Yes! Even high achieving students can stumble in the UCAT.
Some students with perfect GPAs (For New Zealand Universities) or year 13 scores (for Australian universities) have missed out on a place in medicine and related courses due to their low UCAT scores. In some cases, your UCAT score is more important than your first year university or year 13 score in securing a university place in Medicine or the health sciences.
Research shows training can significantly improve UCAT score by familiarizing you with the types of questions that will be asked and developing strategies to tackle them.
An all-too-common fallacy about preparing for UCAT is that all you need to do is 'familiarise' yourself with the test by doing some practice questions. That's like saying the way to become a great basketball player is to familiarise yourself with a basketball court and practice taking a few shots.
Once upon a time, people were wrong. They thought that the automobile was an electric death-trap that would never replace the horse and carriage, computers were only for academic nerds, and people who used tuition were simply cheaters. Then, cars stopped exploding every time you started the engine, people realised that you could use computers for more than just calculating the digits of pi, and the 'cheaters' with the tuition... well, they started getting it. They got better grades, got into better Courses at Uni and just plain old got better. Times change, rules change.
Some people point not only to their own success, but also to the success of some others, as proof that UCAT Prep is unnecessary to get into medicine. Such arguments are spurious because they gloss over the obvious truth that certain people are more capable than others. Individuals succeeding without UCAT Prep simply don’t prove that everyone else can do the same, any more than Madonna’s success proves that everyone can become a star. Such individual achievements prove only that there are exceptional people who can overcome enormous obstacles and achieve their goals. The plain fact that many ordinary students have not achieved extraordinary results is pretty strong evidence that, for most of us, UCAT Prep can be a big help.
"Kids take prep courses to ace tests that are supposed to measure inborn aptitude," (page 100, Time Magazine, December 20, 2004).
There are three types of knowledge: Known Knowns; Known Unknowns and Unknown Unknowns. The people who don't prepare are in the last category. They don't know what they don't know!
People who are low on any scale, do not even know enough to recognize how much they are missing. People who are high on a scale, are deeply aware of how much they are missing, so they think they aren't really all that high. This can be about any skill, aptitude or talent. Many of us suffer from omission bias, ie., we prefer erring through inaction to erring through action, even though research shows errors of omission are costlier than errors of commission.
You might be familiar with the quote by Benjamin Franklin: "by failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail". These words definitely ring true for the two-hour, gruelling marathon that is the UCAT.
Consider this story about the French marshal Louis Lyautey: when the marshal announced that he wished to plant a tree, his gardener responded that the tree would not reach full growth for a hundred years. “In that case,” replied Lyautey, “we have no time to lose. We must start to plant this afternoon." Students thinking of preparing for improvement in performance in UCAT have no time to lose. They must get started now.
So start preparing now!
The UCAT is a skills based test: you cannot ‘cram’ information the night before. You have to overlearn the strategies to solve UCAT style problems so that thinking becomes automatic and fast.
Please also read the FAQ: Does the MedEntry program really work?
You may find opinions expressed on forums and by some organisations that UCAT preparation may not help. They are mainly from:
Research and other evidence overwhelmingly backs our claim that UCAT preparation helps:
1. Feedback statistics show that 99.1% of our customers would recommend MedEntry’s services to their friends. Here at MedEntry UCAT Prep, we are result orientated.
2. A 2011 survey of a random sample of students who have been through our full training program showed that 92% were offered interviews, and 88% were offered places in one or more medical schools.
3. Research on students re-sitting UCAT has shown that UCAT Preparation results in an average improvement of about 35 percentile points in UCAT results.
4. An AMSA (Australian Medical Students' Association) survey in 2008 found that most students found preparation helpful.
5. Evaluation by an independent statutory organisation, RDWA, carried out every year, has shown that students found MedEntry courses extremely useful. You are welcome to look at these at our business premises.
6. There have been many published research papers which indicate that the reason for better performance of certain groups is due to such groups participating in preparation courses, such as that offered by MedEntry (eg BMC Medical Education, 2013, 13:155).
7. The oft quoted 'research' published in some journals claiming UCAT Preparation may not help is done by those who are funded by test administrators and they don't declare this conflict of interest, which is unethical. An organisation which does not have such conflict of interest, Irish Universities Association (http://www.iua.ie/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/HPAT-report-July2012.pdf) found that coached students did significantly better in the test.
8. Emeritus Professor Max Kamien (Australian Doctor 26 July 2012): "If you are going to play in a tennis tournament, attend an interview or sit an exam, it is obvious that you will do better if you know the rules of the 'game' and have had practise in applying them. To test the obvious requires a much more sophisticated approach than statistical correlations or an opinion based questionnaire."
9. If preparation does not work/help, the organisations which offer UCAT coaching services would cease to exist. As a practicing doctor pointed out: "If test preparation does not work and is not effective, UCAT courses such as MedEntry would cease to exist. The fact that an increasing number of students undertake the MedEntry UCAT Course is in itself evidence that it is beneficial and works."
10. MedEntry UCAT Prep will also significantly improve your school / university score for several reasons: it will enhance your motivation to study; hone your thinking skills and it will make you a more efficient and effective learner which is invaluable for high school, university and throughout your life. It is a fact that each year, most students who obtain perfect GPA/Y13 score have done the MedEntry course. MedEntry UCAT Prep also helps with two sections of GAMSAT. We don't coach to the test; we teach to the constructs.
11. Aptitude tests (such as the UCAT) rely on the fact that the candidates do not prepare, so testers actively discourage the candidates from preparing. They do this by propagating various myths such as: preparation does not help; it will be a waste of resources; preparation may hinder your performance; coached students may misapply simplistic rules etc. Accredited testers know that such organisations go to great lengths to place fear in the candidates to ensure they do not prepare, precisely because preparation works! If it is really true that you can't prepare for the test, universities should have no objection to UCAT preparation (rather than actively discouraging students from preparing).
12, In fact, all psychological tests and experiments involve deception (eg placebo). All national and international professional organisations in psychology (eg. Australian /American /British Psychological Societies) approve of deception in psychological experiments and tests.
13. The government also feels "rural students got a raw deal as most coaching and training centres were in cities". It is one of the reasons given for much lower entry standards into Medicine for rural students and quotas for them (ie., they don’t have access to UCAT Prep which city students have). It is also claimed that coaching ‘compromises’ the validity of the test. The issue of equity is also raised i.e. UCAT coaching benefits those who are able to afford it. These three claims again imply that UCAT Prep helps.
14. UCAT Consortium’s stance is the pre-neuroplastic paradigm, ie., the brain is hard wired, the brain’s anatomy is fixed and unchangeable, the brain’s function can’t be altered etc. At an ACER run a conference on ‘Neuroplasticity of the Brain’ (5-6 August 2013) many said the ‘real’ reason is the concern about test ‘security’. That is, they are worried about the ‘leakage’, and difficulty of creating new questions (there are only a certain number of strategies to solve such questions). The more you know about the test, the harder their job becomes in creating the test questions!
15. James Tognolini, a respected psychometrician at Sydney University, said there was no research to suggest that questions assessing higher order thinking could be written in a way that made them uncoachable. "To be honest, I do think that the performance on these items can be improved by coaching, mainly teaching a formulaic approach to solving such higher-order thinking items," he said.
From the above Conference Proceedings:
- p. 12: “Brain change translates into measurable change on standardised test measures; it is not just due to practice effect”, ie coaching increases actual cognitive ability (Barbara Arrowsmith Young).
- p. 118 “Practice testing improves learning: more and longer is better. Repeated testing improves test performance more than further teaching. Students overestimate the durability of memory and underestimate the benefits of practice. Benefit of practice is greater for harder tests.” (O Lipp, S Develle).
15. Rob Urstein, of Global Innovation Programs at Stanford Graduate School of Business, found a powerful way to help students from socially and economically disadvantaged backgrounds succeed academically (published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 2016). The students who were exposed to the idea that intelligence, rather than being a fixed trait, is something that grows over time and can be developed with effort, were much more likely to be successful. This concept, also known as having the ‘Growth Mindset’ has been popularised by Carol Dwerk. The UCAT Consortium, which claims ‘to support every learner’ is doing a disservice to low SES students by promoting the opposite myth: the fixed mindset.
16. Research presented by K Lochner and A Preuss at the 9th ITC Conference in San Sebastian, Spain in 2014, also showed that (p 251): 'performance in cognitive tests can be improved significantly' and 'Training caused a significant upward trend in performance'.
17. There are also several published articles providing evidence that MedEntry UCAT preparation will significantly improve your score. They are under the ‘News’ section in the “Resources” tab on the website.
Some further points to consider:
1. Any rational decision making should be based on decision making theory (Probability x Benefit). However, “humans are terrible at dealing with probabilities” (p68 ‘This will make you smarter’ by J Brockman).
2. What is important in UCAT is not the percentage of questions you get right, but your percentile ranking. If you only use the free UCAT practice tests, you are unlikely know your true percentile ranking (how you are performing in relation to other students), your strengths and weaknesses.
Because most students who prepare for UCAT do MedEntry and most students who get into Medical schools do MedEntry, you will be able to compare your performance with the best students in Australasia. You will also be able to interact with the best students on MedEntry Forums, during the workshop etc. When you do MedEntry, you can be confident that you are learning with the best students in Australasia.
3. The simple fact is: If you do not undertake quality UCAT Prep with reputable organisation with proven track record (MedEntry), you will be disadvantaged because those who are competing with you for the limited medical school places are getting this advantage.
Please also read the information under ‘About Us'.
Please also read the article "Do I need to train for the UCAT?" (Under "Does MedEntry UCAT prep help?)
When you purchase the MedEntry UCAT package, you will get numerous resources for you to use. You will also get additional recommended reading in the UCAT Courses. This is definitely much more than you need, if you use it properly. How to efficiently and effectively use these resources is also discussed in the UCAT Courses.
We also recommend that you use the UCAT Consortium's three practice exams (plus the additional 400 questions) that is provided for free on their website.
Apart from these, we do not recommend any other courses or programs. There are some websites spruiking UCAT products which are scams, run by bankrupts etc. They are also likely to mislead you.
We encourage you to attend a 2-day MedEntry UCAT Preparation Workshop even if you have to travel a long distance. Many students from other cities, interstate, and overseas, travel to attend our UCAT workshops because there are several benefits of attending.
But don't just take our word for it, check out the hundreds of glowing Google and Facebook reviews of our workshops posted by our happy and successful students. We have more and higher ratings than every university in Australia! MedEntry Sydney, Melbourne and Ireland offices have over 1000 reviews at a star rating of about 4.8+, far exceeding that of any university.
Three of the main benefits of the MedEntry 2 day workshop are:
The study guides on the online LMS (Learning Management System) do provide detailed approaches to different UCAT question types, but it is always more effective to be taught this information than simply to read it yourself – after all, according to the psychiatrist William Glasser, we learn 10% of what we read, but 50% of what we see and hear!
The UCAT workshop highlights what kind of approaches to questions are the most important, and what types of UCAT questions are the most common. This allows you to make the most of all the resources provided by MedEntry, and perform as well as possible on the UCAT. In evaluations, MedEntry students say that they either did not use the resources on the LMS, or did not know how to efficiently and effectively use them, until they attended a MedEntry UCAT Preparation Workshop.
Additionally, some inside knowledge and information that is not available elsewhere is provided at the UCAT workshop. You will also find that many of the skills that you learn at the UCAT workshop are transferrable, and useful for school and university study.
Attending a MedEntry UCAT Preparation Workshop provides motivation to perform well on the UCAT, as it can make the whole UCAT process feel clearer and more real.
You will also meet fellow students with similar interests and passions. This is a fantastic opportunity for developing your thinking and forming new friendships and study groups, as well as a great source of motivation.
Additionally, you will hear from current medical students about how they used MedEntry to obtain excellent scores on the UCAT, as well as what to expect from studying at university. It is an invaluable opportunity to first-hand tips from people who have gone through it all before, and to be able to ask any burning questions you might have about the UCAT or university!
The course aims to demonstrate the best principles and strategies needed to succeed in the UCAT. Students attending the workshop attempt short mini-tests in each UCAT section to give the students hands-on experience and allow the lecturer to clearly demonstrate the application of speed and accuracy techniques to each type of question found in the UCAT.
Students will also attempt a further full-length test on a simulated computer platform at a specific time, exactly as in the real UCAT.
This is immensely helpful for a number of reasons:
- You will have a much better idea of what to expect from the experience of sitting the actual UCAT exam.
- You will be able to see how your scores compare to fellow MedEntry students, and how they are predicted to compare to those of everyone taking the exam.
- You will be able to determine your strengths and weaknesses; on what sections you need to focus the most, how to plan your UCAT preparation, and how to plan your approach in the UCAT itself. Remember that wherever you are at is just a starting point; it’s incredible what it’s possible to achieve with practice – and MedEntry provides all the resources to allow you to practice in the most effective way possible!
Further benefits of the MedEntry UCAT 2-day workshop include:
Attending a MedEntry UCAT Preparation Workshop is an invaluable opportunity that will allow you to achieve your best score possible on the UCAT.
Yes! Interviews are a crucial aspect of the selection process for entry into health science courses. In some universities, interviews are weighted at more than 50% of the total selection criteria. Most people focus on their GPA, study for the UCAT but do not prepare for the interview. Hence we find students who have perfect GPA/Y13 score and perfect UCAT (100%), but not being offered a place medicine. Such people go to the interview thinking its just a 'chat'. Chat may be, but its the most important chat that will change the course of your life!
There are many reasons some people do not train for interviews. These include:
However, knowledge of the types of questions asked, coaching on interview technique and enhanced communication skills can dramatically improve your performance. You should not go into an interview unprepared or not having an understanding of what you will be asked. If you do, you will be at a competitive disadvantage compared to those who are prepared for the interview.
For Auckland University, the interview counts for 25% of your final ranking score.
For most Australian universities, your interview score will count for as much as your GPA/Y13 score (33%). For some, its 40% and for some universities its much more important than your GPA (interview score will contribute 80%) of your final ranking score. For two universties, interview score counts for 100%, once GPA/UCAT thresholds are reached.
For Monash university, if you take a gap year, your interview score from previous year will be used: which means you get only one shot at interview! So doing well and obtaining the highest possible score in interview is of critical importance.
Even if you think you will get in without the training, there are several benefits of attending the MedEntry Interview training workshop. These include:
Graduate entry route in NZ requires you to resit UCAT after your degree, but if you intend to apply to Australia, you will need to sit the GAMSAT.
The graduate medicine entry route requires that you complete a degree first before applying for Medicine. This means studying hard for an additional 3 or 4 years (and paying the fees), to maintain high grades with no guarantee of getting into Medicine. So you will have exams for at least 7 years: three years of first degree and 4 years of condensed medical degree. Undergrad medicine, for eg at Monash, is far less stressful because in the first year they ease you in, and in final year you are working as an unpaid intern (so no exams).
You also need to sit a test called the GAMSAT, which is a six hour test (compare this with UCAT which is a two hour test) as well as doing well in the interview. The preparation courses for GAMSAT are also far more expensive, in the range of $1500 plus.
The GAMSAT has been described by most people as ‘the most horrible thing I've ever had to do in my life’. Do not make the mistake of thinking that if you do a Biomedicine or Biosciences degree, you will automatically be offered a place in Medicine, as some universities misleadingly make you believe. If you miss out on a place in Medicine, you may end up with a degree that is not useful for your future, and a waste of several years of your life.
The median age of students entering graduate medical programs in Australia is 25.4 years. By that age, you would have completed your medical degree and probably working as a Registrar in your chosen specialty if you choose the Year 12 entry (UCAT) route. Imagine entering medical school at 25 via graduate entry, then trying to study for the specialist training exams in your early thirties with a family to care for!
Further, when you apply through the graduate entry pathway, you can only apply to one university (with only three preferences) and you will be interviewed only by one university. The universities have colluded to make it this way, so that it is less work for them and easier for them to select students (although it imposes harsh restrictions on aspiring doctors).
Some people think universities are education oriented organisations, but in reality they are massive businesses with annual income of each university around a billion dollars - they earn about $30,000 per year of study at university for each student they enrol (about $10,000 from you, and the rest from the government). This means that the longer you study at university, the better it is for them. This is the reason why some universities are moving towards graduate-entry medical programs. It is to increase universities' income, not because it is good for you! Furthermore, universities are prohibited from charging full fee for undergraduate medicine, but they can charge full fee for graduate medicine!
With the higher debts of graduate entry and the uncertainty of whether you will get into medicine, universities will be laughing all the way to the Bank, but you will end up in the classic wheel of borrowing to pay for a degree to get a job to pay off what you borrowed (if you don't get into medicine).
Some people feel that they want to go to so-called "prestigious" universities (eg. Sydney University) which offer only graduate medicine. However, unlike other disciplines such as law, in medicine it does not matter which university you graduate from.
Perhaps 15 years ago, when GAMSAT was new, it was easier than UCAT but now most medical students who sat both tests claim GAMSAT is harder. GAMSAT is getting much harder for several reasons (eg many professionals wanting to change careers, the 'late bloomers', many school leavers putting off the hard work and the difficult decision).