarily have anything to do with med school. They've been designed to be universally applicable so that it doesn't unfairly bias people who have had practice in one area more than in another.
Let's take a look at verbal reasoning in a little bit more detail. What you'll get up front is a text passage. We haven't reproduced it here because the density of it would actually make it just unreadable on a slide forma. You're probably going to get, a good, two or three paragraphs worth of text. You will then have a series of questions afterwards that you need to gauge the truthfulness of, based upon the information in the passage.
In terms of the format of that text passage, what we've found in our analysis of the UKCAT tests are that they can be purely text, they can be in bullet-point form, you'll have a list of instructions, I believe, one of them is around how to conduct a certain type of Scottish dance, and each bullet-point gives you a step-by-step guide in how to conduct that.
It can be in a letter format, as well. Perhaps a letter of complaint and that can either be a sole letter or a letter with a reply. Those are the main formats.
In terms of the topics that are covered, they do range very, widely. They can be historical accounts. They can be autobiographies. There's some scientific type topics, some technology topics. So, as I say, not at all related to what you'll be doing because it's trying to be context-free as far as possible.
You'll be asked to decide whether each of those statements that we saw previously, let me just flip back to that slide, so you saw those "A", "B", "C" and "D", you've got four statements to evaluate. You need to decide if they are true based upon the information in the passage (i.e., they follow logically from or they are explicitly mentioned in the passage), they are false (i.e., they are explicitly the opposite it said in the passage or it would be illogical as a result of what's in the passage) or cannot say, you don't have sufficient information to make that judgement based on the information in the passage.
I think you need to be mindful here. There are certain words to look out for so if you, for example, it says something like, "Many patients experienced an allergic reaction to the medication." If a statement says, "All patients experienced an allergic reaction to the medication," watch out because the word "many" implies that not everyone did and, therefore, the answer to the question.
"All patients experienced an allergic reaction," is probably going to be false because there's actually many and that implies not all. Avoid assumptions. Avoid also bringing in outside knowledge. If you know something for a fact that is contradicting what's in the passage, don't let that cloud your judgement and, as mentioned earlier, watch out for the complex vocabulary that's required to answer some of these questions.
Decision analysis
Let's move onto the fourth type. The fourth type here is decision analysis and the overall idea is that, whereas the abstract reasoning test was looking at your ability to reason inductively, this is looking at your ability to reason deductively, so to use data to be able to reach conclusions. It takes the form of a kind of a code, almost a code-breaking test. It's quite an exciting test to do.
You're asked to encrypt and decrypt information based upon some code tables that you're given. So let's talk through what that looks like. So you're given some code tables up front. First of all, a list of general rules where words are substituted by letters. So the word "opposite" would be substituted by the letter "A". The word "big" would be substituted by the letter "C". You then have some basic codes such as "I" substituted by the number 1 and so on. I've shown you two columns there. They do actually spread out to up to four columns worth of codes.
Now, you're given a scenario so you can see here that the scenario is around an ancient tribe, the [Sacra doti]tribe and the Movag tribe and they've come up with this way of communicating with one another through codes. It's all a little kind of irrelevant but it helps to kind of set the scene a little bit and helps get you into the mindset that you need to be in, in order to crack these codes. Again, not directly relevant to what you'll be doing in the job.
Decryption, so this is the first type of question that you'll face and it's the most common type of question, by far, in this test. You will be asked, "What is the best interpretation of the following code?"
You can see in the example on the screen, question 14, you've got "g" and then in brackets "af15, e4," and then "a4, 11". Where there are brackets or parentheses around letters, it means that the meaning of those letters and numbers should be combined to make a cohesive whole. If you had the words something like, "hot", "wood", "up" and the brackets around it, it might be something like a blazing log fire or something like that. You need to combine it and get the overall meaning.
Commas separate concepts from one another. Again, what you need to do is to come up with the best interpretation of the code. You're not going to find a perfect interpretation. There's going to be multiple options provided to you and you need to decide which one best fits the code. Sometimes it's down to the order in which those codes are arrayed in the original question. Sometimes it's down to how eloquently they describe a concept so it's down to you to make that judgement call. That's the decryption.
Encryption, you can see an example there, question 5, it will say, "Which code is the best representation for, 'Yesterday, the weather was raining,'" and you need to look at the multiple choice options and decide which one best encapsulates that concept. As I say, there's far fewer of those but they can be quite challenging too.
Questions around this section? Let's just take a little look and see what's come through. There's quite a few more that have come through.
Maria asks a question back onto the quantitative reasoning questions saying, "How long should we spend per question?"
If we refer back to the timings, I think it works back to roughly, if I just flip back here, I think it's about a couple minutes per question. Yes, you've got just over a minute per question on the quantitative reasoning. However, those questions towards the start will be easier than those towards the end. When we're designing psychometrics, we tend to like to give people a warm, fuzzy feeling towards that start, which gets them motivated and gets them in the right frame of mind for the rest of the tests, so don't be lulled into a false sense of security. Complete those early ones nice and quickly, ideally in less than a minute and a half and then kind of crack on with the rest that might take you slightly longer.
Eternal Light asks, "Could you please tell me what sort of techniques I should use for the longer texts in the verbal reasoning questions?"
Yes, I think it's unrealistic to say that you're going to be able to memorize the entire passage that's given upfront in the verbal reasoning questions. What I would advise is taking a quick read through, saying, "OKAY.I get a feel for what it's about here," and then use the questions as your guide. If it gives you a statement and you need to decide if it's true, false or cannot say, try and look for a like for like matching of that word or phrase in the passage, and that will guide you to the right part of the passage to look at. You can't hope to try and memorize it so just use that quite point to point kind of reference to help.
Shazmine [sp] asks, "In encryption, should we try to make up the code ourselves and then compare it with the options given or shall we look at all the options and then decrypt them one by one?"
That's a great question. My personal preference is actually to look at the options given and decrypt them one by one. I would probably do an initial glance that said, "OKAY.I can rule out this option. I can rule out this option but let's take a look at the others and then get a feel for what one's the best." I think trying to make up the code yourself, you may well end up in the position where you've come up with a code that's none of the multiple choice options and then you need to go back to the drawing board. I would say, have a practice and see how you find it. So have a practice and you'll be able to see what works best for you.
DawnAJ asks, "In decision analysis, what do commas within brackets indicate?"
That indicates two distinct concepts that should be blended. It might be something like "tall head, not woman". Now, "tall head, not woman" might be interpreted as something like a man wearing a hat. The comma separates the concepts of hat and man but because it's in brackets, it should be taken as a whole, a man wearing a hat. And you can see things like "tall head", it's not a natural interpretation to say, "Oh, that means a hat," but that's the level of kind of [obscureness] that you need to use as you're working through those questions because by their nature, they're not one to one relations to real words like "hat". That would make it too easy.
How to prepare for the UKCAT exams
Let's move on to the next stage, which is how to prepare for the UKCAT exam. Well, let's have a little look, first of all, about how other people tend to prepare.
If you look at the statistics, then around 90% of people are looking at the official UKCAT practice tests. You've got two or three available via the website that are direct from the horse's mouth, as it were, so you can have a go at those. I think they provide you with a downloadable scoring key so that you can assess how well you've done. Obviously, there's a limitation on the number of those tests and the fact that I guess you can't really track your progress to see whether you've improved or necessarily get explanations for the answers either. It's perhaps a little bit of a limitation.
Often people choose other methods as well. There are various UKCAT practice books available. Again, as part of this survey, around 68% of you are looking at practice books, specifically, for the UKCAT and 35% of you are choosing to attend training courses much like Leo mentioned earlier. Again, perhaps a useful way to network, a nice, entertaining couple of days but not necessarily always worth the cost investment upfront.
The remainder of people perhaps are getting more generic books or training, perhaps in the area of psychometrics in general. It can be helpful but I would say go as specific as possible if you can.
That's really your step one. Your step two is going to be moving on to on- line simulation tests. That's really how you're going to get the competitive advantage over other people who are already doing a lot of those actions under step one. This has really got a large number of questions. You're going to get instant feedback from the test engine on how you're doing. You can choose to take it under exam-like conditions so you can have it timed but you can also untimed, if you like, as well, and you'll get statistics. You'll be able to track your progress over time that will help your motivation. You can say, "Yes. I'm definitely making in- roads on that decision analysis type of test." You can benchmark performance over time.
Just as a matter of interest, if we did a short poll now, which of the four types of test in the UKCAT do you think you'd most like to be able to practice? I'll just pop up the poll again quickly and would just be interested to get a feel. Click on which you feel you would most be keen to practice.
OKAY.Let's flip it up. Most of you actually are pumping for the abstract reasoning and I know that one of the earlier questions asked if we could go through the abstract reasoning example. That was from TomO. I would say the best thing to do to get practice on the abstract reasoning is to have a look at our website. We've got some great examples that you can have a look at and we do include explanations with our items because we don't have enough time on this webcast to go into it in detail but, yes, have a look at those and get some tips and tricks from our website on how to approach them. Decision analysis, as possibly expected, is the second strongest.
Let's take a little look further. Yes, you need to practice best practice and preparation so, as I mentioned earlier, persistence, so being consistent a couple of months in advance of the test would be ideal. Do it regularly, not just kind of once a month. Do it a couple of times a week and then revise. Look at what you've done previously, learn where you went wrong and address it again.
There is the weblink to our website where you can get access to our practice tests. What you will find on our UKCAT edition is that we have four full tests comprising of 260 questions of each of the four subsets, total number of 692 questions. If that doesn't keep you entertained, I don't know what will. You've got detailed explanations, meaningful statistics, unlimited revision and it really helps to simulate the exam context for you.
Just to show you a few screenshots, you can see here for the abstract reasoning you've got some kind of high-quality images that are shown and when you choose one of your options, it'll pop up with an explanation saying, "Yep, you're correct and this is why."
Here's an example of a quantitative reasoning question. The nice thing is that if you choose the incorrect answer, it will also give an explanation so you will know why you were wrong. Then you can go back and, as part of this revising process, have another crack. Verbal reasoning, as I mentioned before, you've got the "true", the "false" and the "cannot say" options and an explanation for each of them.
Then finally, the decision analysis. You can see that it's got the tabs up in the top, left corner where you've got code, example 1, example 2. That's exactly how it will be presented in UKCAT's. We've mimicked the test engine, as well, so it will be as close as possible to the real thing.
Then statistics, you can see the percentage of correct, percentage of incorrect, percentage unanswered and then percentile of how you've performed against other people who have completed that test in the past.
We're moving to the end of the presentation now. Just to see if there are any final questions to cover. Lydia asks, "Are there ever times when it's not worth answering a question?"
I would say, absolutely. Each question is worth the same number of marks, so if you're scratching your head and bashing your head against a wall on a quantitative reasoning question that you just can't work out, move onto the next one and come back to it. Spend a little while looking at the question but if you know, for example, that you really struggle on ratio type questions, move on, have a go at another one and then come back to that a little bit later, if you've got time at the end.
I don't think we've got any other fresh questions. What we'll do is if you do have another question, send them through and then we'll circulate a document afterwards with the responses.
Thank you, everyone, for your time. All the very best of luck in your exams and, as I say, do come visit us at our website, the Career Gym UKCAT Edition.
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