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Smelly Boy's UCAT guide

Smelly Boy

I can be ur angle 😇 or ur devil 😈
Valued Member
Hello all,

Welcome to the SB UCAT guide. You know it's going to be filled with a lot of good stuff considering my entry to medicine was 4 years in the making. My scores for the older entry exams (UMAT and GAMSAT) were below what was needed for me to get into medicine. For the UCAT though, I was lucky enough to hit the 98%ile mark with a score of 3120 and land 2 unbonded spots at my first and second preference unis.

This post is likely to be full of typos and grammatical mistakes so please forgive me for them and feel free to PM me the mistakes so I can fix them up!

I've included subheadings in this post. These are the subheadings incase you want to skip to those sections:

1. My relationship with the UMAT and GAMSAT
- My scores in the UMAT and GAMSAT

2. My current partner: The UCAT
- SB can you give us a brief description of what the UCAT is?

3. So how do I get an EPIC UCAT mark?
- General Tip #1: Know your weak sections as early as possible
- General Tip #2: Treat each exam like an experiment
- Cognitive subsection tip for VR: learn what flavour of texts you're most confident in answering (do T/F/can't tell questions first)
- Cognitive subsection tip for DM: Master simple probability
- Cognitive subsection tip for QR: Pay close attention to the recurring question types in QR
- Cognitive subsection tip for AR: Be brave enough to skip questions and keep a mistakes book

4. Some questions I think people may want to ask me

5. Free resource list

1. My relationship with the UMAT and GAMSAT
The UMAT and GAMSAT are my two exes. I left them because they weren't treating me right.

My scores in the UMAT and GAMSAT
UMAT 2016: 48%ile (interviewed at my high school with head teacher of English because I didn't submit my English assignment on time and was given a warning)
UMAT 2017: 72%ile (Interviewed at JCU med - unsuccessful)
UMAT 2018: 88%ile (Interviewed at JMP - unsuccessful)
GAMSAT September 2018: I have no idea
GAMSAT March 2019: I have no idea i think 88%ile or something (interviewed for medicine at University of Notre Dame, Sydney - unsuccessful)

These exams are quite different from the UCAT so I'm not going to try and convince y'all that I took a magic pill which helped my marks improve. This is more for your interest/for the people that may have been unsuccessful at entry with the UMAT and GAMSAT and think that their previous scores in the exams are reflective of their potential in the UCAT.

So yeah, basically there were lots of heartbreaks and all that good stuff when I was applying for med school. I considered some alternate career choices but I won't go into that because this is a UCAT guide. Please see the world famous pitfalls thread for information on choosing a back up.

2. My current partner: The UCAT
I'm currently in a loving relationship with the UCAT. It has treated me so much better than the UMAT or GAMSAT could ever.
FRIENDSHIP.png

SB can you give us a brief description of what the UCAT is?
Yes he can.

The UCAT is a MCQ exam with 5 subtests. There are 4 'cognitive' subtests which contribute to the pretty score that gives you your percentile and there's the Situational Judgement Test (SJT). The 4 cognitive subtests are: Verbal reasoning (VR), Decision Making (DM), Quantitative Reasoning (QR) and Abstract Reasoning (AR). See the picture below for info on the questions and timing of each section.
1587397908933.png

The UCAT is a difficult exam but the difficulty isn't due to the trickiness of the questions. Rather, the difficulty arises due to the tough time constraints. Understanding this is step 1 to achieving a very epic score (I started saying epic as a joke but now it's part of my vocabulary - don't judge plz). The reason this will help you get a good score is because you begin seeing the questions as 'doable but tough due to the time constraints' rather than 'extremely difficult'. This removes the voice in your head saying "you can't do these questions" which imbues you with confidence (really important)!

- From my experience, the majority of people struggle with VR. This is due to the short amount of time you get to read and understand a text and answer a question.
- Initially, almost everyone finds AR to be very tricky but after some practice, this sentiment begins to fade for most.
- DM and QR are difficult but these sections don't get as many complaints as VR and AR.
- I've never heard of anyone struggling to finish the SJT section on time. When I was applying in 2019, none of the unis I applied to considered this section but that's subject to change. See The World Famous Medicine Entry Table for up to date info about entry requirements to the different unis.

So that's a brief description of the UCAT. Now onto some tips :cool:.

3. So how do I get an EPIC UCAT mark?
To help you get an epic UCAT mark I will give you 6 tips - 2 general tips and 1 tip for each of the cognitive subtests. I won't be speaking about SJT since I never spent much time prepping for it as the unis weren't considering this section at the time of my application.

General Tip #1: Know your weak sections as early as possible:
- This is something that requires you to be patient and honest with yourself.
- This will inform where your efforts need to be when prepping
- I would recommend spending UP TO 2 weeks on this.
- The way I went about doing this also increased my confidence and allowed me to see that the UCAT questions were 'doable but tough due to the time constraints'.

I identified my weak sections by giving myself unlimited time to do UCAT questions. For a week, I sat down at my desk with a cup of coffee and took my sweet time reading through the questions and scrutinising each answer option. After a week, I tried doing the questions under timed conditions.

I realised two things from this:
(1) I could do most questions correctly without a time limit except for questions in the AR subtest.
(2) Under timed conditions, I would go OK with the DM and QR subsections but was hopeless with VR and AR.

This led me to the conclusion that my weak sections were VR and AR. I knew that I needed to focus on these two sections and come up with strategies to help me with these sections (these strategies are found in the tips I have for VR and AR below).

General Tip #2: Treat each exam like an experiment:
Before getting into this tip, I want to give a warning: just because your friend is getting good marks in practice exams with a certain strategy, it doesn't mean you will too. Come up with a strategy that works for you.

Onto the tip:
When experimenting in science, you want to change a single variable at a time so that you can say, with some confidence, that the change you made is likely to be responsible for the outcome. Similarly, when treating practice UCAT exams as experiments, you want to be doing ONE thing differently in each subsection of the exam until you find a strategy that works for you in each of the subsections.

I'll use a scenario to illustrate why this is helpful:
Let's say you've been doing VR questions and find that you run out of time too easily (story of almost everyone's life when doing the UCAT) when employing the following strategy:
1. Read through entire text
2. Read the question
3. Answer


If you completely change your strategy and employ a new strategy such as the one below

1. Read the question
2. Read answer options
3. Skim text to find the answer and then answer


and find that you get a better score, you won't know which part of your new strategy helped improve your score and which part of your new strategy is potentially hindering you from getting an even better score. You can't put your finger on skimming the text, for example, as the reason for your improved score. It may just be that you reading the question first is what helped you get a better score.

An example of a change you could make to the first strategy to be more inline with the 'change only one variable' at a time tip:
1. Skim the text (Changed from reading entire text)
2. Read question (same as above)
3. Answer (same as above)


From using this tip, you should have a well formulated approach to the UCAT once testing time comes. When you sit the real thing, you know for sure what works for you and you know what doesn't work for you. Perhaps the most significant benefit of using this tip is that in the exam, you are less likely to begin panicking and changing your technique on a whim under pressure because you know that the strategy you intended to use when walking into this exam has been tested over your study time and has proven to give you the best results over any other technique you've tried to use.

I ended up with a score of 890 in the AR section on the real UCAT but was very close to bombing it as I almost deviated from my AR strategy of skipping questions if I felt like I wasn't going anywhere with them. On my first run through of the AR section, I only answered 20/55 questions which really stressed me out and made me feel like I was gonna bomb this section but I stuck to my guns and went through with my technique of skipping questions that I felt I was hitting a brick wall with. I had to go through the test ~5 times, each time revisiting the questions I flagged as incomplete as I would do with my practice exams, and ended up with the 890. This could've gone bad very easily if I abandoned my technique and continued to try and power through the questions I couldn't see the solution to the first time around.

Moral of the story: Stick to your guns! The strategy you formulated over the days/weeks/months of preparing through experimenting is 99.999% better than the strategy you're going to want to employ on a whim when you're stressed out in the UCAT. Don't dedicate your precious cognitive resources towards thinking of a strategy to use on the test day. Your brain should only be used for working through the questions in front of you in the context of your tested strategy.

Cognitive subsection tip for VR: learn what flavour of texts you're most confident in answering (do T/F/can't tell questions first):
T/F/Can't tell questions should be done first. I would skip through the entire VR section and only answer T/F/C questions first and then go through the section again and answer the rest of the questions. The reasons you should do this:
1. You USUALLY need to only skip to one part of the text to get your answer
2. The normal 4 multiple choice VR questions and the 3 option T/F/C questions are worth the same marks
3. The 4 multiple choice VR questions GENERALLY require more effort and time to complete as you have more things to consider
4. It is very likely that you'll run out of time in this section. You're more likely to get a T/F/C questions right (due to the fact that these questions GENERALLY require less effort and time) than the 4 option VR questions right. Why would you spend time working on more-difficult 4 option VR questions and guessing easier T/F/C questions when it could be the case that you're spending time on answering all of the easier T/F/C questions and only guessing more-difficult 4 option VR questions that are worth the same marks?

Learning the flavour of texts you like reading/find easy to understand is important because you want to be attempting the questions you're most likely to get right first so that if you need to guess in VR (which is the case for most people), you can rest assured that you fully-attempted the questions you're most likely to get right and won't be guessing these questions. Personally, I love texts which had numbers (e.g. important dates)/proper nouns/science as a central theme. A number/capitalised word is very easy to spot in a wall of lowercase text. It makes it easier to jump to the right part of the text when it comes to answering questions. I loved texts with science because I did a science degree and I felt that the type of texts presented in the UCAT that had a science flavour to it were easier for me to understand.

I hated text with history/war/foreign language (e.g. foreign French cities with hard-to-pronounce names/words in another language). I find history/war really boring (but I love the movie '1917' - please watch it if you haven't already - It's one of my favourite movies of all time) so I find it hard to give 100% of my attention to texts with these. Foreign names are nonsensical to me so they never stick with me when I read them which makes answering questions difficult for me.

So basically, I'd do T/F/C questions first (Regardless of if they contained history/war/foreign language) then I'd work through the rest of the 4 option VR questions and skip texts with history/war/foreign language. If I was running out of time, I'd skip to the questions I remember have numbers/proper nouns/science and do those and guess the rest.

Cognitive subsection tip for DM: Master simple probability
Towards the end of each DM section, there are usually 3-5 probability questions. I have never come across a UCAT practice test that didn't have among the the last few questions, ~3 questions being probability based. The real UCAT was the same. The probability skills required for these questions are very basic. You need to spend some time brushing up on these simple probability skills (you'll see what you need to brush up on by doing questions).

A lot of the probability questions you'll encounter come in the following form (I'm using workers in the question just as an example):

Person A is successful X% of times and makes a mistake that needs fixing 1/20 times
Person B is unsuccessful (100-X)% of times and makes a mistake that needs fixing 4% of his work.

Who is the better worker?

You can see that your answer is to be derived from success rate and mistake rate. On close inspection, you can see the Person A and Person B have the same success rate (as X% success = (100-X)% fail). The difference between the two workers, therefore, must lie in the mistakes rate: Person A makes a mistake 1/20 times (or 5% of the time) and Person B makes a mistake 4% of the time.

As Person B makes LESS mistakes and has the same success rate as Person A, Person B is the better worker.

There are other types of probability questions you will encounter but this type of question is quite common in my experience. The reason why knowing this is important is that if you're good with your probability, you know that you have almost guaranteed yourself ~3 correct questions near the end of the DM subsection. If you're running out of time and are going to need to guess questions, you know that you can skip to the end of the exam and complete the easy probability questions then come back to complete/guess the rest of the questions.

Cognitive subsection tip for QR: Pay close attention to the recurring question types in QR
The common types of questions in my experience have been:
- Old price vs. New price (or some variant involving a percentage change)
- Speed/distance/time conversions. Learn how to do these quickly. Become confident in manipulating the speed=distance/time equation so that you can, for example, find the distance when given speed and time.
- Conversion of units e.g. Miles to km, minutes <--> hours etc. Learn where the numbers need to go in fractions/which number needs to be multiplied by what when converting between units of measurement.

By mastering the three dot points above, you will save A LOT of time in the exam. I recommend studying the dot points above in isolation to the UCAT. Google some questions related to converting units (for example) and go hard on it until you feel like it's second nature doing these questions. If you don't practice these out of the context of a practice UCAT exam, it can be difficult to track your progress. If you do practice these skills in isolation of a UCAT practice exam, you can identify and rectify your shortcomings quickly.

You'll find that when you begin prepping for the QR section, you spend most of your time trying to understand what to do with the numbers. You aren't sure if you need to use a fraction or use multiplication and usually you aren't aware of shortcuts that you can use. By knowing what to do with the numbers when you come across a question, you'll find your accuracy and speed will improve greatly and your stress will be reduced.

I mentioned shortcuts in the above paragraph. Let me share one of my favourite shortcuts with you. It involves using decimal points when doing questions that require working with minutes and hours (or seconds with minutes).

Attempt the question without reading the solution which contains a normal approach to this question AND the shortcut approach.

Question: Bob runs around a field in 22 minutes and 40 seconds. His average pace is 5 minutes and 20 seconds per kilometre during this run. What is the distance around the park?
A. 4.0 km
B. 4.25 km
C. 4.5 km
D. 4.75 km
E. 5.0 km


The most common approach to this question (I know this is the common approach because I've gone through this question with a number of my friends) is to do the following:
1. Convert the time to seconds: Total time = 22 x 60 + 40 = 1360 seconds | Average time per km = 5x60 + 20 = 320 seconds
2. Spend time thinking which number goes where in the fraction
3. Divide total time by the average time per km: 1360/320 = 4.25 --> Answer is B: 4.25km

If you're someone who has been practicing converting seconds to minutes and minutes to hours, you'll be aware of a simple fact: 20 seconds is 0.33... minutes and 40 seconds is 0.66... minutes. This means the question can be completed in one step:
1. 22.6666/5.3333 = 4.25

As 22.6666 minutes = 22 minutes and 40 seconds and 5.3333 = 5 minutes and 20 seconds.

This demonstrates how practicing your skills on the common QR questions can save you heaps of time and give you a boost of confidence when you're doing the UCAT :cool:.

Cognitive subsection tip for AR: Be brave enough to skip questions and keep a mistakes book
Knowing when to skip questions is, without a doubt, the most important skill for acing the AR section. There is no greater skill than this.

I doubt there is anyone who sat the UCAT that went through the AR section once and got all the questions right. Those who achieve highly on the AR subsection run into a wall when trying to answering questions but they know that if they skip the question and give it a second (or third or fourth look like in my case when I did the UCAT), they're more likely to achieve a better score.

Think about it: You have so many questions and so little time. If you sacrifice potentially getting a few questions wrong in order to attempt all the questions in the subsection, is that you taking the L? Nah bruh, that's you taking the W accompanied by a 👑!

This skill takes the longest to develop and requires the most discipline. You're all extremely intelligent people. You're used to getting high marks in all the exams you sit. It's really difficult to "give up" trying to find the solution to an answer and moving on for most of you reading this. However, this is precisely one of the things they're testing (I believe).

Who is disciplined enough to know when to move on?

I have no trick to help you understand when it's time to move on from a question but I can guide you to help make the decision to move on when you need to. It requires a better understanding of the whole '14 second per question' business.

- Set A/B/neither questions have ~5 questions based on the diagram. This means that you have roughly 5 x 14 = 70 seconds to complete this question set.

The thing is that when you know the rule governing each of the boxes in the diagram, choosing the answer options can be a very quick process. A typical solution to this type of question would require 60 seconds to understand the rule and 10 seconds to choose the answer options. This means that you shouldn't think of AR questions as questions that need an answer within 14 seconds but rather you should consider the context of the question. This should help guide you to knowing when to skip questions. Remember, this is a skill that will take longest to master so don't expect to be a legend at this in a short span of time!

Keeping a mistakes book is a simple thing you can do from today to improve your AR score. Basically, for the very difficult questions that you feel that you would have not been able to see if it wasn't for the solution you read at the end of the exam, you write the explanation into a mistakes book, in your own words, on one line.

Example: Set a = shapes with a prime number of sides | Set b = shapes with non-prime number of sides

Read this book whenever you get the chance to to refresh your memory of the very difficult questions you weren't able to do. When you come across a similar question, the solution will be easier to spot and sometimes even jump out at you!

Calling it a mistakes 'BOOK' isn't the best description of what you'll make. My mistakes 'BOOK' was less than 1 page long. I could fit all of the most difficult patterns I had ever come across in AR on about 22 lines (so that's 22 set a/b/neither questions blocks that I absolutely could not answer in all of my practice). In the real UCAT, I remember 1 of the very difficult patterns (5 questions out of the 55 question = ~10% of AR) from my mistakes book came up and I smashed those questions when I encountered them!
====
So those are my tips for the UCAT! Thank you so much for giving this a read <3. I hope they help you get the best score possible!

4. Some questions I think people may want to ask me:

How long was your UCAT prep?
I did about 2 months of UCAT prep but it was severely disrupted due to personal/family reasons.

What were you section scores?
VR: 650
DM: 700
QR: 880
AR: 890
SJT: 657

Eating sugar?
No Papa

5. Free resource list:
1. Rank your brain
- this one is good for becoming proficient at your basics mental maths as it involves the 4 basic operations. Choose the easy level when practicing. Some of the questions are quite difficult to do quickly in the beginning (e.g. 285 divided by 5) but with practice, your speed should increase.

2. *MY PERSONAL FAVOURITE* Jet Punk + multiplying with base 10 + Multiplying with base 20 and 30
- these 3 links are my personal favourite: a multiple choice speed test and 2 videos. first watch the base 10 video and then base 20/30 video before moving onto the jetpunk website. This’ll help you become a BEAST at multiplication. I feel that becoming quick at multiplying definitely translated to a better QR mark for me because of the time I saved doing multiplication in my head vs playing with the calculator.

3. Time/speed questions
- I didn’t personally use this resource but a quick google search brought me to this website and it looks pretty useful. Google more on conversions once u get through this material - I’m sure There’s plenty!
 
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rjexik97

Member
Thanks for posting this! Some people have said it's a good idea to write out all the rules you remember from your mistakes book during the one minute before AR. Do you think that's a good idea?
 

Smelly Boy

I can be ur angle 😇 or ur devil 😈
Valued Member
Thanks for posting this! Some people have said it's a good idea to write out all the rules you remember from your mistakes book during the one minute before AR. Do you think that's a good idea?
I would say no because of 3 reasons:
(1) it’ll cause unnecessary stress as you’ll be going into the exam with a list of things you’ve memorised. This’ll mean a part of your mind will be occupied with memorising difficult patterns that may not come up. I also think this stress will prepare you to answer difficult patterns but overlook the simple patterns (simple patterns make up the overwhelming majority of AR in the real test, in my opinion).

(2) Once you see and familiarise yourself with a pattern, it becomes easy to spot that pattern if it comes up again. The purpose of the mistake page/book is to make the patterns familiar for the above goal. Writing down a list of difficult patterns probably won’t help

(3) having a list of difficult patterns handy can lead to time wasting. If you come across a difficult pattern, you may resort to looking through your list of patterns rather than actually solving what’s in front of you. Reason (2) from this list would suggest that if you’ve come across and familiarised yourself with a pattern, it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot again.

considering these 3 reasons, I wouldn’t recommend writing out the patterns on test day. Normally I’d recommend to try and see if it works but for something like this, I can’t see any potential benefit.

thank u for the question ❤️❤️
 

ucatboy

MD II
Valued Member
I would say no because of 3 reasons:
(1) it’ll cause unnecessary stress as you’ll be going into the exam with a list of things you’ve memorised. This’ll mean a part of your mind will be occupied with memorising difficult patterns that may not come up. I also think this stress will prepare you to answer difficult patterns but overlook the simple patterns (simple patterns make up the overwhelming majority of AR in the real test, in my opinion).

(2) Once you see and familiarise yourself with a pattern, it becomes easy to spot that pattern if it comes up again. The purpose of the mistake page/book is to make the patterns familiar for the above goal. Writing down a list of difficult patterns probably won’t help

(3) having a list of difficult patterns handy can lead to time wasting. If you come across a difficult pattern, you may resort to looking through your list of patterns rather than actually solving what’s in front of you. Reason (2) from this list would suggest that if you’ve come across and familiarised yourself with a pattern, it shouldn’t be too difficult to spot again.

considering these 3 reasons, I wouldn’t recommend writing out the patterns on test day. Normally I’d recommend to try and see if it works but for something like this, I can’t see any potential benefit.

thank u for the question ❤❤
Agreed - writing down all the patterns you can remember in a mad scramble causes unnecessary stress and is counterproductive. Instead, use that one minute to take a few deep breaths and relax your nerves. Enter the section with an open mind and confidence ("I can do it!") that all the AR practice you did will pay off.
 

openurice

Member
Thank you so much for such a comprehensive guide~ I'm currently on a gap year, and considering the current circumstances have little else to do other than UCAT prep. I think what I am struggling most with is maintaining motivation when I can see my scores in drills falling/stagnating where I would like to be getting 800s as I would really love to have a competitive score this year :)
And also, AR is definitely a weak point for me so I was just wondering what were the sort of really difficult patterns that you found recurring in your prep?
 

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Smelly Boy

I can be ur angle 😇 or ur devil 😈
Valued Member
I received a private message question which I’ll answer here as I feel many can benefit from it.

Question:
“I was just wondering, what are some websites I can use to brush up on my conversions skills (saw the really handy tip :) )
And do you believe mental math is the way to go for QR, because I naturally open the calculator and start calculating because I feel like you have to assess the situation a bit to know whether or not you can use quick mental math (except for times when it's like 50 + 20) and i feel like my mental math isn't too reliable under stress :(


A
websites to brush up on mental maths (will add a resource list to original post):
1. Rank your brain
- this one is good for becoming proficient at your basics mental maths as it involves the 4 basic operations. Choose the easy level when practicing. Some of the questions are quite difficult to do quickly in the beginning (e.g. 285 divided by 5) but with practice, your speed should increase.

2. *MY PERSONAL FAVOURITE* Jet Punk + multiplying with base 10 + Multiplying with base 20 and 30
- these 3 links are my personal favourite: a multiple choice speed test and 2 videos. first watch the base 10 video and then base 20/30 video before moving onto the jetpunk website. This’ll help you become a BEAST at multiplication. I feel that becoming quick at multiplying definitely translated to a better QR mark for me because of the time I saved doing multiplication in my head vs playing with the calculator.

3. Time/speed questions
- I didn’t personally use this but a quick google search brought me to this website and it looks pretty useful. Google more on conversions once u get through this material - I’m sure There’s plenty!

with regards to using calculator in exam, I would say try and become as good at mental maths as you can but remember that you can use the calculator for difficult questions AND if it makes you feel comfortable and eases your stress.


Thank you so much for such a comprehensive guide~ I'm currently on a gap year, and considering the current circumstances have little else to do other than UCAT prep. I think what I am struggling most with is maintaining motivation when I can see my scores in drills falling/stagnating where I would like to be getting 800s as I would really love to have a competitive score this year :)
And also, AR is definitely a weak point for me so I was just wondering what were the sort of really difficult patterns that you found recurring in your prep?
Lots of ucat prep is good about ~6 weeks before the exam. For now I’d say do some light practice and not to stress out too much. For AR, what I find difficult won’t necessarily be what you find difficult so it’s not very helpful for me to tell you what I found difficult. That and I can’t find my mistakes book so I couldn’t tell you anyway!

if everyone found the same thing difficult then it would be so easy for one person to publish their mistakes book for everyone’s benefit but everyone sees things differently because we’re unique! Try starting your own mistakes book today if you haven’t already and see if it helps in about a months time. The benefits of a mistake book can take time to see since you need to complete a lot of questions, come across and document difficult questions and then see the same/a similar pattern again and get it right.

remember, UCAT score improvement comes slowly. Keep up the patience and practice purposefully (using this guide and anything else you may find helpful) and hopefully you’ll see improvements over time :)
 

Smelly Boy

I can be ur angle 😇 or ur devil 😈
Valued Member
I received a question via private message and thought the answer would be beneficial for all to read so im posting it here.

Question:
“I’ve been doing some ucat practice questions and I find that for some of the question in verbal reasoning I can rely on background knowledge to answer. Is the actual test like this?

Also, how did you find the practice tests when compared to the real thing?”

Answer: When you come across something you already know, it’s important to not rely on your prior knowledge. The reason for this is that the correct answer to the question will be the answer which is within the scope of the text.

Lets say you get a text on cancer and you know that UV radiation can cause cancer. If the text you’re given is about the effects of cancer and makes no mention of any causes of cancer, choosing an answer option that reads “UV radiation can cause cancer” would be incorrect as it’s out of the scope of the text. Sometimes they’ll include answer options like this to trick people into bringing in their own knowledge when answering the question.

Personally, I loved science texts and was quite familiar with some of the content but I didn’t rely on my prior knowledge to answer those questions. The advantage of being familiar with the content of a text lies in the decreased time needed to process the info and answer the question.

Its uncommon to come across content you’re familiar with but it happens in the real thing.

Comparing real test to the official mocks in terms of difficulty:

VR: similar difficulty
DM: similar difficulty
QR: the real test was MUCH easier by a mile.
AR: real test was slightly easier
 
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garmonbozia

Membered Value
Valued Member
I received a private message question which I’ll answer here as I feel many can benefit from it.

Question:
“I was just wondering, what are some websites I can use to brush up on my conversions skills (saw the really handy tip :) )
And do you believe mental math is the way to go for QR, because I naturally open the calculator and start calculating because I feel like you have to assess the situation a bit to know whether or not you can use quick mental math (except for times when it's like 50 + 20) and i feel like my mental math isn't too reliable under stress :(


with regards to using calculator in exam, I would say try and become as good at mental maths as you can but remember that you can use the calculator for difficult questions AND if it makes you feel comfortable and eases your stress.
I might add to Dr Boy's insightful remarks by noting something myself. Although most prep company resources will tell you that you should guesstimate the majority of answers, and only use the calculator for harder problems, it was my experience that once you become very proficient in using the Pearson VUE calculator, you're able to use it efficiently and quickly enough that you can use it for most problems without running out of time. (Obviously, you should still use your brain for really trivial calculations, but you can bust out the calculator for everything else.) Naturally this comes only with practice, but if you're able achieve this level of proficiency, it should alleviate stress and possibly help you attain a few extra marks on the day.
 
I might add to Dr Boy's insightful remarks by noting something myself. Although most prep company resources will tell you that you should guesstimate the majority of answers, and only use the calculator for harder problems, it was my experience that once you become very proficient in using the Pearson VUE calculator, you're able to use it efficiently and quickly enough that you can use it for most problems without running out of time. (Obviously, you should still use your brain for really trivial calculations, but you can bust out the calculator for everything else.) Naturally this comes only with practice, but if you're able achieve this level of proficiency, it should alleviate stress and possibly help you attain a few extra marks on the day.

hi! I’m terrible at mental maths (unless it’s those really simple ones like 10% of x or simple multiplications etc). Do you think it’s okay to stick to using the calculator and getting really good at it? Or improving my mental maths with the time I have?
 

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ponyswordz

Adelaide BDS (2020-2024)
Valued Member
hi! I’m terrible at mental maths (unless it’s those really simple ones like 10% of x or simple multiplications etc). Do you think it’s okay to stick to using the calculator and getting really good at it? Or improving my mental maths with the time I have?
Although my mental maths was decent, I had a tendency to make a lot of silly mistakes and as such, what made me really good time-wise on QR (my 2nd best section last year - 800) was memorising all the operations + numbers on the number-pad and knowing the alt+n/alt+c shortcuts. In all honesty, not having good mental maths doesn't play that big of a role as long as you know what the next steps will be. Simply plugging the numbers into the calculator and getting an answer saved me more time and gave me confidence than constantly worrying about the prospect of possibly making a silly mistake through mental maths and consequently wasting time in rechecking numbers.

So to answer your question (based off my experiences), you would be better off getting uber fast with the calculator than trying to hone mental maths (and giving yourself more migraines in what is already a high-pressure exam).
 
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