Five Top Tips for Balancing UCAT Preparation and A-Levels
It’s no secret that the medical applications process can be stressful. Trying to balance A-level work on top of this may seem overwhelming, but it is possible with effective time management.
Here are some top tips which may help you to prepare for your UCAT effectively, and perform to the best of your ability in your A-levels while ensuring you find time to relax.
1. Plan your UCAT date effectively
Choosing the right UCAT date for you is the most important first step. This year, bookings for the 2022/23 cycle open on the 20th June 2022, and slots get filled quickly! Ensure you pick a date that leaves enough time for adequate preparation – most candidates perform best with at least 4-8 weeks. Think about any other commitments you might have around your exam date – for example, any exams, personal statement deadlines, work experience placements, or any holidays.
2. Make a ‘to-do’ list
Make a list of all the tasks you have to complete within a certain time period. This could be for a few hours, a day, or a week. Include essential and non-essential tasks which may be useful and highlight the most important ones. By making a list, you will quickly realise that there is only a finite amount of work to be done; it usually seems like much more in your head!
Think carefully about the tasks you write down to be completed. Ensure they are achievable using the SMART acronym:
S – Specific
The task should be clearly defined. For example, ‘UCAT preparation’ is too non-specific, and it is, therefore, difficult to achieve this goal. Instead, consider something like ‘complete one full VR section on Medify under timed conditions’. This is a specific task that can be completed within a fixed time period.
M – Measurable
It is useful to have an ‘end-point’ for your task which will allow you to assess when it is complete. For example, ‘complete one full UCAT mock’ has a clearly defined endpoint. This is important to help minimise burnout and prevent you from overworking.
A – Attainable
Make sure that any goal on your list is actually realistic and achievable within the given timeframe. For example, aiming to revise too many different topics in one sitting will only lead to burnout. It is more effective and motivational to set smaller, attainable goals.
R – Relevant
When there is so much work to do, it is important to ensure that any work carried out is actually relevant to your UCAT preparation or A-level work. Think about the most effective ways to prepare for both and minimise unnecessary or meaningless tasks.
T – Time-bound
This is one of the most common pitfalls with time management – always ensure that your tasks are able to be completed within a given time. A vague task such as ‘revise AR’ can never be completed in a single session and by listing this, you may not feel you can tick it off your list. Set a time for your task to be completed. This will motivate you to get it done and help you to monitor whether the amount of work you are doing is appropriate.
3. Make a revision timetable
Once you have listed the tasks to be performed, try and plan your time and write down a deadline for completion. Some people may prefer to write out an hour-by-hour schedule for work. Regardless of how you make your timetable, ensure you leave enough time for each task and avoid overcrowding your schedule. It is good to have a flexible approach as things might change last minute, or you might think of extra work to be done.
4. Learn how to prioritise
It is difficult to balance UCAT preparation with A-level work; think about the most important task at any given time. For example, you may wish to focus more on your A-levels closer to your final exams. When writing a list of tasks for each day, think about which tasks are the most important and which need to be completed urgently.
5. Ensure you have time to relax
Finally, and most importantly, always leave time for the things you enjoy! Although it might seem counterproductive, ensuring that you have time to relax, keep up with hobbies, or speak to family or friends has been proven to boost productivity and prevent burnout.
It is also important to work at your own pace. Everyone works differently, and it can be demoralising to compare the work you are doing with your peers. Remember that the applications process is very long for Medicine, and it is easy to burn out quickly. Have a clear focus on your own work while ensuring that you are still able to do the things you love.
Additionally, if you’d like us to coach you individually to get a high UCAT score, you’re welcome to apply to our highly successful Elite Coaching Programme!
Written by Maria Skaria